The process of obtaining visas in Saudi Arabia is somewhat complex. While some countries may not require a visa for travelers from certain countries, Compulsorily, Saudi Arabia requires both a passport and a valid visa whether you are traveling for business, work, or personal travel.
The only exceptions are the citizens of countries that are members of The GCC, the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf. Its members include the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the Sultanate of Oman.
Saudi Arabia issues three types of visas:
- Employment visas
- Business visit visas
- Family visit or residence visas
This guide will focus on Business Visas, as will be required by any person intending to conduct their business in Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi Arabian visa is a sticker/stamp placed in a passport and issued by the Royal Saudi Arabian Embassy. The visa is also issued by Saudi consulates present in each country.
A Business Visa And a Work Visa: Their Difference
A Saudi Arabian business visa is employed to carry out limited business activities with a Saudi sponsor, be it a person or an organization. In theory, the visa limits you to activities like business meetings or conducting negotiations.
Individuals may also use their Saudi business visas to provide interim or short-term technical services or management consultancy. The Saudi authorities tolerate this for the most part.
It is quite important that you understand the difference between a business visa and a work visa. A Saudi business visa allows you only to conduct limited business transactions with your Saudi sponsor.
If you need to work in Saudi Arabia, you will need a work visa, also known as an employment visa. The work visa permits its holder to work within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
All foreigners who want to work in Saudi Arabia are subject to the Kingdom’s sponsorship system. This sponsorship gives the employer significant legal authority over a person working for them.
For example, an employer can prevent an employee from exiting the Kingdom.
It is illegal to work in Saudi Arabia when your business visa is marked “not permitted to work,” and violating this stipulation can result in deportation, detention, financial penalties, and a ban on returning to the Kingdom.
Be very clear that you do not request a business visa when what you want is a work visa.
Documents Required for a Saudi Arabian Business Visa Application?
The Saudi Arabian government is very particular about the documents required to obtain a business/travel visa. You need to ensure each document presented is appropriate.
As with traveling to any country, traveling to Saudi Arabia will require a passport valid for six months when applying for the visa. Renew your passport if you have less than six months till the passport expires.
Other requirements are:
The signed passport must contain two consecutive blank pages at least. Single blank pages are not acceptable.
Even if your passport is valid but no longer contains two successive blank pages, your passport will not be accepted due to other visa stamps, and amendment pages do not count.
Your passport should not be altered, damaged, torn, or separated in any manner.
You will be refused a visa if your passport shows that you have visited Israel or intend to do so.
On occasion, nationals of another country but born in Israel have been declined a visa by the Saudi Embassy.
Generally, the passports can be dropped off at the Saudi Embassies between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. on weekdays and picked up during 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. These timings are subject to change without notice, particularly during the month of Ramadan.
You are required to submit two recent, identical passport-style photos of 2″ x 2″. These photos in color and on photo-quality paper must be recent and taken within the last 90 days.
Photographs printed on computer paper are not accepted. The pictures should not be the same as the ones in your passport.
Other requirements for the photographs:
The head and the entire face must be in the center of the picture.
Do not smile. You must have a neutral expression.
You will need to remove your glasses for the photos and any non-religious headwear, such as a baseball hat or a visor.
Do not attach any of the photos to your visa application. You cannot use any adhesive material, such as tape, glue, or staples.
Documents required for Your Visa
Business travel to Saudi Arabia will require you to provide the following documents,
A Business Cover Letter From Employer
All visa applicants for a Saudi business visa need to submit a business cover letter (BCL) from your employer in your country.
This business cover letter must be printed on the company letterhead with a complete address, an original signed document indicating the visit’s itinerary date, purpose, and duration.
The company letter needs to confirm the employee’s position in the company, confirm its financial and moral responsibility for the applicant, and list contact details and the address for their visit to Saudi Arabia.
This letter is required to be notarized and addressed to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in that country.
Sponsors Business Registration Form
A Saudi business visa application also requires a copy of the sponsoring Saudi company’s registration form. This registration form is issued by the Saudi Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
This copy must be stamped and issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Saudia.
You also need to submit a copy of your company’s business registration in Saudi Arabia and in the country where you are applying from.
Letter of Invitation
A visa application also requires submitting an original invitation issued by the Saudi Foreign Ministry. This invitation letter is to be arranged by the company sponsoring your visit to Saudi Arabia.
Details required in the invitation letter:
- Addressed directly to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, in the country the visa is being applied from.
- Must show the Saudi sponsor’s complete address and contact numbers.
- The letter needs to request the exact number of days for the visa as mentioned in the business introduction letter.
- Specify single or multiple entry visa requests.
- If a government company has issued the Letter of Invitation in Saudi Arabia., you will be required to bring a diplomatic note from the embassy in your country.
Notice on Saudi Laws and Regulations
You are required to fill out and sign a Notice on Saudi Laws and Regulations Form. As part of the requirement of this form, you will need to provide your fingerprints and eye iris pattern images.
The Saudi embassy may additionally request a signed copy of your business contract between your company and the sponsoring company in Saudi Arabia.
A letter detailing the highest level of education you have achieved and the subjects you majored in at the university.
Visa Application Form
The visa application form for Saudi Arabia must be filled out in block (capital) letters and precisely the same way as given on your passport, including your full name.
The application must be filled out using blue or black ink only. Your visa application will be rejected if any other color ink is used. The visa applications must contain your cell phone number and email address.
Keep the following tips in mind:
For the application section on religion, enter Muslim or other. ‘Other’ in this case means non-Muslim.
Also, ensure that you follow the authorization from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when choosing single or multiple entries on the form.
If you have traveled to Saudia previously, check your passport to see if it already contains a valid Saudi Arabian visa. A new visa will not be issued if you already have a valid visa.
You also are required to submit proof of a round-trip airline ticket or a computer-generated travel agency itinerary for your business trip to Saudi Arabia.
A private charter’s manifest will fulfill this requirement if you are traveling via a private charter.
The non-U.S. citizens who live and work in the United States must submit a copy of their green card or any documentation confirming their legal residence status in the United States.
If you are required to visit Mecca, Jeddah, or Medina, or if your sponsor is based in any of the above three cities, you will need to prove having received a meningitis vaccination. There are no exceptions to this rule.
These guidelines can change quickly and without any prior notice.
The processing time required for the Visa Application.
The entire process could take anywhere from 2 to 15 days and even longer in some cases.
The processing time is dependent on several factors, and a consulate or embassy may change the length of time it needs to process a visa application at its discretion and without notice.
What is the validity period of a Saudi Arabian Visa?
The number of days that you can stay within the country start on the day of your entry into Saudi Arabia. Here are some general guidelines:
A single-entry visa permits of up to 90 days (three months).
A multiple-entry visa will allow a stay of up to 180 days (six months).
Do not overstay your visa.
All persons visiting Saudi Arabia are required to observe the country’s Islamic regulations and laws and respect the traditions and values of Saudi Arabia.
Women and children traveling to Saudi Arabia must be received at the airport by a male relative. Women traveling on business, however, may be received at the airport by a male colleague from her company.
Women applying for a business visa also need a pre-approved invitation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This invitation number will always begin with 7005. There are no exceptions to this rule.
Need advice for your Visa application?
The visa process for Saudi Arabia can be confusing and frustrating if you haven’t already applied for a visa to the Kingdom before.
A Travel advisory company can help you expedite the Saudi Arabian visa process and ensure you have all the correct travel documents required for your visa.