Dhaka, Bangladesh
Saudi Arabia new visa regime

Saudi Arabia new visa regime

The Saudi government last year took a number of decisions based on a recommendation of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Economy and Planning on increasing non-oil revenue, according to Arab News. The Cabinet session was chaired by Vice Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Prince Mohammed bin Naif at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah. As per the new decisions, a one-time entry visa fee will be SR2,000, but the state will bear this fee if a visitor is coming to the Kingdom for the first time to perform Haj or Umrah. The multiple exit/re-entry visa fee will be SR3,000 for six months, SR5,000 for one year and SR8,000 for two years. The transit visa fee will be SR300. The departure visa fee will be SR50 for those leaving the Kingdom through seaports. The exit/re-entry visa fees will be as follows: • SR200 for a single trip for two months as maximum and SR100 for each additional month, within the limits of the duration of the residence permit’s validity. • SR500 for multiple trips for three months and SR200 for each additional month within the limits of the duration of the residence permit’s validity. A royal decree has been prepared for this purpose and the attached decision’s draft stipulates that the application of the provisions of this decision shall be as of Muharram 1, 1438, corresponding to Oct. 2, 2016. The amendment of Article 63 of the Regulation reads as follows: “Subject to the provisions in Articles 61 and 62 of this regulation, any driver involved in a crash shall stop the vehicle at the scene and take the initiative to inform the competent department and provide possible assistance to the victims of the incident. Meanwhile the Bangladesh government has threatened stern measures against travel agents, blaming them for this year’s complications in securing visas for Hajj pilgrims, according newspaper reports. Speaking to reporters, Religious Affairs Minister Matior Rahman said travel agencies were responsible for the hitches. “It’s the Hajj agencies, all of this would not have happened if not for their delays.” Of the 127,198 pilgrims, only 52,600 have obtained visa. A total of 32,504 pilgrims have travelled to Saudi Arabia until now. As many as 20,096 pilgrims were yet to begin their journey. But Biman Bangladesh, the national flag carrier, has been cancelling flights due to shortage of passengers. Until last Wednesday, Biman Bangladesh Airlines cancelled 15 flights to Jeddah since it began transporting pilgrims on Jul 24. The cancelled flights could have carried around 6,000 Bangladeshi pilgrims to Saudi Arabia. Civil Aviation Minister Rashed Khan Menon said that the problems need to be solved immediately to avoid more severe complications in Biman’s flight operations for Hajj pilgrims. Piling the blame on travel agents, the religious affairs minister said on Thursday, “We will take extreme actions. No one will be spared.” He, however, said that visa complications occur every year, and hoped that it would be solved soon. “We’ll be able to send every pilgrim for Hajj.” This year, the Saudi government launched the E-visas programme for the hajj pilgrims. The hajj pilgrims, who performed hajj in 2015 or 2016, have to pay extra 2,000 Saudi Riyals for performing hajj for the 2nd time, the minister said, adding that it is another reason for not getting visas timely. He said the Civil Aviation Authority, Bangladesh will urge Saudi Arabia to increase the slots for the canceled flights to take pilgrims as 12 Biman flights and three Saudi Airlines flights have so far been cancelled since the first day of hajj flight operation on July 24 due to shortage of pilgrims over visa complications. From now on, regular fights of Biman Bangladesh Airlines will carry hajj pilgrims decreasing the number of other passengers, he said. Menon said 92,000 hajj pilgrims have submitted their passports to the Saudi Embassy for visas to perform hajj this year. Of them, 46,792 pilgrims have received visas while 47,476 others are yet to get those, he added. Of the visa recipients, 29,839 pilgrims have already left for Saudi Arabia. Every year, most of the hajj pilgrims leave for Saudi Arabia within the first 10 days into the beginning of the Hajj flights. Biman Bangladesh Airlines and Saudi Airlines are carrying Bangladeshi pilgrims. Some 177 flights were scheduled to carry the hajj pilgrims till August 26. Of them, only 29 dedicated flights and eight scheduled ones have so far taken off for Saudi Arabia. Around 127,198 pilgrims were scheduled to perform hajj from Bangladesh this year under government and private managements. The fate of some 15,000-20,000 Hajj pilgrims who intend to go to Hajj this year and completed their registration formalities, is still uncertain due to complexities in getting e-visa. Farhana Khan Kalabagan, Dhaka

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