New Delhi: Indians travelling to the West or the Middle East can obtain a stopover visa for four days that will allow them to visit any city in Saudi Arabia or perform Umrah, said Saudi Minister of Haj and Umrah, Tawfiq bin Fawzan, adding that it is part of the Saudi Vision 2030 to streamline Umrah visits.
While addressing a press briefing with Minister of Minority Affairs Smriti Irani and Minister of State for External Affairs, V Muraleedharan on Tuesday stressed Saudi Arabia’s streamlined Umrah experience reflects the nation’s dedication to facilitating the religious pilgrimage of Muslims worldwide.
“Indians travelling to the West or the Middle East can obtain a stopover visa, that is, for 96 hours, and get a visa within the ticket issuance process, which allows them to perform Umrah and visit any city in the Kingdom,” he said.
Noting that the Umrah Visa will be valid for 90 days, he said that the visa will allow holders to reside and travel within Saudi Arabia, ensuring an efficient and convenient pilgrimage experience.
He further said, “The Kingdom has effectively transformed Umrah into a rewarding religious expedition by utilizing technological advancements, enhanced measures and upgraded infrastructure as part of the Saudi Vision 2030 to streamline Umrah visits.”
Moreover, Al-Rabiah highlighted that individuals looking to perform Umrah can now obtain a Kingdom entry visa within 48 hours.
“…Individuals looking to perform Umrah can now obtain a Kingdom entry visa within 48 hours. Additionally, Indian travellers can perform Umrah in Saudi Arabia using their work, tourism or Umrah visas,” he added.
The scheme seeks to streamline the visa acquisition process and enhance the overall accessibility for Umrah pilgrims.
While highlighting the meetings he held in India, Al-Rabiah said, “During our meetings, we explored various opportunities that we aim to capitalize on and challenges that we are dedicated to overcoming to facilitate the arrival of more Umrah pilgrims and visitors to the two Holy Mosques.”
Moreover, he stressed that the collaborative efforts between India and Saudi Arabia have significantly increased the number of Umrah pilgrims from India, surpassing 1.2 million in 2023.
“That is a 74 per cent increase in comparison with 2022. We are committed to initiating discussions to enhance the range of direct flights options between our two nations to accommodate an increasing number of Indians looking to perform Umrah,” he added.
Moreover, they are also focusing on enhancing capacity to meet the anticipated increase by introducing new scheduled flights through Saudi low-cost airlines.
“These efforts are complemented by initiatives to streamline visa issuance procedures and establish three new Tasheer, or visa centres in India, accommodating the increasing number of individuals seeking to perform Umrah and visit the holy sites,” he emphasised.
Furthermore, Al-Rabiah said that they will launch an exhibition in Mumbai tomorrow, “an opportunity for collaboration between Umrah and tourism companies from Saudi Arabia and India”.
Additionally, it will also be a chance to take advantage of opportunities and introduce initiatives that enhance the Umrah journey.
Meanwhile, at the press briefing, Minister of State for External Affairs, V Muraleedharan emphasised that Tawfiq bin Fawzan Al-Rabiah’s visit will bolster the bilateral partnership between the two countries.
“Importantly, the visit will be useful in charting the course for Hajj 2024 in an efficient and smoother way,” he added, noting that the Hajj pilgrimage is an important aspect of the bilateral relationship between India and Saudi Arabia.
The continuous success of the Haj pilgrimage undertaken by Indian citizens is a testament to the strong commitment made by both countries, he said.
“I take this opportunity to place our sincere appreciation to the leadership and authorities concerned in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the successful Hajj arrangements earlier this year for Indian pilgrims,” Muraleedharan said.
India and Saudi Arabia enjoy a close and friendly relationship and people-to-people ties form an important component in this important bilateral space.
“The relations have reached new heights under the visionary leadership of our Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi and His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz al Saud crown Prince and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” MoS Muraleedharan emphasised.
Moreover, he stated that there is a mutual recognition that our partner will not only be beneficial to our countries and communities strengthened by our vibrant 2.4 million diaspora but will be valuable to the region and the world.
“I reiterate the Ministry of External Affairs’ firm commitment to this process, and we look forward to working closely to make the pilgrimage a grand success once again,” he added.