Hajj and Umrah e-visas to be issued in minutes

The electronic platform will include new services that will give non-Saudis access to the e-portal, where they can review service packages, choose a package and apply for visas electronically. (AFP/ File photo)
Updated 12 March 2019

Hajj and Umrah e-visas to be issued in minutes

  • New service to boost number of pilgrims, says official
  • e-portal will allow pilgrims to review service packages and apply for visas electronically

RIYADH: Electronic visas for Hajj and Umrah pilgrims will be issued within minutes for various Hajj/Umrah campaigns and companies under plans by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

“Pilgrims who are coming from outside the Kingdom are tied to Hajj and Umrah service-providing companies and agents in order to obtain a visa. The electronic visas will be issued to these entities who will be licensed to facilitate Hajj and Umrah in these countries,” Abdulrahman Shams, an adviser to the minister of Hajj and Umrah and general supervisor of Hajj and Umrah’s electronic platform, said on MBC.

Shams said the electronic platform will include new services that will give non-Saudis access to the e-portal, where they can review service packages, choose a package and apply for visas electronically.

“We are working closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior to issue visas electronically, within minutes of completing the required forms, and without the need for passports to go through embassies,” he said.

The move will help encourage greater numbers of pilgrims, he added. Saudi Arabia has issued over 4.33 million Umrah visas this year. The ministry’s move helps facilitate pilgrims’ journeys and minimizes pre-planning. Under Vision 2030, the Kingdom hopes to attract more than 30 million Umrah pilgrims and provide them with top-class services.

In January, the ministry updated its online portal to support foreign pilgrims. Almost 1.1 million Muslims used the Maqam online portal in its trial phase last year, allowing them to choose between more than 30 companies providing travel and accommodations for trips to Makkah and Madinah.

The ministry has been discussing incorporating e-services since November 2018.

Abdulaziz Al-Wazzan, the deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, said the initiative aims to make visas more accessible to pilgrims, while also contributing to an increase in pilgrim numbers.


Saudi justice minister appoints first woman to senior position at alimony fund

Saudi Justice Ministry. (SPA)
Updated 12 min 22 sec ago

Saudi justice minister appoints first woman to senior position at alimony fund

  • More women are also working in the ministry’s digital transformation project, and in related fields such as computer science, software engineering and information systems

JEDDAH: The minister of justice and president of the Supreme Judicial Council, Walid bin Mohammed Al-Samaani, has ordered the appointment of Shorooq bint Mohammed Al-Jadaan as deputy director-general for alimony affairs. She is the first woman to assume a leading position at the alimony fund.
The fund aims to ensure alimony is paid to beneficiaries as quickly as possible, and help achieve a financial balance for families, in fulfillment of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan.
“This appointment is not surprising from a ministry and a country that has taken upon itself to ensure equity and empowerment for women in all governmental and private sectors,” said Saudi lawyer Nujood Qasim.
Such decisions strongly support efforts to raise the level of participation by women in the workforce, one of the goals of Vision 2030, by providing a wider range of career options and encouraging them to play a bigger role in the development of the country, Qasim added.
The second phase of the alimony fund was launched in November 2019. It has achieved a number of successes since its inception, in particular improving the speed of responses to requests and communication with applicants and beneficiaries through its online platform.
It has also reduced the time taken from final approval of applications to the payment of alimony, which can now be done in a matter of hours.
The Ministry of Justice has implemented a number of initiatives in the past few years to increase the number of female employees and improve their representation in promoted positions. In late 2017, it started to provide special sections for women in courts around the country and appoint female notaries. Previously it was rare for women to work in courts.
Women can now work as social researchers and administrative assistants. More women are also working in the ministry’s digital transformation project, and in related fields such as computer science, software engineering and information systems.
In addition, there has been a huge increase in the number of registered female lawyers, from only 10 in 2013 to 487 by November last year.