Borders of Saudi Arabia to Reopen for International Travel

Posted October 7, 2020 by saudivisa

The government has aimed to reopen Saudi Arabia’s borders in order to allow those who have religious, personal and business reasons to be able to return to the nation.

The Reopening of International Borders:

The government has aimed to reopen Saudi Arabia’s borders in order to allow those who have religious, personal and business reasons to be able to return to the nation. Reopening at this moment has been approved in order to allow permanent residents who were unable to re-enter Saudi Arabia, reunite families as well as boost Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry, and allow essential business travel to continue and stimulate trade and commerce that has taken a back seat since the start of the pandemic. 

British Airways aims to resume flights from 15th October directly from London Heathrow to Riyadh, Saudia Airlines have already resumed their international travel. At the international airports, canines have been trained to sniff and detect Covid-19 at the borders of Saudi Arabia in order to prevent any person who is infected from entering. It is also required that you present a negative Covid-19 test that is not older than 48 hours upon your arrival. 

Saudi Arabia plans to completely open their borders to all tourists by the beginning of 2021, and has hopes to open it sooner should there be positive reports of the Covid-19 vaccine that is currently undergoing testing. They saw an increase of 30% in their domestic tourism sector and are hopeful to fully reopen the borders as soon as it is safe to do so. 

On Monday 28 September 2020, The Saudi Arabia Tourism Development Fund signed a 161 billion Riyals agreement in order to boost the tourism industry within the kingdom and diversify their economy to reduce their dependence on the oil industry. The official tourism target for 2021 has not been amended in hopes that international travel will return to normal in 2021.

Saudi Arabia's Covid-19 Status

Due to measures implemented since the start of the pandemic, introduced to control the number of cases within their borders by introducing restrictive measures such as mandatory mask wearing, social distancing and curfews. Saudi Arabia has had success in handling the crisis and has started the process to open their international borders with some restrictions. 

As Saudi Arabia begins to open their borders again and recover their economy, they have placed precautions in place to ensure they do not have to go into another nationwide lockdown and risk causing more harm to the economy or further exposing its people to Covid-19. 

At the peak of Saudi Arabia’s Covid-19 crisis, they had an estimated 4000 new cases daily and currently have a total death count of 4 739 people at the last update on 30 September 2020.

The total statistics for Saudi Arabia have been significantly lower in comparison to the remainder of the world, with a total of 334 605 cases. Currently Saudi Arabia is ranked seventeenth in the world by number of cases. Further Saudi Arabia has also started to flatten the curve of cases and has seen a radical decline over the past few months as their current daily new cases have dropped to 400.

As of 15th September 2020, Saudi Arabia has opened their borders between members of the Gulf Cooperation Council and select international nations. The Gulf Cooperation Council includes the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman. Saudi Arabia has also begun to ease restrictions for non-essential travel for EU nationals, for reasons such as students returning to Saudi Arabia. However, as Europe re-enters into another lockdown period, it is likely that travel between Europe and Saudi Arabia will become stricter once again.  European countries that are currently included in Saudi Arabia’s ‘green list’ for travel include Cyprus, Finland, Latvia and Liechtenstein. 

Covid-19 Regulations On Arrival

Before we begin to state which countries are allowed to travel, which nationals are allowed to apply for a visa and their respective rules, it is important for us to first touch on the protocols, it is important to know what the current situation is inside the Kingdom. Like elsewhere, the first and foremost requirement is that it is mandatory for masks to be worn in all public places or when you are with any person who does not live within your household. Failure to do so would result in a fine. Employee’s are still encouraged to work from home where possible, and those who returned to work are required to wear a mask and only one person is allowed in every 1 m2 space. Similarly, people are encouraged to socially distance while in public spaces and remain 1-2 meters apart from one another. People are encouraged to regularly wash and sanitise their hands. Handshaking is prohibited as well as a strict cleaning schedule for all places of business and public areas must be adhered to. 

Saudi Arabia opened their domestic borders for non essential travel in May 2020. Further. they have opened their borders to multiple international countries who are registered on Saudi Arabia’s ‘greenlist’, such as the United Arab Emirates and Cyprus.

Which airports and airlines are currently operating:

At present, Riyadh International airport, Jeddah International airport, Medinah International airport, Dammam International airport and Gassim International airport are all operating in Saudi Arabia. 

Domestic flights are available nationwide with Saudia, and Riyadh International airport is now operating international flights between Saudi Arabia and London Heathrow airport via Saudia airlines, as well as to multiple other international airports. As stated earlier, British Airways have announced that they will be resuming international flights to Riyadh from the 15th October. 

Currently Egyptair, Saudia, Lufthansa, Emirates, Turkish Airlines and KLM are the main airlines that are still operating to and within Saudi Arabia, acting as connecting hubs from the rest of the world. 

GCC Travel Restrictions and Requirements:

The GCC has opened up travel freely between member countries. Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Saudi Arabia are all member countries. While traveling between these countries, each of their regulations must be adhered to. Visitors are required to wear a mask for the full duration of your trip, as well as remain socially distanced from other passengers. It is vital that visits check each nation's individual regulations prior to travel, however the regulations are similar. Normal identity documents for crossing into the borders of other GCC countries apply as usual. 

Covid-19 Travel Regulations for EU Nationals:

Not all EU Nationals are permitted to travel to Saudi Arabia, and for each EU nation the regulations will vary. It is however standard that EU Nationals will be expected to present a negative Covid-19 test not older than 48 hours upon arrival in Saudi Arabia. As you may be required to stop over in foreign nations during your travels, it is advised that you ensure that your travel insurance will cover any delays in your travels due to Covid-19 and further that you are familiar with each nations regulations.

 Further, EU Nationals will have to follow all other regulations within Saudi Arabia at the time of their arrival such as social distancing, a strict curfew as well as wearing a mask in public at all times. Within the 28 EU countries, it is recommended that applicants contact their local embassy, however it is confirmed that the Saudi embassy in London has now officially opened for most of the visa types.

Covid-19 Travel Regulations for US Nationals:

Only United States citizens who hold a Saudi Arabia residence permit are able to enter into Saudi Arabia as of 15th September 2020. These cases will be required to follow strict social distancing, and wear a mask at all times while in public spaces or when you are with someone who is not of your household. In order to enter Saudi Arabia it is required that you present a negative Covid-19.

Saudia and Lufthansa are two of the airlines who are currently flying into Saudi Arabia from the United States.

Which Visa applications are open: 

On the 15th of September 2020, Saudi Arabia opened up visa applications once again. The Saudi Arabia Tourism Development Fund hopes to fully open the border by 21st January 2021, and as such they have begun to process visa applications once again. 

You will be able to apply for a residence visa, student visa, religious visa, personal visa or a travel visa since they have reopened. However, your visa may only be valid for after January 2021 if it is for non-essential travel and if you are from a country that is listed as a high risk country. 

As of Monday the 28th September, business travellers can apply for their Saudi Arabia visa via the embassy in London provided that the applicants have a valid invitation from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Chamber of Commerce. 

For expatriates that have been affected during the lockdown, The Directorate General of Passports extended all expatriates whose visas had expired in March - June 2020 by three months and allowed expatriates to return home if their employers helped facilitate this. These applicants can now also apply for visas that might have expired. 

Visa and Embassy Requirements

Various embassies across the world have begun to process Saudi Arabia visas for work, business, visit, and religious purposes as well as resident visas. The process has not changed and still requires embassy legalisation of documents and an apostille certificate prior to being submitted for visa approval. 

You will still be required to obtain an invitation from the Saudi Mofa or Chamber of commerce - Saudi Able Link is able to assist with the process. The documents required by the embassy will vary depending on the type of visa you require. 

The embassy will request personal documents such as an identity document, birth certificate, marriage certificates and employment information among others for residence, personal visit and work visas. 

Applicants for a Saudi business visa are required to present a travel history form which is a new additional requirement where the applicant must put their travel history in the previous 14 days to make their application to the embassy or consulate. 

Further business visa applicants will also be required to present a PCR test. For further information, it is advised that applicants check Saudi Able Link

The rules and regulations for each country will vary based on their Covid-19 status. Each country may also change their regulations based on their Covid-19 cases and how they progress.

It is also vital to know that the United Kingdom government requires a fourteen day isolation period upon entering her borders on return as Saudi Arabia is not on the UK’s approved travel corridor list as yet.

Once you have obtained your visa, it is advised that you confirm all the relevant information with your airline and ensure what the protocol is if the situation changes with regards to international travel. It is also advised that you research any countries and their current Covid-19 status if you are to enter there for a layover period.

It is vital to ensure that your medical insurance and international travel insurance will be valid to cover Covid-19 related problems. The majority of providers do cover states of emergencies but do not cover the full portion of expenses - for example if you are required to isolate or obtain testing for Covid-19. Each embassy varies with their requirements for a visa application. 

The information provided is provided by Saudi Able Link, a visa supplier based in central London. Further information on the Saudi Arabia Visa application updates can be seen by visiting our site, where we aim to update applicants on the most recent updates from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia embassy in London and announcements from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Please note that we are not the Saudi government or the embassy, and the information in this article is subject to change, and before commencing travel or their visa application, travellers should contact with and check information with each of their travel providers at every stage. 

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Last Updated October 7, 2020