On-Arrival / Tourist visas for Saudi Arabia and possible compliance issues?
On arrival and electronics visas were opened by the Saudi government in late September and been covered vastly in the immigration news. The whole world welcomed this bold and friendly move by Saudi government, and everyone is appreciating efforts the Kingdom is making to open its doors to the world and catch up with the tourism industry where it previously relied mainly on Oil & Gas revenues.
Since the visas are opened, hundreds of thousands of people have applied or travelled to KSA on this visa. However, not all of them are TOURISTS. Which raises the questions of compliance issues and possible penalties? It is well known that overstating in Saudi Arabia or being caught on a wrong visa type can result in heavy financial penalties (up to 50,000 Riyals) and travel ban from 3 years to life! Now this is something no body would want especially with business and industries booming in the Kingdom and millions of expats / families living all over the country.
We recently came across cases where people who were looking to get the correct business visas or family visit visas decided to go ahead and use the e-visas. The main reasons were either to save time (which normally is just 2-3 working days) OR to save some money.
Pros: On-Arrival / E-visa:
- Quick processing
- Slightly lower fee
- No need to have a sponsored invitation letter
Cons : On-Arrival / E-Visa :
- Visa holder only gets 90 days to stay in-country during 1-year visa validity
- Possible compliance issues
- Possibility of being considered over-stayer due to calendar differences.
Our advice to travellers?
- Do not use the tourist visa if you are not a genuine tourist – visiting cousins or attending a “quick business meeting” is not Tourism;
- Ensure you have a hotel booking with you and book a guided tour to ensure you are not confused as a non-genuine tourist. The visa allows to travel to KSA but DOES NOT guarantee entry into the Kingdom as it always at the discretion of immigration officials;
- If you are going to stay with family members, apply for a family visit visa through Saudi consulate;
- If you are going on a business visit of short-term assignment, apply for a commercial visit or work visit visa accordingly;
- If your future employer tells you to just travel on tourist visa and they will take care of you in case of any compliance issues … STOP! Saudi immigration system works on sponsorship system, but individual traveller is held liable in case of overstays and all compliance issues affect you directly.
- Having a correct visa means your inviting sponsor can know when you are in country and track the expiry of your visa as well which ensures you do not overstay and be subject to financial penalties.
- KSA MOFA has marked down the fees for all nationalities for business visit visas and family visit visas which makes it easy to and affordable to be compliant.
For any further information or to apply for business visit visas, please contact us at any of the following emails: