Civil society seeks reduction of visa tax for Umrah and Hajj pilgrims

Posted by News Express | 31 October 2016 | 1,970 times

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Independent Hajj Reporters have appealed to Saudi Arabia authorities to reduce the tax imposed on visa for Umrah and Hajj pilgrims.

Saudi Arabia government increased the tax payable by Umrah pilgrims from 650 Saudi Arabia Riyals (SR) to SR2,000 with effect from October 2, 2016.

A statement by the civil society’s national coordinator, Ibrahim Muhammed, and publicity secretary Abubakar Mahmoud said Monday.

The statement also indicated that the implication of this tax is that the cost of going for Umrah will triple because each pilgrim will have to pay additional SR2,000 in addition to the Umrah package which include the cost of return ticket, accommodation, transport and royalty. 
According to the new visa regime “a one-time entry visa fee will be SR2, 000, but the state will bear this fee if a visitor is coming to the Kingdom for the first time to perform Haj or Umrah. A six month multiple-entry visa will now cost SR3,000 a one year multiple-entry visa will cost SR5,000, while a two-year multiple-entry visa will cost SR 8,000.

“The Saudi cabinet has also made it clear that these changes will not impact any bilateral deals already signed by Saudi Arabia and other countries. As for transit visas, their new fee is going to be SR300. Exit visa fee for anyone leaving the Kingdom through its seaports will be SR50.

“Meanwhile, ‘exit and re-entry’ visa fees for residents will be SR200 for a single trip for two months. SR100 will be charged for each additional month till the validity of residence permit (iqama). Exit and re-entry visa fee for multiple trips will be SR500 for three months. SR200 will be charged for each additional month till the validity of residence permit,” the statement said.

Independent Hajj Reporters said that an estimated 1.1 million Nigerian Muslims perform Umrah while 76,000 people perform Hajj every year.

It said if the new tax is not withdrawn at least 40 percent of potential pilgrims from Nigeria would be deprived of Hajj and Umrah.

The statement said that the imposition of tax would also have a negative impact on Saudi Arabian economy because with decrease in the number of Umrah pilgrims, the hoteliers, the airliners, vendors, car syndicates services, shopkeepers; caterers would also loss substantial income.

“While we appreciate the Kingdom’s effort in making hajj a memorable and comfortable exercise for Muslims, we would like them to consider the global economic challenges confronting the Muslim dominated countries,” the statement added.

•Photo shows Hajj pilgrims in Mecca.

Source: News Express

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