When I first came to Saudi Arabia on family visit visa, I did not know at all if performing Umrah is legal or not on this visa. I didn’t knew even if this debate exists because we all know by default that performing Hajj on visit visa is illegal but no one ever mentioned anything about Umrah. So, we thought that it would be legal as we never heard any news about people being detained for performing Umrah on visit visa as we usually read in case of Hajj.
Few days back, when my husband applied for his parent’s visit visa and was planning to take them to perform Umrah, some of his friends mentioned that on visit visa performing Umrah is illegal. They mentioned that in last Ramazan they visited Makkah (from Riyadh on flight via Jeddah) they saw the authorities checking documents, on Jeddah Airport, of people who wanted to perform Umrah. The authorities allowed people having Umrah Visa & Iqama to pass but stopped people in Ahram having any other kind of visa. Even though the chance of this happening is very less as this is the only instance we have heard off, still there are 2 points to consider:
- We all know that penalties are very strict in the Kingdom. If you are caught while performing Umrah illegally, you & your sponsor can be penalized financially & deported, never be allowed to enter in the Kingdom again.
- Look at it from another perspective; even if you perform Umrah on any visa other than “Umrah Visa” and no one catches you, it is still illegal as per the law of the land. It is highly recommended to ask your family to come on Umrah visa.
It is stated in Arabic in the application that your sponsor filled for your visit visa, that pledges not to perform Hajj or Umrah on the visit visa. As the pledge is only in Arabic language and most of the expats don’t know it so it is convenient to ignore, but it is always important to read what you are signing for as it can save you from many troubles ahead.
The Pledge on the MOFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) website while applying for Family visit visa states:
Translation from Google:
“I pledge to write down all my data properly from the reality of residence permit and registration of data required for the visit from the reality of his passport and pledge to provide appropriate family housing, medical insurance and leave required to visit the person ends length of stay specified in the visa before and that will be for the duration of his stay in the Kingdom is subject to the laws and regulations in force and that the purpose the request is for a visit to the family only, and not to perform the Hajj or Umrah and take full responsibility if it is proven otherwise. Saudi Foreign Ministry also authorizes access to the Record Me in the Kingdom”.
On different KSA related forums, I have read people asking whether performing Umrah on visit visa or on any visa other than “Umrah Visa” is legal or not. Dear Friends, the answer is simple, performing Umrah on any visa other than “Umrah Visa” is illegal, even if everybody is doing it.
Considering the need that people want to visit their loved ones in Saudi Arabia and want to perform Umrah at the same time, the Saudi Government has introduced a new law (read here) which allows you to convert your Umrah visas into tourist visas so that people can visit any part of the kingdom including all cultural, educational and entertainment places. Although the authorities say that it will be automatic conversion but the procedure of this is still unknown.