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Saudi facilitates Visa entry on arrival; Consular services at Iraq’s US embassy on hold

Saudi relaxes entry to visa holders from a trio of places while Iraq's US visa services are suspended

All Saudi airlines to allow passengers with eligible Schengen visas, the UK or the US travelling to Saudi Arabia for tourism to embark Saudi visit visas for tourists are issued for a single- or multiple-entry for up to 30 or 90 days, respectively U.S. Consulate General in Erbil is open for Non-Immigrant Visa and American Citizen Services appointments, including passport issuance

By: Fragomen

The General Authority of Civil Aviation in Saudi Arabia issued a circular requesting all airlines to allow passengers with eligible visas issued by a Schengen Member State, the United Kingdom or the United States travelling to Saudi Arabia for tourism to embark as they are now eligible to obtain a visa upon arrival per an expanded policy, and no longer require a visa prior to travel. 

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Background

 In September 2019, Saudi Arabia opened an online portal for nationals of 49 countries to apply for a one-year multiple-entry visa for tourism (e-visa), following the implementation of a Royal Decree introducing visas for tourists. In October 2019, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage’s (SCTNH) issued more detailed regulations and included holders of visas issued by select third countries to be eligible for a visa-on-arrival, but the law was not fully implemented in practice until now.

 The law has been even further expanded recently, allowing foreign nationals that are not on the list of countries eligible for a visa-on-arrival for tourism based on their nationality to obtain the visa if they hold a valid visit or commercial visa issued by a Schengen Member State, the United States or the United Kingdom. The visa must be valid, must have been used at least once and the foreign national must have an entry stamp of the visa-issuing country endorsed on their passport.

 Saudi Visa-on-Arrival details

Foreign nationals travelling to Saudi Arabia for tourism can obtain a visa through the following means:

·Upon arrival in Saudi Arabia (a visa-on-arrival);
·Through an online portal (an e-visa); or
·Through a Saudi consular post abroad.

 Visit visas for tourists are issued for a single- or multiple-entry for up to 30 or 90 days, respectively.

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Iraq’s US consular services

Due to the deteriorating security situation in Iraq and the surrounding region, governments of several countries, including Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States have issued travel warnings for their citizens regarding all travel to Iraq.  Employers in Iraq liaising with U.S. consular authorities in Iraq for the issuance of visa invitation letters for their staff should expect delays in the process due to the suspension of operations at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.  

 Impact on employers in Iraq
Following the suspension of all consular operations at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on 31 December 2019, employers in Iraq (mainly companies with military contracts with the Iraqi government) liaising with U.S. consular authorities for the issuance of visa invitation letters for their staff should expect delays in the process.

 Impact on foreign nationals in Iraq

Foreign nationals in Iraq are advised to monitor travel warnings and follow any evacuation instructions issued by their countries. Individuals should be aware of visa and other immigration requirements imposed by countries of their destination and should consider increased traffic at the international airports in Iraq and potential difficulties in crossing land borders with neighbouring countries.

 Due to recent attacks at the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad, American citizens are advised not to approach the U.S. Embassy. The U.S. Consulate General in Erbil is open for Non-Immigrant Visa and American Citizen Services appointments, including passport issuance. Immigrant Visa applicants should seek to transfer their case elsewhere by emailing other consular posts to request transfer of their case.