As announced in the Saudi Gazette, and elsewhere, the Saudi Arabia tourist e-Visa is available as of the 28th of September for eligible nationalities. The visa will be issued in just 7 minutes! What was previously the most difficult country to visit is now one of the easiest. This post describes the e-Visa application process.
What’s there to see and do in Saudi Arabia? The official Visit Saudi website provides lots of slick images and videos to whet your appetite for a trip to this once reclusive Kingdom.
Breaking News (10/1/2019): Saudi Arabia Opening the Door to More Tourists
On the 10th of January 2020, the Saudi Commission for Tourism & National Heritage (SCTH) announced that visitors can now use existing UK, US, and Schengen-area country visas to obtain a Saudi Arabia visitor visa at airport arrival halls – regardless of their citizenship.
Visitors intending to benefit from the new regulation must have previously used the visa to travel to any one of the listed Schengen countries, the UK or the US before entering Saudi Arabia.
As per the announcement: “Recipients of tourist or commercial visas to these countries can now enter the Kingdom and receive the tourist visa only through the visa upon arrival method and are not included in the e-visa”.
e-Visa Application Process
The following steps explain how to apply for a Saudi e-Visa.
How long does the Saudi Arabian tourist visa allow? Each visitor visa grants one year of validity for multiple entries, with stays up to 3 months at a time.
In order to complete the visa process, you will need the following:
- One electronic passport photo.
- A credit card for making payment.
- Two email addresses; a main one (used for the application process) and an alternate email (never used and not sure why this is required).
- A phone number (never used during the process).
- An entry and exit date to/ from Saudi Arabia (although your visa will simply be valid for multiple entries, within one year of the date of issue).
- Details of hotel reservation (although this is clearly not checked as my visa was issued in 30 minutes).
I first tried using the e-Visa portal on my iPad and iPhone using the Safari browser. I had issues obtaining the ‘Verification Code’ which is emailed to you as part of the account setup process. After many attempts, I never received a code.
I contacted portal support, using the ‘Contact’ option at the bottom of the portal, and was advised to try logging in using a different browser. I logged in from my laptop using Google Chrome and received the code on the first attempt.
It’s best not to use the Safari browser when using the portal.
The following steps should be followed to apply for a Saudi e-Visa:
Step 1: Navigate to the Visit Saudi Visa website. Click on the ‘Apply Now‘ button and create an e-Visa account.
As part of the registration process, you will be emailed an ‘Activation Link‘ then, once you have activated your account, you will need to request a ‘Verification Code‘ which will also be emailed to you. Once you’ve entered this code, you’re ready to complete the application process. The six steps took me 10 minutes to complete.
Note: All emails from the application process were delivered to my ‘Junk’ folder!
Step 2: Complete the ‘Personal Information’ section.
Step 3: Complete the ‘Passport/ Traveller’ section. You will be required to upload an electronic passport photo and provide travel dates and hotel reservation details.
Hint: When entering your ‘Date of Birth‘, on the less-than-intuitive calendar, instead of clicking hundreds of times on the back arrow of the monthly view, you can simply click on the ‘year‘ value, which is located at the top/ centre of the calendar, to change the format of the calendar to a yearly view. There’s nothing on the calendar to suggest you can do this, but it does save a lot of time. You can then click the back arrow and scroll back through each year, rather than each month. Much faster!
Step 4: Complete the ‘Medical Insurance’ section. As part of the process, it is mandatory that you purchase Saudi Medical Insurance. There is a tick box at the bottom of the screen where you agree to purchase insurance. I was charged SAR 133 (USD$35) for my policy, with the policy being emailed to me separately.
Step 5: On the next screen, you need to read and agree to the ‘Terms and Conditions’. This section explains what is socially acceptable in Saudi Arabia.
Step 6: On the penultimate step, you need to review your application. Once happy, it’s time to make the payment!
Step 7: On the ‘Payment’ step, a breakdown of the cost of your visa will be displayed along with payment options; MasterCard, Visa, American Express or UnionPay.
My 12 month multiple entry visa cost me SAR 463.44 (USD$123).
Step 8: Once payment has been made, you will be taken to a dashboard where you can monitor the progress of your application. My visa was emailed to me within minutes of me completing the application.
Safe Travels to KSA!
Author: Darren McLean
A perpetual traveller, photographer, travel writer and owner of taste2travel, a website which aims to inspire wanderlust.