Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has introduced a new e-visa for tourists arriving by cruise ship. The new travel document will allow international visitors to easily enter Saudi Arabia by sea, if they are traveling with an organized cruise.
On 2 January 2022, the Foreign Ministry made an announcement on its Twitter page about the new e-visa system, with instructions on how to apply.
The tweet stated that the visa would be available to cruise passengers, and that they can apply for the visa when they purchase a cruise ticket. The e-visa will then automatically be processed through the MOFA online platform.
The new visa policy is part of Saudi Arabia’s long-term strategy to diversify its economy through tourism.
Saudi authorities have already made some changes to their visa policy, in order to encourage more tourists to visit the country. In November 2021, they announced that they would be extending the validity of certain visas and residency permits, without charging an extra fee.
Saudi Arabia’s Tourism Plan
Tourism is a vital factor in Saudi Arabia’s plan to revive the economy, after taking a significant hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Saudi government is due to invest up to $200 billion into its tourism sector. This is with the intention that by 2030, the industry will account for 10% of Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product.
The new e-visa service for cruise tourists is part of the Kingdom’s long-term vision for boosting tourism, by encouraging marine activities in and around Saudi Arabia.
Job Creation in Saudi’s Tourism Sector
Saudi Arabia’s 2030 plan to elevate tourism includes creating more jobs in the tourism sector for Saudi citizens.
In December 2021, the University of Prince Mugrin in Madinah signed an agreement with Cruise Saudi to offer professional tourism programs to Saudi students. These programs focus on a number of tourism-specific topics, as well as the hospitality sector.
Through this deal with the University of Prince Mugrin, Cruise Saudi aims to generate 50,000 jobs by 2035.
How to Get the New Maritime e-visa
The new e-visa for cruise tourists is quick and straightforward to get. Tourists do not need to apply separately for the travel permit, they can automatically request the e-visa when booking their cruise holiday.
During the booking process for a cruise to Saudi Arabia, the company will request the customer to also fill out the “Nautical Transit Visa” application. The form is then automatically sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for processing.
Alternatively, tourists can complete their cruise booking first, then go to the MOFA website to apply for the e-visa. However, this process takes longer than grouping the cruise booking and visa application together.
The applicant must already have a booking with an official cruise in order to obtain the new maritime e-visa. The policy is specifically for cruise tourists, therefore it is not possible to apply without a confirmed travel booking.
Other Saudi Visa Services
The new Nautical Transit Visa is only for passengers arriving to Saudi Arabia by cruise. All other visa policies still stand for passengers arriving by other modes of transport, such as by plane.
Travelers visiting Saudi Arabia by air or land can continue to use the standard visa services, such as the tourist eVisa for Saudi Arabia. The online visa system is still the easiest and most convenient way to obtain a visa for Saudi Arabia, eliminating the need to travel to an embassy or consulate.