Saudi visa processing centers reopen across the Kingdom

Saudi visa processing centers reopen across the Kingdom
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VFS Global is the world's largest visa outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide. (VFS Global)
Saudi visa processing centers reopen across the Kingdom
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Sumanth Kapoor, regional head for Saudi Arabia at VFS Global.
Saudi visa processing centers reopen across the Kingdom
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Even after the Saudi borders open early next year, quarantine rules and flight availability are likely to constrain freedom of travel. (AFP)
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Updated 02 December 2020

Saudi visa processing centers reopen across the Kingdom

Saudi visa processing centers reopen across the Kingdom
  • Nearly 75% of visa application centers have restarted operations since the disruption caused by COVID-19

RIYADH: Ahead of international travel restarting in Saudi Arabia next year, centers for processing work and travel visa applications have begun to re-open for business across the Kingdom, after the disruption caused by the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We have seen a gradual rise in the number of our Visa Application Centers (VACs) re-opening globally, including Saudi Arabia, which has been very reassuring for us. Out of 28 governments that we serve in the Kingdom, we have resumed operations for 20 countries as of November 2020,” Sumanth Kapoor, regional head for Saudi Arabia at VFS Global, told Arab News.

VFS Global is the world’s largest visa outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide. Headquartered in Switzerland, the company has 3,430 VACs in 144 countries across five continents, and as of September 2020 it has processed more than 225 million applications.

Kapoor said that while VFS Global’s business has begun to return to normal, it was important to note that the official re-opening of VACs is dependent on approval from both local authorities and the embassy in question.

Furthermore, being able to apply for a visa does not necessarily mean that an applicant will automatically be able to travel to their desired country. “We suggest that all travellers check official government advisories of the destination country and airlines’ requirements, so they are aware of the current status concerning international travel,” he said.

Ahead of all centers reopening, the company earlier this summer launched a new service called Visa At Your Doorstep (VAYD), where a VFS Global executive travels to an applicant’s home to process the visa application documentation and carry out the biometrics.

Kapoor said the VAYD service was an example of how their business has adjusted to the challenges presented by COVID-19. “Health and safety before and during travel will play a much more critical role, and we are observing a gradually changing customer requirement trend towards more personalized, digital and at-your-doorstep services,” he said.

“Although we have reopened around 75 percent of the VACs across the country, the circumstances are new to everybody involved — customers, client governments, local authorities and ourselves,” he added.

On which countries are proving most popular with Saudis for visas, Kapoor said it was difficult to identify specific trends: “Europe has always been a favorite travel destination for Saudis. However, because of the unprecedented events this year, trends within the Kingdom are not as conclusive as previous years.”

While Saudi authorities are planning to reopen international borders at the end of the year, Kapoor said that freedom to travel would still be constrained: “Travel plans also depend on the quarantine rules and flight availability of the destination country.”

VFS Global’s offices overseas have begun accepting applications from those wanting visas to travel to the Kingdom. 

“We have started accepting visa applications for all available categories, with the exception of Tourist Visa. Our centers are accepting applications for biometric enrolment which is a mandatory step for all work visa applicants,” Kapoor said.

Despite disruption to services as a result of COVID-19, Kapoor said its passport processing services had not been significantly affected. “Throughout the recent difficulties, there has not been significant impact on our passport and consular services that we offer to Indian and Philippine citizens in the Kingdom,” he said.

“Our centers offering passport and consular services have remained operational even during the pandemic with all safety and preventative measures in place.”

In addition, the company also conducted special tours around the Kingdom to collect Indian passport renewal applications in various cities and towns, due to the high demand from Indian nationals. These took place in Bisha, Jizan, Madinah and Najran in the western region, as well as in Sakaka, Arar, Hafr Al Batin, Khafji and Wadi Dawasir.


VFS GLOBAL FAQS

To outline the changes implemented as a result of COVID-19, VFS Global has compiled the following frequently asked questions:

1. Do I need to bring a COVID 19-related medical certificate when I visit the Visa Application Center? 

VFS Global does not seek any COVID-19-related medical certificates. Medical certificates may be required for visa applications for some countries as per the official checklist.

2. If the visa I received for a country before lockdown has expired, do I need to apply again? 

Yes, if your visa has expired for any country, or is due to expire soon, you may need to re-apply for a new visa for that particular country. If you are already in a foreign country and your visa is due to expire, go to the relevant visa or immigration authorities of that country for assistance.

3. Can I apply for my visa at my home or office to maintain physical distancing precautions? 

Yes. Choose our Visa At Your Doorstep service for a convenient visa application process from the safety and comfort of your home or office. Available for select destination countries.

4. Do I need to follow health, safety and physical distancing norms at the Visa Application Centers? 

Yes. For your safety and that of our employees, it is important to adhere to the health and safety guidelines issued by local health authorities such as temperature checks, physical distancing and other safety norms.

5. Can I ask for my passport to be delivered to my address?

Yes. You can choose our optional Courier Service to get your passport delivered to your doorstep for any new visa applications submitted at re-opened centers.


Egypt to start electric car production from mid-2022

Egypt to start electric car production from mid-2022
Updated 18 June 2021

Egypt to start electric car production from mid-2022

Egypt to start electric car production from mid-2022
  • Thirteen electric vehicles will be tested on Egyptian streets from next month

CAIRO: Egypt will begin testing electric cars on the country’s streets from July, ahead of plans to launch full-scale production of the vehicles from mid-2022.

Thirteen imported electric vehicles will be tested on Egyptian streets from next month, Hisham Tawfik, minister of the Egyptian public enterprise sector, said while attending the launch of the Nasr E70 electric car.

Nine of the electric cars will be tested by drivers nominated by Uber, the global ride-hailing company, he added.

The Nasr E70 is scheduled to start production in mid-2022 with the El Nasr Automotive Manufacturing Company, an affiliate of the Ministry of Public Enterprise Sector’s Metallurgical Industries Company.

Tawfik said that the ministry began studying the electric car production project in mid-2019 as part of efforts to reform and develop its affiliated companies, including the revival of El Nasr Automotive Company.

FASTFACT

E70

The Nasr E70 is scheduled to start production in mid-2022 with the El Nasr Automotive Manufacturing Company.

The project is in line with the global move toward electric cars and aligns with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s directives to localize the manufacture of vehicles used for clean energy.

The Dongfeng Corporation, one of the largest automobile producers in China, is partnering in the production of the Nasr E70 vehicle, the minister said.

An agreement between El-Nasr and Dongfeng was signed in June 2020 following months of negotiations.

The Ministry of Public Enterprise Sector recently released images of the first electric car of its kind in the country.

El Nasr CEO Hani El-Khouly said that three types of electric car models will be available in Egypt, based on battery capacity.

Batteries initially will be made in China, with production later shifting to Egypt.

Trials of the imported cars will continue for up to four months under a range of Egyptian conditions and with different drivers.

The Nasr E70 can reach a speed of 145 kilometers per hour and travel up to 400 km on a single charge.

El-Khouly said that a delegation from China will arrive in Egypt in July to follow up on the tests.

Government subsidy of the car will total about EGP50,000 ($13,333) to support the local market, he said.


From Australia to Hong Kong, internet outages disrupt services

From Australia to Hong Kong, internet outages disrupt services
Updated 18 June 2021

From Australia to Hong Kong, internet outages disrupt services

From Australia to Hong Kong, internet outages disrupt services
  • Many of the outages were reported by people in Australia trying to do banking, book flights and access postal services.
  • Brief internet service outages are not uncommon and are only rarely the result of hacking or other mischief

SYDNEY: A wave of brief Iinternet outages hit the websites and apps of dozens of financial institutions, airlines and other companies across the globe Thursday.

The Hong Kong Stock Exchange said in a post on Twitter Thursday afternoon Hong Kong time that its site was facing technical issues and that it was investigating. It said in another post 17 minutes later that its websites were back to normal.

Internet monitoring websites including ThousandEyes, Downdetector.com and fing.com showed dozens of disruptions, including to US-based airlines.

Many of the outages were reported by people in Australia trying to do banking, book flights and access postal services.

Australia Post, the country’s postal service, said on Twitter that an “external outage” had impacted a number of its services, and that while most services had come back online, they are continuing to monitor and investigate.

Many services were up and running after an hour or so but the affected companies said they were working overtime to prevent further problems.

Banking services were severely disrupted, with Westpac, the Commonwealth, ANZ and St. George all down, along with the website of the Reserve Bank of Australia. Services have mostly been restored.

Virgin Australia said flights were largely operating as scheduled after it restored access to its website and guest contact center.

“Virgin Australia was one of many organizations to experience an outage with the Akamai content delivery system today,” it said. “We are working with them to ensure that necessary measures are taken to prevent these outages from reoccurring.”

Akamai counts some of the world’s biggest companies and banks as customers.

Calls to Akamai, which is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but has global services, went unanswered.

The disruptions came just days after many of the world’s top websites went offline briefly due to a problem with software at Fastly, another major web services company. The company blamed the problem on a software bug that was triggered when a customer changed a setting.

Brief internet service outages are not uncommon and are only rarely the result of hacking or other mischief. But the outages have underscored how vital a small number of behind-the-scenes companies have become to running the internet.


Saudi and Russian business officials propose Russian bank in Riyadh

Saudi and Russian business officials propose Russian bank in Riyadh
Updated 18 June 2021

Saudi and Russian business officials propose Russian bank in Riyadh

Saudi and Russian business officials propose Russian bank in Riyadh
  • Russian ambassador to the Kingdom says new commercial attache at the embassy will help Saudi businesses

RIYADH: A proposal to open a Russian bank in Riyadh was presented at a meeting between Saudi and Russian officials on Thursday.
The move would facilitate trade and economic exchange between the two countries, a meeting of the Saudi-Russian Business Council of the Council of Saudi Chambers (CSC) was told.
Russia’s Ambassador to the Kingdom, Sergei Kozlov, said he promised to support and study the proposal to open the bank in Riyadh.
He said a commercial attaché had been appointed at the embassy in Riyadh to help Saudi business owners overcome obstacles.
Ajlan bin Abdulaziz Al-Ajlan, president of the CSC, said the meeting provided strong impetus toward developing more trade and economic relations.
Chairman of the Saudi-Russian Business Council Tariq Al-Kahtani said it was important to strengthen economic and trade cooperation.
The meeting also dealt with some challenges that contributed to the weak volume of trade exchange between the Kingdom and Russia, including the lack of a direct shipping line to facilitate import and export operations.


International companies to invest in Egyptian green hydrogen projects, says minister

International companies to invest in Egyptian green hydrogen projects, says minister
Updated 17 June 2021

International companies to invest in Egyptian green hydrogen projects, says minister

International companies to invest in Egyptian green hydrogen projects, says minister
  • Egypt has signed MOU for 1GW green hydrogen project
  • Other EU companies set to partner with Egypt's private sector

RIYADH: International companies are interested in investing in green hydrogen production in Egypt, according to Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy Mohamed Shaker.

“There are companies from the European Union that will enter into partnerships with the Egyptian private sector,” he said.

The Egyptian government has signed an MoU with Siemens for the first project to produce green hydrogen with a capacity of 1 megawatt, doubling to 2 megawatts over five years, he said.

“Green hydrogen will be the world’s fuel in the next few years, and I see that Egypt started early in this field,” he added.

Work is currently underway to develop and formulate a strategy for the hydrogen industry in Egypt through a ministerial committee in which the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources participates as a main member, according to previous statements by the Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Tarek El Molla.

Egypt is planning to invest up to $4 billion in a project to generate green hydrogen gas through water electrolysis, Shaker said this week.

The project is currently in the feasibility studies stage, in consultation with the Sovereign Fund of Egypt and a group of concerned ministries, and will be presented next week, he said.

The United States is planning to increase funding to Egypt to help it convert to solar energy and move away from fossil fuels, US special envoy for climate John Kerry said in Cairo on Wednesday.

Egypt is planning to double the state’s funding for green projects to 30 percent of its overall investment plan during the fiscal year 2021/2022 and to raise it to 50 percent by 2024/2025.


Aramco completes issuance of international trust certificates for $6bn sukuk

Aramco completes issuance of international trust certificates for $6bn sukuk
Updated 17 June 2021

Aramco completes issuance of international trust certificates for $6bn sukuk

Aramco completes issuance of international trust certificates for $6bn sukuk
  • Launched on June 9, sale was Aramco’s first dollar-denominated sukuk.

RIYADH: Saudi Aramco said it completed issuing trust certificates for $6 billion of sukuk.
Aramco issued 30,000 sukuk with a par value of $200,000 each, it said in a filing to the Tadawul stock exchange.
“The outcome demonstrates further evidence of Aramco’s unique value proposition, which is underwritten by its operational and financial resilience,” said Aramco CEO and President Amin Nasser.
The securities were issued in three tranches, with the three-year notes paying 0.946 percent, 5-year notes at 2.602 percent and 10-year bonds 2.694 percent.
The sale, launched on June 9, was Aramco’s first dollar-denominated sukuk.
Aramco’s debut $12 billion bond deal in 2019 was followed by an $8 billion, five-part transaction in November last year, both used to fund its dividend.
The sale attracted orders exceeding $60 billion and added 100 new investors across the globe, Aramco said.