At a Glance
- Effective immediately, the validity periods of many visitor visas, including commercial visit and work visit visas, have been standardized.
- Foreign nationals who have submitted visa applications accompanied by invitation letters that request a visa with a validity that is inconsistent with the new regulations will need to obtain new letters in order to avoid Saudi consular posts returning visa applications.
- Additionally, the Saudi Arabian government has introduced a uniform fee of SAR 300 (approximately USD 80) per application for all visit visas, where previously, the fee varied based on the visa category and the applicant’s nationality.
The Council of Ministers of Saudi Arabia has issued a decision standardizing the validity periods of visitor visas, including commercial visit and work visit visas, and standardizing visit visa application fees, effective immediately.
A closer look
- Shorter visa validities. Most foreign nationals, including those from Australia, China, Germany and India, are now only eligible for either three-month single-entry or 12-month multiple entry visas. The maximum allowable duration of stay under a single-entry visa for three and six months is 30 days and for visas with other validities, the maximum duration is 90 days. Previously, nationals of these countries could obtain visas with varying validities based on their nationality.
- Current visa holders. Foreign nationals who currently hold a longer visit visa can continue to use it.
- Exceptions. Nationals of countries with bilateral visa agreements with Saudi Arabia, including France, the United Kingdom and the United States, can continue to apply for visit visas of longer durations, depending on their nationality.
- Impact. Foreign nationals with pending visa applications should ensure their invitation letter contains a visa validity period based on the new regulation. If it does not, they may need to obtain a new visa invitation letter from their sponsor in Saudi Arabia, which may delay the processing of their application and potentially their travel to Saudi Arabia.
- Standard government fee. All visit visa applications are now subject to a standard government fee of SAR 300 (approximately USD 80). Previously, the fee was calculated based on the visa category and the nationality of the applicant.
- Impact. Visitor visa holders should benefit from a standardized fee which, in many cases, is lower than what is charged by the visa-issuing authority.
This change of visa validity periods and a unified visa fee is part of Saudi Arabia’s goal to standardize, simplify and streamline the immigration system for employers. Other recently-introduced policies include the below:
Saudi Arabia’s continued focus on attracting foreign workers and investment (especially to non-oil-reliant industries) requires competitiveness in terms of offering high salary packages (it is one of the top countries in the region as far as salary levels); transparency in the employment process; and streamlined short- and long-term immigration rules. The Saudi government is expected to implement more rules streamlining and regulating employment relationships, work authorization and visitor visa rules as it continues to attract foreign workers.