ISLAMABAD: Pakistanis should complete mandatory biometric registration locally after obtaining a Haj or Umrah visa, to save waiting time upon arrival at Saudi airports.
The Saudi Ministry of Haj and Umrah has issued a circular to countries that have the infrastructure for biometric enrolment, including Pakistan, saying that pilgrims from these countries should get themselves registered for impending visits.
The circular says that registering biometric information before arrival at ports of entry to the kingdom is recommended to save time and to facilitate smooth entrance.
At the same time, the Saudi ministry has said that recently, hundreds of visitors to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) were rejected entry and sent back from the airport because the correct visa procedures had not been followed: to avoid such incidents, pilgrims must apply for the right category of visa through travel agents registered with their country’s Haj and Umrah Committees.
Additionally, it says, those holding the newly introduced tourist e-visa cannot use this category to enter KSA to perform Haj or Umrah.
A visit visa only allows tourists to attend concerts and sporting events taking place in the kingdom, it has been said, with the warning that without the right visa and documentation, pilgrims will encounter fines and/or deportation.
Meanwhile, a statement issued by the Saudi embassy reiterates that visitors, including pilgrims, will benefit by having their biometrics done before travelling for Haj or Umrah, and that it is mandatory to provide biometric information to enter KSA: pilgrims should travel only after the entire formalities of the visa process have been completed.
The embassy statement says that once the biometric formalities are completed in the country of origin, pilgrims will only be required to clear customs and have their passports stamped by immigration officers upon entering KSA.
Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2019