Saudi Arabia at a Glance
Visa Information for Saudi Arabia
Anyone intending to travel to Saudi Arabia needs to request a visa first. Please note that in order to be granted a visa, you need to be in possession of a passport that is valid for at least six months (or the entire period of your stay, whichever is longer) with two blank visa pages facing each other, and you need someone who will sponsor your visa application.
Saudi Arabia doesn’t recognize dual citizenship, so you should avoid carrying two passports with you at any time. For example, US-Saudi nationals have had one of their passports confiscated when it was discovered. Please also note that if your passport in any way indicates that you have recently visited Israel, you might be refused a visa to Saudi Arabia or have trouble entering the country. However, various travelers and expats have had different experiences with this issue.
Visa applications should be addressed to the nearest Saudi Embassy or Consulate in your legal country of residence. You can check the website of the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs for contact details of all Saudi diplomatic missions abroad.
In order to be granted a visa you need to fulfill certain requirements, which vary according to the purpose of your visit and possibly your nationality. Your Saudi Embassy or Consulate will be able to provide you with detailed information. There are various types of visas available to people wishing to visit Saudi Arabia, some of which are listed below. At the time of writing, however, visas were only granted to diplomatic visitors and their family members, for business, academic purposes and Muslim pilgrims. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not issue tourist visas for leisure travelers.
Types of Visa
The following visa categories apply for Saudi Arabia:
- Business / Commercial Visa
- Diplomatic and Official Visa
- Employment Visa
- Escort Visa (for the spouse and children of the principal traveler)
- Family Visit Visa
- Government Visit Visa
- Residence Visa
- Student Visa
- Work Visit Visa
- Hajj Visa
- Umrah Visa
Please note that a normal visa doesn’t give you the right to exit and re-enter the country at will. In order to leave the country without losing the right to enter again, you need a special visa for multiple entries. To avoid paying a hefty fine, you should never overstay your visa.
Moreover, if you hold a work and/or residence permit in addition to your visa, you will need your visa sponsor’s permission to obtain a final exit visa and leave the country.
For a short business visit, e.g. as a representative of your company, a sales representative, an investor, or for a similar purpose, you can apply for a Business Visa. In addition to your passport, you usually need one recent passport-size, full-face color photograph with a white background and a completed application form. The form should be available at your nearest Saudi Embassy or Consulate.
It is important that you get a visa request number first. This can be done via the Enjaz website. Enjaz is an IT service provider which handles visa applications in the first instance and issues every approved applicant an ‘E number’. The E number must be included in your visa application.
You will also be asked to produce one or both of the following documents:
- a letter from your employer stating your position in the company, the purpose and duration of your visit, which needs to be certified by the relevant chamber of commerce in your country of residence
- an invitation from your Saudi business partner
Please note that a fee applies for every visa request. It normally has to be paid via Enjaz or a registered visa office.
The above-mentioned Business Visa does not give you the right to work or reside in Saudi Arabia. In order to take up work, you need an Employment Visa. The requirements for an Employment Visa are similar to those for a Business Visa, generally with the following additions:
- a letter from your Saudi employer (or visa sponsor, if not the same) certified by the Saudi Chamber of Commerce and Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- a signed copy of your employment contract
- notarized certificates of your academic and/or professional qualifications
- an up-to-date police report including any criminal records
- one to three copies of your official medical report, including HIV test results, issued by a licensed physician
Expats on long-term assignments need to have their Employment Visa extended to a Residence Permit (iqama),which is usually valid for one or two years. The iqama is issued by the General Department of Passports, which is part of the Ministry of Interior, or its local branch offices.