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Saudi Arabia Cabinet Approves Electronic Visa For Foreign Visitors
Saudi Arabia, the top oil exporter in the world has been seeking out ways of enhancing its global position through opening up the nation to foreigners. In light of this, the Cabinet has approved the use of electronic visas for global visitors attending concerts and sporting events. This may not sound amazing for residents of nations who have always had e-visas in the past. For Saudi, the situation has been different. You see, this kingdom has always had quite strict travel guidelines and visa restrictions. The Saudi Arabia visa was given to a limited number of people. These groups of people included the Muslims on pilgrimage to visit the Holy cities, resident workers, and business travelers.
In pursuit of making the kingdom of Saudi Arabia more tourist-friendly, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has been promoting various economic changes and also increase tourism spending. The ultimate goal, according to Crown Prince Mohammed, is to attain $46 billion by the year 2020. In 2015, tourism spending was USD 27.9 billion. That means, that goal isn’t so far-fetched and with the right strategies in place, it can be achieved.
With that, Prince Mohammed has made some notable changes and bans that are opening up Saudi to the world. For instance, he is allowing music concerts like live performances by global artists like pop stars and he recently ended a ban on cinema that has existed for about 40 years. In the recent past, more sporting activities are being organized in the kingdom to continue drawing more people from various parts into Saudi. The changes have not always been embraced in the past but such proposals have been met with bureaucracy, conservativeness, and sometimes criticism.
e-visa for Foreigners visiting Saudi
News on the Arab News publication quoted the cabinet’s decision stated: "embassies and consulates will be able to issue the visas within 24 hours of receiving a request." This means that the strict visa application policies no longer apply and foreigners can fill in an application form from their residence and travel. This change enhances convenience, simplifies the process, and appeals to many people.
On a global perspective, the Saudi Arabian kingdom has suffered enough criticism. Human activists and the western world has been concerned about the Saudi-led war in Yemen as well as the death of a journalist Jamal Khashoggi. There have been cases of arrest of clerics, intellectuals and activist who have voiced divergent views from that of the Prince. All that hostility and limited freedom has met heavy criticism and affected the nation’s international tourism. In spite of these realities, the initiative of the online visa is likely to attract more western visitors as this was evidenced in the influx of visitors in December, last year during the e-visa trial.
Finally, when you travel to Saudi Arabia, there are some restrictions that you should observe. For instance, the Holy cities of Mecca and Medina remain open for Muslims only. Thus, free mobility allows access to certain territories only.