Saudi hajj ministry toughens rules on pilgrims who overstay visa
The Ministry of Hajj has issued a total of 1.7 million Umrah visas since the beginning of the current Umrah season on Dec. 4
Umrah service providers will not be able to apply for Umrah visas if 500 pilgrims or one percent of the total pilgrims on their list overstay their visas, according to Saudi Arabia's Minister of Hajj Bandar Hajjar.
“Halting of the service would continue until the number of overstayers is reduced and the conditions with regard to the services to the pilgrims are fulfilled,” he said in press statement issued by the ministry.
The statement noted that there has been a considerable decrease in the number of Umrah overstayers compared to the previous years, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
According to the statement, the Ministry of Hajj has issued a total of 1.7 million Umrah visas since the beginning of the current Umrah season on Dec. 4 (Safar 1). So far, 953,000 pilgrims arrived in the Kingdom, of whom 516,000 have already left for their countries.
Hajjar said that there are a total of 48 licensed Umrah service providers for the current season. The issuance of visa procedures have been simplified after the introduction of the global electronic network and widening of the digitized system with high precision in order to ensure safety, comfort and departure of Umrah pilgrims.
(This article was first published in Saudi Gazette on Jan. 27, 2014)