The religious act of Umrah is undertaken by those of the Muslim faith and can be done at any time of the year. As part of the journey, a visa is required, which is valid for 2 weeks in Saudi Arabia from your date of entry. Some participants choose to complete the act in a few hours, while others will take several days.
Whilst the bulk of pilgrims travel for the Ramadan period, departure from Saudi Arabia must be completed prior to the onset of Eid-ul-Fitr. Visa extensions are not allowed.
Permission to enter Saudi Arabia with this travel pass should not be confused with the Hajj visa. The Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca and those of the Muslim faith can partake in it at any time of the year. The Ḥajj, however, is a pilgrimage that has specific dates, taking place during the last month of the Islamic calendar.
Read on to learn more!
- 1 What Are the Rules for the Umrah Visa?
- 2 Are There New Umrah Visa Rules?
- 3 New Umrah Visa Rules to Travel to Riyadh
- 4 All About the Umrah Visa Requirements
- 5 What Is on the Umrah Visa Application Form?
- 6 What Is the Umrah Visa Processing Time?
- 7 What Is the Umrah Visa Fee?
- 8 Can I Get the Umrah Visa Online?
- 9 Do I Need to Print the Umrah Visa?
- 10 Can I Get the Umrah Visa Without a Package?
- 11 What Are the Hajj Visa Rules?
- 12 I Am a US Citizen – Is There an Umrah Visa From the USA?
What Are the Rules for the Umrah Visa?
Like most visas, there are applicable rules and criteria. As long as you complete the paperwork correctly, these rules are not overly stringent. Complying with the following is essential:
- You must have a valid passport with at least 6 months’ validity.
- Your passport must have at least 2 blank pages as a 2-page spread.
- You need an airline ticket with confirmed dates that is non-refundable.
- If you already hold either a valid entry or business visa, you are not allowed to apply for an Umrah visa as well.
- Travellers with a valid Umrah visa can only enter and exit Saudi Arabia at either Jeddah or Medinah Airports. All other airports that have flights with a shared airline code are not permissible (e.g. Riyadh, Dammam, Yanbu).
- Women under 45 and children under 20 years old must be accompanied by a male relative or ‘Mehram’ (i.e. husband, father, uncle, brother, son or grandfather). If your surnames are different, you must provide proof of your relationship with the Mehram.
- The Mehram must travel on the same flight as the women and/or children.
- Women over 45 who wish to travel alone can go on Umrah but must have a notarised letter or permission from the Mehram.
- If the traveller has a non-Muslim name, you must obtain a letter confirming that you are of the Muslim faith either from your mosque or Islamic centre.
These are the entry rules. Later on, we will detail the other requirements such as accompanying paperwork.
Are There New Umrah Visa Rules?
Saudi Arabia has been trying to relax its rules, slowly and gradually in several ways, to encourage travel to the country. Recently, the country has made a more efficient electronic system available for processing visas via specially selected agents. The agents go through a rigorous process to ensure their viability and mode of operation.
Before this new electronic system went live, visiting pilgrims would have to present themselves at their relevant Saudi embassy or consulate. The new Umrah visa rules now circumnavigate this lengthy process, and visas can be obtained online from one of the selected agents.
It is still wise, however, to check any variations in rules and regulations for travel from your home country, as these may be subject to change on an ongoing basis.
New Umrah Visa Rules to Travel to Riyadh
Please note that you cannot enter directly into Riyadh under the new Umrah and Hajj entry rules. You must still disembark at Jeddah or Medinah airports using the available flights.
If you are connecting via a different airport to get to Jeddah or Medinah, you cannot spend more than 6 hours in transit. Your return journey has the same rules as to travel to Riyadh.
All About the Umrah Visa Requirements
We have explained the essential rules, now on to the requirements and documentation:
- You need to complete an original application form, either online or in paper format. The statement written at the end of the application form must be carefully checked and signed. (To obtain an application form by post, send a large, self-addressed envelope to your nearest Saudi consulate.)
- 1 recent passport-size colour photograph with a white background should be attached to the application form. The photograph must be a full-face view in which the applicant is facing the camera directly. Side or angled views are not accepted. If you wear spectacles all the time, then take the photo with them on.
- Remember that your passport must have a minimum of 6 months’ validity, allowing for your application’s processing time.
- A vaccination certificate is mandatory for Meningococcal Meningitis and should be attached with the application. This certificate cannot be older than 3 years and must have at least 10 days remaining prior to entry. The person entering the country must take the certificate with them, as well as attached to the original application. If you are travelling with children, you must all also have a polio vaccination.
What Is on the Umrah Visa Application Form?
On the form, you fill in all of the required personal details, your travel dates, certified address and contact numbers. You will be asked questions about your residence (country) even if you are currently living somewhere else. You will also be asked to confirm where you will be staying during your visit.
In most cases, you can use a tourist visa for Umrah purposes if you fall outside the issuing dates (normally September to November). You may well be advised to use an authorised agent to complete your application, as details such as health requirements may change.
What Is the Umrah Visa Processing Time?
If your application for this type of entry is fully completed and all relevant documentation attached, it should not take longer than around 72 hours. That said, do allow a little more time to ensure that your travel dates are not affected.
What Is the Umrah Visa Fee?
If you apply directly yourself for Umrah entry, the government’s fee is currently waived.
However, using an authorised agent could be a more attractive option, as they’ll check your application and submit it on your behalf. For this you will pay a fee. So if you decide to go this route, check out the costs for the service, as they do vary considerably.
Can I Get the Umrah Visa Online?
Yes, you can get it online. You will be asked to submit copies of the relevant pages of your passport and attach any necessary documentation as scanned copies.
Do I Need to Print the Umrah Visa?
Yes, you do, once you have confirmed that it has been issued and is valid. A good tip is to stick or attach it to your passport (without damaging it!) so that it does not get lost. Your passport will be stamped on arrival at your destination airport.
Can I Get the Umrah Visa Without a Package?
Yes, you can, but not all agents offer it. Most will require you to purchase your flight ticket at least, as a confirmed ticket is required on applications.
What Are the Hajj Visa Rules?
The Hajj visa rules are identical to the Umrah ones. It is classified as a pilgrimage and follows the same criteria and principles, just at different times of the year.
Applying can also be done online, although you can still present yourself at the appropriate Saudi embassy or consulate. If you have no internet connection, you can still apply by post for an application form, but this will lengthen the process.
Once again, do thoroughly check the documents you may need to accompany the application for your country of residence.
I Am a US Citizen – Is There an Umrah Visa From the USA?
You can obtain one for US citizens, but you must buy an inclusive package according to new rules. The packages are normally based on a group booking, via an agent who will provide you with the organised dates.
Certain restrictions do apply for several countries, so it is wise to check with your local Saudi Arabian embassy.
To conclude, the pilgrimage to Mecca is a deeply religious and soulful experience, so there is no need to let applying for a visa put you off this all-encompassing trip.