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Updated March 2023
As is well-known, the Hajj pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam. Prior to the pandemic, millions of Muslims travelled to Makkah from around the world to visit the Great Mosque of Makkah (Masjid al-Haram) and perform various religious rituals.
However, in addition to this Ibāda (the act of worship), there is also the Umrah or the “minor Hajj,” which similarly necessitates Muslims to make their way to the Holy City and complete a set of rituals.
Saudi nationals, expatriate residents, and foreign pilgrims have been able to perform Umrah following last year’s successful Hajj season. But what about Umrah 2023? Will there be any fresh restrictions and guidelines from the Saudi authorities?
When is Umrah 2023?
While it is considered ideal for performing Umrah during the holy month of Ramadan, the minor Hajj may essentially be performed at any time of the year except during the Hajj season.
However, Umrah has to be performed subject to the rules and regulations implemented by the government of Saudi Arabia.Book cheap flights to Saudi Arabia
Umrah 2023 news
As per the announcement made by the Minister of Hajj and Umrah, individuals who reside in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are currently permitted to undertake Umrah using an electronic visit visa without the requirement for any particular occupation.
Any expatriate and their first-degree relatives can visit Makkah, provided they acquire a three-month residency permit and a six-month valid passport.
To obtain a visit visa for performing Umrah, one can submit an application via the Saudi Rouh platform and pay a fee of SAR 300 along with a medical insurance fee. This visa offers both single-entry and multiple-entry options, allowing its holders to travel to any city within the Kingdom.
Additionally, Saudi Arabian officials stated that they are granting permits to individuals who wish to perform the Umrah within the holy month of Ramadan. Prospective pilgrims can request a permit online via the Nusuk App.
For more details about the app, please refer to our dedicated article below.
Umrah requirements 2023
The following are the latest Umrah requirements as per the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.
Umrah age requirements
Saudi Arabia has stipulated the minimum age requirement for Umrah pilgrims. Children aged 5 years old and above can obtain an official entry permit to perform Umrah. However, the children should be accompanied by their parents and must obtain proof that they are not infected or have made contact with COVID-19 patients if they wish to enter the Grand Mosque.
Umrah testing requirements
All foreign pilgrims are now allowed to enter Saudi Arabia for Umrah without having to provide a negative PCR or rapid antigen test result before departure to the Kingdom. All travellers arriving on visit visas must have medical insurance to cover any COVID-19-related treatment costs during their stay.
Please note that the Umrah insurance costs have dropped by 63 per cent. Hence, the price of Umrah medical insurance has been reduced from SAR 235 to SAR 87
Umrah vaccine requirements
While Saudi Arabia has lifted most COVID-19-related restrictions, pilgrims looking to perform the Umrah are required to present proof of vaccination upon their arrival at the Kingdom.
The approved vaccines are:
For Umrah visa holders vaccinated with vaccines other than the ones mentioned above, quarantine may be mandatory.
Source: وزارة الحج والعمرة – الأسئلة الشائعة (haj.gov.sa)
Apart from the COVID vaccine, there are a few more vaccine requirements foreign pilgrims have to pay attention to before their arrival in Saudi Arabia:
Yellow Fever vaccine: All foreign pilgrims arriving from countries or areas at risk of yellow fever must present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate showing the person was vaccinated at least 10 days and no more than 10 years before their arrival.
Meningococcal Meningitis vaccine: All foreign pilgrims have to be vaccinated against meningitis at least 10 days and no more than 3 years before their arrival in Saudi Arabia.
Polio vaccine: All foreign pilgrims from polio-endemic countries and re-established transmission countries have at least received one dose of the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV). The dose must be taken at least 6 weeks before their arrival in Saudi Arabia.
Furthermore, the arrivals will have to present their proof of vaccination upon arrival and will also receive one more dose of OPV on their arrival.
Seasonal Flu Shot: The Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia recommends all foreign pilgrims be vaccinated against seasonal influenza before their arrival in the KSA. Pregnant women, the elderly, and individuals with underlying health conditions are highly recommended to take the Seasonal Flu Shot before their arrival.
Umrah vaccine registration
An individual’s vaccination status will first need to be registered on Saudi Arabia’s muqeem portal at least 72 hours before departure to the Kingdom.
The vaccination certificates are required to be attested by the official health authorities from the origin country of travellers. This can be the Ministry of Health or an authorized health authority. The original certificate needs to be carried upon travelling to or from the Kingdom.
Please note that all information will be verified prior to boarding and at the entry points. Failure to comply with these requirements will result in entry prevention and other legal consequences.
Umrah quarantine requirements
In line with Saudi Arabia’s latest Umrah entry requirements, no quarantine will be necessary for foreign pilgrims who have been fully vaccinated with Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Janssen.
For arrivals who have received one dose of the following vaccines will be subject to institutional quarantine for 3 days and must submit a PCR test certificate after 48 hours from the date of institutional quarantine.
Social distancing and mask-wearing
The Hajj and Umrah authorities have lifted the social distancing measures in the Grand Holy Mosque, the Prophet’s Holy Mosque and all other mosques. Note that mask-wearing, though not required outdoors, is still required to be worn inside mosques and other indoor facilities.
Mahram not required for female pilgrims
As per an announcement made by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, it is now permissible for a woman to perform Hajj or Umrah without a mahram. Moreover, according to the announcement, “trustworthy women or secure company” will be able to accompany them instead.
Allowing women to perform Umrah without the condition of a mahram provides convenience to women eager to perform the minor pilgrimage. Security has also been reinforced throughout the Kingdom, in all means of transportation and at the ports to provide women with security and protection. Moreover, strong infrastructure has been established in legislation, including the anti-harassment system.
Case in point, surveillance cameras are obligatory in vital areas, including airports, border crossing ports, the Grand Mosque, the Prophet’s Mosque and others. These facilities guarantee women’s safety as they do not have to worry about performing their pilgrimages without a mahram or male guardian.
What type of visa is needed for Umrah?
Foreign pilgrims may apply for either the Umrah visa or the Umrah e-visa to embark on the religious journey.
Recently, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced that pilgrims coming from the UK, Tunisia, Kuwait, Bangladesh, and Malaysia can now register for a visa by submitting their facial and fingerprint details through a smartphone app called the Saudi Visa Bio app. Procedures for issuing Umrah visas electronically will be completed based on biometric details before a pilgrim’s arrival in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.
Applicants can now scan their passports to confirm their identity, then submit a full-face picture from the front camera and scan their fingerprints.
Furthermore, Saudi Arabia has also extended the validity of the Umrah visa from 30 days to 90 days. This new arrangement allows pilgrims to move about freely within Saudi Arabia without any restraints.
Moreover, pilgrims do not need another tourist visa to travel across the kingdom and can move easily between Makkah and Madinah, or any other city around the kingdom, by train, bus or car during their stay.
As per the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, pilgrims are encouraged to contact an approved tourism company or agency in their country of residence to obtain the service package, complete the visa requirements, and book an appointment for Umrah and prayer in the Ar-Rawdhah Ash-Shareefah.
Alternatively, pilgrims may also arrange their Umrah trip directly through any of the approved platforms listed on the Maqam portal.
Visit visa for Umrah in 24 hours
Umrah seekers outside Saudi Arabia can apply for their Umrah visa individually, with the issuance time taking up to 24 hours. As mentioned, Umrah seekers may apply for the e-Visa through the Maqam portal.
Personal visit visa
According to the latest update from the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah Saudi Arabia, Saudi citizens can invite their friends to the Kingdom to perform Umrah with the “Personal Visit Visa”.
How beautiful it is to meet friends in Makkah 🕋#Makkah_and_Madinah_Eagerly_Await_You pic.twitter.com/QpJQVn23A0— Ministry of Hajj and Umrah (@MoHU_En) December 8, 2022
The benefits of the personal visa are as follows:
- apply for several guests at the same time
- enter Saudi Arabia once or multiple times
- can be issued for one or multiple trips
- perform Umrah and visit the Prophet’s mosque
- visit religious sites and historical monuments
- touristic trips to all Saudi regions and cities
Please note that the Saudi Arabia single entry personal visa is valid for 90 days, and the visitors can stay for 90 days. However, the multiple entry visa is valid for 365 days with a 90-day stay.
Can I perform Umrah using a tourist visa?
Yes, you can. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia allows visitors holding Saudi tourist visas to perform Umrah. Henceforth, citizens of 49 countries eligible to apply for the Saudi electronic visa can now perform Umrah in the Kingdom by securing their visas online at the Visit Saudi Arabia website or immediately upon arrival at airports.
Citizens who qualify to apply for the Umrah visa by using tourist visas include holders of US, UK and Schengen visas. The visas of such applicants shall be valid and should bear an entry stamp from the issuing country.
The system allows eligible applicants to obtain a tourist visa, valid for a period of 12 months, upon arrival at one of the Saudi airports without the need for prior application, and the visa holders will be allowed to visit the cities and regions all over the Kingdom.
Furthermore, family visit visa holders from different nationalities can also perform Umrah by booking an appointment through the Nusuk application via their relatives in the Kingdom during their visit to the Kingdom.
To perform Umrah on a tourist visa, some of the requirements include:
- travellers must obtain comprehensive health insurance, which includes coverage of treatment costs for Covid-19 infection, accidents resulting in death or disability, expenses due to flight delays or cancellations, and other matters.
- proof of residence and employment
- a return ticket
- a bank statement proving financial stability
- an itinerary
- complete personal information.
Please note that travellers who wish to perform Umrah from nations other than those currently qualified should apply for visas at the Kingdom’s embassies in their respective countries.
Once the Hajj season is over, performing Umrah on a tourist visa does offer its own advantages, such as a longer stay period, permission for multiple entries, and the freedom to choose your own hotel for Umrah.
Here are our top picks of hotels in Makkah and Madinah that you can book to ensure suitable accommodation:
Makkah Tower Hotel
Set in the heart of Makkah overlooking the Masjid al-Haram, the Makkah Tower Hotel offers a range of excellent rooms and suites set in a prime location. Enjoy a host of premium amenities, including excellent dining and majestic views from the panoramic glass lifts.
Distance to Masjid al-Haram: less than 1 kilometer/1-minute walk
Pullman ZamZam Makkah
The Pullman ZamZam Makkah hotel is an iconic 5-star hotel that regularly welcomes Umrah and Hajj pilgrims with Hijazi hospitality. The hotel provides pilgrims with partial views over the ever-inspiring Kaaba and the Masjid Al Haram. Amenities include an excellent in-room dining experience featuring international and oriental specialities and facilities for the disabled.
Distance to Masjid al-Haram: less than 1 kilometer/1-minute walk
Umrah pilgrims will definitely be able to take advantage of the hotel’s close proximity to both the Masjid al-Haram and the Kaaba. Conrad Makkah features a fusion of contemporary and traditional Islamic architecture and a range of dining options serving Arabic and international cuisine, a fitness centre, and light-filled meeting spaces.
Distance to Masjid al-Haram: less than 1 kilometer/3-minute walk
Hilton Suites Makkah
Set in the heart of Makkah, Hilton Suites Makkah just steps away from important religious sites, historical landmarks and popular attractions, such as the Kaaba and the Holy Mosque. Guests may enjoy the convenience of easy access to the Umrah sites along with access to shopping and dining at Jabal Omar mall. Hilton Suites also feature a prayer hall with views of the Grand Mosque.
Distance to Masjid al-Haram: less than 1 kilometer/1-minute walk
Jabal Omar Hyatt Regency Makkah
Situated at the heart of the holy city of Makkah, Jabal Omar Hyatt Regency Makkah offers visitors and pilgrims alike a unique hospitality experience, blending comfort and convenience in an elegant atmosphere. The hotel is just a one-minute walk from the Masjid al-Haram. The hotel is also readily accessible by road, with seamless connectivity to and from Jeddah, the region’s urban centre and main port city, as well as King Abdulaziz International Airport.
Distance to Masjid al-Haram: less than 1 kilometer/2-minute walk
While entry to the Grand Mosque no longer requires a permit, Umrah pilgrims still require a permit to perform Umrah and pray in the Holy Rawdah, the chamber where Prophet Mohammed is buried.
Umrah permit through Nusuk App
The Saudi authorities have launched the integrated electronic platform dubbed Nusuk to serve as the new gateway for pilgrims looking to make their way to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah and beyond. Additionally, new features and functionalities have also been added to the Nusuk app. Users will be able to apply for an Umrah visa and permit, entry to the Rawdah As Sheerafah, and numerous others.
Anyone interested in downloading the Nusuk app may do so at the Appstore and Playstore.
For more detail on how you can obtain the Umrah permit, please consult our dedicated article below.
Please note that the Umrah permit will be immediately cancelled if:
- the individual is infected with COVID-19
- the individual had been in contact with an infected person
- the visa holder does not enter the KSA 6 hours before the Umrah booking date