Prince Sultan Bin Salman, President of Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) made an announcement that now Umrah visa can be converted to Tourist visa. He told the media that Saudi authorities had been working on this concept for a very long time but it has been finalized now.[irp]
You must be thinking what is the difference between Umrah Visa and Tourist Visa? How long will it take to fully implement it? Well, I cannot answer both of these questions but at least I will try to answer your concerns.[irp]
What is the difference between Umrah Visa and Tourist Visa? As we briefed above, an announcement has been made that now pilgrims would be able to convert their Umrah visas into Tourist visas. People all around Saudi Arabia want to know what will be the benefit to the pilgrims if they convert their Umrah visa into Tourist visa.
Before going into details of this conversion, I would like to remind you that there is no tourist visa of Saudi Arabia. It is not like someone can apply for a Tourist visa from some other country to Saudi Arabia. They have kept it very close. People can apply for Family Visit Visa, Business Visit Visa, Umrah Visa or Permanent Family Visa but there is no Tourist Visa.
It is also important to mention here that there is a restriction on the Umrah and Hajj pilgrims that Hajj and Umrah Pilgrims can only visit 3 main cities of Saudi Arabia i.e. Makkah, Jeddah, and Madina. They are not allowed to travel to some other cities like Riyadh, Dammam, Tabuk, Yanbu etc.
Here a question arises if somebody is coming to Saudi Arabia for Umrah, why does he want to go to all these cities. He should be only restricted to Makkah and Madina and Jeddah (being in the middle of Holy cities). Well, there can be different reasons to visit many other cities.
If Pilgrim's relatives are living in any part of Saudi Arabia, he would like to go there. There are so many religious places in Saudi Arabia which everyone would like to visit. For example, people like to go to Taif to see the place where Hazrat Muhammad S.A.W. was tortured.
They want to go to Madain Saleh to see the place where Hazrat Saleh A.S. used to live. They want to go to Tabuk to see the places where Hazrat Hud A.S. and people of Aad used to live. By converting this Umrah visa into Tourist visa, people would be able to travel each and every city of Saudi Arabia wherever they want. It will also benefit Saudi economy.[irp]
How long will it take to implement this system? Believe me, no one can tell you with assurance about the time frame of this conversion. It might be possible that they start converting Umrah visas into Tourist visa. You cannot rule out the possibility that it will take weeks, months or years. But considering the dynamic actions were recently taken by the Saudi government, I hope that they will implement it very soon.
Source: Al Arabiya