Demystifying the visa process for Saudi Arabia
Thinking of traveling to Saudi Arabia in the future? But you are not sure what type of visa you might need or better yet how to apply for a Saudi visa. This article will look at the different types of Saudi visas and the ins and outs of applying for each. Hopefully, after completing the article, the Saudi visa process will be demystified.
First and foremost tourist visa does not exist for Saudi Arabia. Let me repeat this, there are no tourist visas to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Many people would like to visit the Kingdom as tourists, but at the moment this cannot happen.
The most common visa obtained from Saudi Arabia is a business visa. This entitles the individual to travel to Saudi Arabia to consult and conduct business on behalf of their company. Typically, the client in Saudi Arabia, also known as the host, will meet with the client to discuss joint business ventures. This is a relatively simple visa to apply for. The host in Saudi Arabia will ask the client for a scan of his/her passport and then proceed to apply for an invitation letter. This is achieved by sending the scanned image to the local Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Once the Ministry approves the invitation, it will be returned back to the host company. They, in turn, will stamp the invitation with their company seal. After all these steps are completed, the invitation letter will be provided to the customer. The customer will then need to contact a registered agent to facilitate the visa stamping at the embassy.
Instead of a business visa, your host company in Saudi Arabia may offer you a work visit visa. It’s essentially the same as a business visa, but instead of just meeting your contact in Saudi Arabia, you’ll be performing special tasks while in the country. You will still be paid by your direct employer and will not be compensated directly by the Saudi host.
A government visa will be issued to those who meet directly with Saudi Arabian government officials. This is a free visa and the invitation letter will indicate that you are authorized for a government visa. This visa is governed in the same way as the business visa.
A family visit visa is a visa that allows an individual to travel to Saudi Arabia to see, as you can imagine, a family member! This can be a wife, husband, brother, sister, cousin, aunt, uncle or anyone related to you as long as they can prove the relationship. This can be established through a marriage, birth certificate, family tree or other official document. Once the family chain is established, family visitation will be permitted. The family member in Saudi Arabia will need to report in person to the local Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They will provide a copy of the guest’s passport and apply for a family invitation. The family member who applied for the invitation letter will now become the sponsor of the expected guest. A family invitation will be provided, which in turn will be sent to the guest. They will need to show this at the embassy to apply for a visa. Usually the family visa will be a single entry visa valid for 30 days. If you intend to stay more than 30 days, it is imperative that you inform your host of the required length of stay.
You will need a residence visa if you intend to live or move to Saudi Arabia. This is probably one of the most unusual visas as not many people are invited to live in Saudi Arabia for a long period of time. This is a special invitation that will come from the Ministry of Interior and is usually related to work or those moving to be with people who work in Saudi Arabia. Many call the invitation a long yellow form because it will always be yellow and is twice as long as a normal piece of paper. This invitation will allow the person to travel to Saudi Arabia and once you enter immigration gate E, you will be given an Iqama card. This card serves as your identification in Saudi Arabia and shows that you are a valid resident. It is recommended that you keep this card with you at all times.
The most difficult and complicated visa for Saudi Arabia is the work visa. This visa is granted to those who have been offered a contract to work with a Saudi company. This is completely different from a business visa as a work visa means you will be paid directly by a Saudi company. Obtaining a work visa is a very long process and will start with a one-on-one interview with a Saudi recruitment firm who will then forward your CV to a Saudi company. If the company determines that the candidate is suitable for their needs, they will provide an employment contract. Once the employment contract is accepted, the company in Saudi Arabia will provide the applicant with a group visa invitation letter, which will contain the job title, the type of passport held and the relevant visa number. Once the invitation letter is received, the applicant will need to complete the remaining steps to apply for a Saudi visa. This will include a comprehensive medical examination, police report, collection of required certificates/degrees and many other relevant documents.
You may be offered a temporary work visa instead of an actual work visa. This is very similar to a work visa, but your contract is limited and usually expires after 3-6 months. For a temporary work visa, you will need an invitation letter from Saudi Arabia authorizing you for this visa. Once the contract expires, you will return back to your host country.
Saudi Arabia offers two types of religious visas. Hajj and Umrah visas are available at appropriate times throughout the year. There is no invitation attached to this type of visa, but only those who adhere to the Muslim faith can apply. In certain cases, the consulate may ask to see a copy of your Islamic decree from the local mosque. These visas can be obtained on their own or with an all-inclusive package that includes hotels, airfare and transportation.
There are many types of visa categories for Saudi Arabia and it is important to check with your host to ensure that all your requirements are met. It is equally important to work with a registered visa agent at the embassy and make sure that agent understands the visa process.
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