Following on from the recent news from the government of Saudi Arabia of new visa fees across the board from work, visit and residency visas and most controversially cover Umrah and pilgrimage visas the government is now considering lowering of the fees for Umrah. The government had already announced that fees for those travelling for Umrah and pilgrimage for the first time will be waived and paid by the Saudi Government. Religious tourists were previously exempt from all visa fees. According to sources the increases had been applied to offset falling oil revenues although this had been denied by the Saudi authorities. The low oil prices have impacted revenues and Saudi banks continue to see liquidity pressure. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not reported to be considering the introduction of a lower fee for those that are travelling to the kingdom as part of the Umrah pilgrimage. The lower fees would only apply to those travelling to the country for less than 5 days. The new fees would beSR500 ($133) for a ‘short term visa’. Currently under the new regulations announced earlier this year the cost for a visa for pilgrims travelling for anything other than the first pilgrimage trip would be a massive SR2000 or $544. There had been huge protests from countries that see many pilgrimages travelling to Saudi Arabia stating that the visa fees would make the trip unaffordable for the majority of those planning on making the trip. However, as part of the new visa price recommendations the free visa entry for first time pilgrimage travelers would be scrapped making the new fee of RS500 payable by all those travelling for Umrah. The continued uncertainty over visa costs is being carefully monitored y those proposing to travel and the travel agents that work within this field.
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