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Saudi visas on arrival for European and US pilgrims

Muslim pilgrims pray on the Mount of Mercy outside the holy city of Mecca during the annual hajj pilgrimage in 2023 Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
Muslim pilgrims pray on the Mount of Mercy outside the holy city of Mecca during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in 2023
  • Religious tourism prioritised
  • Benefit for EU, UK and US residents
  • Pilgrims asked to use Nusuk app

Saudi Arabia is offering visa on arrival for pilgrims who are resident in the EU, US and UK, or who possess a valid visa for those countries.

The decision is part of efforts to boost religious tourism to the country.  

The Saudi ministry of Hajj and Umrah revealed the new regulations for the Umrah pilgrimage this month on social media site X, telling pilgrims to use its Nusuk app and website

Pilgrims intending to do Hajj need to reserve a place on the Hajj via the app, it said. Around two million people enter the country for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, but Umrah can be performed at any time. 

Pilgrimage season will pick up this year between Eid al-Fitr in April and Eid al-Adha in June when the Hajj takes place. 

Religious tourism accounted for 45 percent of 14.6 million visitors during the first six months of 2023.

Nationals of Australia, Canada, China, Malaysia, Norway, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand and Turkey can receive an Umrah visa on arrival. Those terms do not apply to G20 countries Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico. 

Residents of Gulf countries without EU, US or UK passports will still have to apply for an e-visa to do Umrah, either individually or through package tours.

Those who are not Gulf residents have to apply for a visa via the Saudi embassy inside their country. 

Saudi Arabia, a once closed country, has reformed its visa system since 2019 as part of a vast programme of social and economic reforms designed to diversify the economy away from reliance on oil revenue, create jobs and bring foreign investment. 

Last month, the government advised people to return to wearing masks in crowded public places after the spread of a new Covid-19 variant, but said there was no cause for concern.

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