TMCnet Feature
March 27, 2019

Nationals of Schengen Area can travel to Saudi Arabia with E-visa

There was a lot of talk in 2018 about Saudi Arabia launching the electronic visa as a means of increasing the state’s revenue after the oil prices dropped. The Government agreed on the issue, and since tourism is always a good way to exploit a country’s resources, they decided to release the e-visa by April 2018. In March 2018, according to the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, the bylaws were prepared for adoption. The guidelines were not made public by later that year, but now, Schengen nationals can travel to Saudi Arabia with an electronic visa.

As you can imagine, the new-released visa can be obtained easily through the electronic visa system. An applicant needs to go online and fill in a form. The requirements are still something one needs to go over before the online application process, but the most important aspect is the passport. All travelers must hold a valid passport. Moreover, the document needs to maintain its validity for at least another 6 months from the date of arrival in Saudi Arabia.

So what does this mean for Schengen nationals? It means that a visa is more convenient to obtain thanks to the simplified application process. For one thing, all you need is a computer or smartphone with an internet connection. Government websites are available for the process, and so are third-party companies that can facilitate it in exchange for a fee. The solution you choose when you want to apply is entirely up to you, but you need to keep in mind that a third-party company will always charge more for its services.

The pilot project

Saudi Arabia officials launched a pilot project in 2018 to test the newly implemented system. In case you did not know, the Formula E event was held in Riyadh in 2018. Electronic visas were available for the citizens of 80 countries, it granted a stay of a maximum of 14 days, and it cost around $150.

The electronic visa released for the Formula E granted access to the entire desert country, but the holy cities if Mecca and Medina were off limits. This rule will still be in place for all non-Muslim visitors. We believe that the reasons are self-explanatory.

While the Saudi Arabia electronic visa was available for 80 nationalities in the pilot project, the list is much shorter for future applications. Sure, the nationals of the Schengen Area states are eligible for such a document, and from what we know so will the citizens of Australia, Japan, the US, South Africa, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei. However, some details are still to be put in place in the coming months.

Further changes?

We still do not know everything about the Saudi Arabia electronic visa, and the officials are yet to reveal details about the fees, duration of stay, and its validity. Plus, there is the question of how they are going to manage the issue of Mecca and Medina. Most of the country’s tourism is based on religious purposes, but since only Muslims can enter the holy cities, that limits the number of tourists Saudi Arabia can receive every year. Is the Government going to adjust the rules for the sake of growing the country’s tourism? Or are they going to keep their sacred places off limits to all non-Muslim visitors? The answers will come in due time.

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