DUBAI 17 February 2019: Foreign nationals travelling to Saudi Arabia for business must now obtain a visa pre-approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before they submit a Business Visit Visa application.
Visa invitation letters that were used previously, are no longer available. The new rule also impacts certain visa eligibility conditions and extends the overall lead time for business visitors to enter Saudi Arabia, said immigration specialists Fragomen.
Foreign nationals travelling to Saudi Arabia for business must now obtain a visa pre-approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) before they submit a Business Visit Visa application. Invitation letters for Commercial and Work Visit Visas that were used before, are no longer available.
Pre-approval for a Business Visit Visa can be obtained electronically through the MOFA website. Previously, pre-approval was required only for select categories of applicants, including businesswomen and individuals sponsored by a government agency in Saudi Arabia. It is expected that the new rule will extend the overall processing time for a Business Visit Visa, but it is not yet clear by how many days.
According to Saudi immigration regulations, a Business Visit Visa is available to investors, company owners, members of boards of directors, managers and other company representatives. It is not clear whether or not applicants with technical skills will be able to obtain the Business Visit Visa. Fragomen is closely monitoring developments in this area and will provide additional insights as details become available.
In October 2019, immigration authorities in Saudi Arabia made fundamental changes to the business visa scheme by replacing Commercial and Work Visit Visas with a uniform Business Visit Visa that is issued with the notification “not permitted to work”.
By eliminating Work Visit Visas, the authorities have effectively removed the only option available to foreign nationals traveling to Saudi Arabia for short-term work. However, a new short-term work visa is expected to be introduced by the Ministry of Labour and Social Development in the coming months.