According to the official website of the UAE government – u.ae – anyone who wishes to perform Haj or Umrah needs to apply for a visa through a licensed tour operator.
“The Haj/Umrah tour operator will apply for a visa on your behalf. The Ministry of Haj and Umrah of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia issues visas,” the website states.
Gulf News spoke with Husham Kattingeri, an outbound travel supervisor at Regal Tours Worldwide, who specialises in visa processing for travel outside the UAE, to find out how UAE residents can apply for an Umrah visa.
According to Kattingeri, anybody who is a UAE resident and Muslim can apply for the visa.
“The system has now changed and it is very easy to get an Umrah visa. Earlier, you had to go to the application centre, submit your passport and wait for the visa to be stamped on it, which would take five to seven days. Now, they have changed to an e-visa system, so you can apply through an authorised travel agent, submit your documents, make the payment and get an e-visa. Then you can book your tickets,” Kattingeri said.
The system has now changed and it is very easy to get an Umrah visa … they have changed to an e-visa system, so you can apply through an authorised travel agent, submit your documents, make the payment and get an e-visa. Then you can book your tickets.
– Husham Kattingeri, outbound travel supervisor at Regal Tours Worldwide
How long is the visa valid for?
“Validity to use the visa is 30 days. This means that once you get the visa you can travel to Saudi Arabia within 30 days,” Kattingeri said.
According to haj.gov.sa, Umrah visas allow holders to stay in the country for a length of 30 days. The visa cannot be extended further.
However, according to travel agents Gulf News spoke with, the duration of stay can more often be shorter, as applicants may choose a six-day or 10-day package, depending on the options provided by the tour operator.
The Saudi Ministry’s website – haj.gov.sa – also states a similar requirement for applying for Umrah visas. According to the website, individuals cannot come on an Umrah Visa without a service package.
“The external agent [travel agent] cannot get an Umrah Visa without a service package (housing/transportation),” the website states.
Can women travel without a male companion?
According to haj.gov.sa, a woman can get an Umrah visa if she is going to travel with a group of women and is 45 years or older. “If she is under 45 years, she is obliged to travel with a mahram. The local authorised agent shall identify the male relatives of the women,” the website states.
According to the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Affairs Department, Dubai, a mahram is a male with whom marriage is prohibited.
When is the Umrah visa issued?
Umrah visas are not issued throughout the year. According to haj.gov.sa, the Saudi government issues Umrah visas from the 15th day of the month of Dhul Hijjah, and the last date of receiving Umrah Visa applications is the 15th day of the month of Shawwal of each Hijri year, in coordination with the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
According to Kattingeri, as the application process is now online, the documents should also be in a digital format. To apply for an Umrah visa, you would need to submit the following documents:
• Passport copy
• UAE visa copy
• Passport-sized photograph
While the Saudi authorities have lifted the requirement for applying for a permit to visit the grand mosques in Mecca or Medina, you would still need to take a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test 48 hours before your flight’s departure time.
“You will also need to register on the Muqeem portal – arrival.muqeem.sa – to register as a vaccinated or non-vaccinated passenger,” Kattingeri said.
The registration process will require you to enter your country of departure (UAE), your nationality, and your visa number.
How much will the Umrah visa cost?
The cost for the Umrah visa is currently between Dh1,400 to Dh1,800 per person, according to tour operators in the UAE.
“This is only the cost of the visa, per person. The standard packages include the cost of hotel stay and airlines for specific dates. We also customise the packages, according to the needs of the customers,” Kattingeri said.
According to Bujair Mangalangattu, Supervisor at Deira Travel And Tourist Agency, group packages are also often selected by people wishing to go for Umrah, as the total cost can be a lot cheaper, compared to individual packages.
He added that the number of days you can stay in Saudi Arabia can also vary, depending on whether you are travelling by road or by air.
“The ‘By road’ package is usually for 10 days, including the travel time. It usually takes us around 14 to 15 hours to travel to Saudi Arabia by road. If there is heavy traffic at the border, it may take up to 18 hours. So, you can stay in Mecca for four nights, in Medina for three nights and two nights are for travelling. If you take a flight, you may get a six-day package, with three nights in Mecca and two in Medina,” Mangalangattu said.
Many people choose the group packages as teThe ‘By road’ package is usually for 10 days, including the travel time … If you take a flight, you may get a six-day package, with three nights in Mecca and two in Medina
– Bujair Mangalangattu, Supervisor at Deira Travel And Tourist Agency
What would be the total cost of the Umrah trip?
According to Mangalangattu, the total cost would depend on not just your length of stay but also the hotel you wish to stay in.
“The cost actually depends not so much on the star rating of the hotel but the distance from the grand mosques. The closer the hotel is to the mosque, the more expensive it would be,” he said.