Visa & Customs
Saudi Arabia has excellent infrastructure and has all the amenities, facilities and other features required by modern-day travelers. As with any other country, it is important for visitors to familiarize themselves with basic travel-related information in order to make their stay as pleasant as possible.
All visitors to Saudi Arabia require visas relevant to their stay in the Kingdom: short-stay, business, residence or work. Visas may be obtained from the Visa Section of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia or one of the Saudi Arabian Consulates in many major cities all over the world.
In the United States, the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia is located in Washington D.C. while Saudi Arabian Consulates may be found in New York, Houston and Los Angeles.
Saudi Embassies have the power to issue visitors’ visas to business people with commercial and industrial interests in the Kingdom. Business visas are usually initiated in Saudi Arabia, with the visa applicant’s firm or agent in the Kingdom applying on his behalf to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Once the visa is approved, the ministry instructs the embassy or consulate indicated in the original application to issue the required visa.
Embassy and consular officers are allowed to grant short-visit visas to foreign businessmen without referring the application to the Foreign Ministry, if the applicant works for a large corporation already established in the Kingdom. However, the normal procedure is to go through the ministry.
Religious visas are issued to Muslims all over the world wishing to perform Umrah or Haj. The Holy Cities of Makkah and Madinah are the center of activities for such visits.
Residence Visas/Work Permits
Work permits for foreigners are applied for by the employer with the proper government bodies - Interior and Labor & Social Affairs Ministries. Anyone who wish to stay in the Kingdom for more than three months must have a residence permit (Iqama). This is issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is valid for two years.
Foreign employees dependents are also generally given residence visas, which however does not allow employees to seek employment.
Exit visas to leave the Kingdom are required for holders of residence visas.
For more information, please visit Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs web site: www.mofa.gov.sa/sites/mofaen/Pages/Default.aspx (opens in new window)
A number of items are not allowed to be brought into the Kingdom due to local regulations. These include alcoholic beverages, pork and pork products, prohibited drugs and narcotics, firearms, explosives, edged weapons and pornographic materials.
For more information please refer to the following link: www.customs.gov.sa (opens in new window)
Certain items are forbidden in the Kingdom including alcohol, narcotics, weapons, ammunition, pork and pornography. Prescription drugs must be documented.