Dec. 13: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has recently made important changes in its visa regulations for the benefit of Indian Muslims planning to travel to the kingdom to perform Umrah. One of the key changes is the elimination of the requirement for a specific visa for Umrah, allowing Indian Muslims to perform the pilgrimage using a work or tourism visa.
Interacting with the media during his visit to India, Saudi Hajj and Umrah Minister, Tawfig bin Fawzan Al-Rabiah explained that these new regulations were implemented to enhance the convenience of Indian pilgrims, particularly those planning to undertake the Umrah pilgrimage to Makkah outside the month of Ramadan.
To accommodate the expected surge in Umrah pilgrims from India, Saudi Arabia has taken several measures. This includes increasing the number of dedicated flights and establishing agreements to augment direct flights from multiple Indian airports to Jeddah and Madinah. The Saudi government has not only increased the frequency of flights but has also strategically enhanced seat capacity on Saudi Airlines.
Additionally, the revisions include extending the Umrah visa to 90 days and introducing a user-friendly e-visa system. Indian pilgrims can also benefit from a stopover visa, providing them with further flexibility throughout their journey. These efforts are aimed at meeting the growing demand for Umrah pilgrims from India.
Other changes include creating a safe and conducive environment, especially for women who may be planning the pilgrimage independently. About 47% of the pilgrims from India were women, including 4,000 women who performed Hajj without a male companion. Saudi Arabia has allowed women over 45 to perform the pilgrimage without a male guardian (mahram).
For the year 2024, it is estimated that around 13.7 lakh Indian Muslims will perform Umrah, developing on the momentum of over 12 lakh pilgrims who have already undertaken the pilgrimage in 2023. More than 175,000 places were allotted for Muslims from the country to perform Hajj this year. India is hoping to increase the existing quota to at least 200,000.
Minister Al-Rabiah praised the valuable contributions of Indian expatriates to the economic and cultural development of Saudi Arabia.