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Saudi plans to convert umrah visas into tourist visas

RIYADH: Prince Sultan Bin Salman, President of Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), has hinted that Umrah visas can be converted into tourist visas as part of a post-umrah programme.

This is a key channel of “The Kingdom is Muslims’ Destination” initiative, which was proposed by the commission several years ago, reported the Al-Arabiya.

Prince Sultan said the program aims at providing an opportunity to umrah pilgrims to see the landmarks of the country, Islamic historical sites, attractive tourist destinations and shopping centers and malls.

They might also opt to make cultural, medical, educational and marketing tours, visit exhibitions and attend conferences after having completed their umrah, he added.

Read here: Saudi Arabia to introduce ‘green card’ for expats

He said the SCTH is carrying out the program in cooperation with the ministries of interior, foreign affairs and hajj.

Prince Sultan said the SCTH started the program several years ago and it took a long time to study. There were procedures that were not ready yet, like converting umrah visa into tourist visa, among other procedures.

Business visa holders and GCC citizens can also avail themselves of the opportunity to join the post-umrah program, he said.

Saudi Arabia has also decided to issue ‘green cards’ within five years to allow resident expatriates to have more rights at par with other citizens in the Kingdom.

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had made this announcement during a television interview on Monday. He described the policy change  to improve Saudi’s investment climate, reported Emirates247.

He said planned sweeping reforms, of which the proposed green card is one, will be implemented even if oil prices rise back above $70 a barrel and pledged to end Riyadh’s dependence on crude revenue by 2020.

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