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  1. #1
    Odan Ismail Simjee's Avatar
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    Umra visa - The Process

    The Ministry of Hajj, in association with Ministry of Interior, Ministry for Tourism and Foreign Office in Saudi Arabia approves UMRA contracts for Saudi based and Saudi owned companies.

    There are currently around 130 companies registered and licensed by Ministry of Haj. They are called UO.

    The ministries, together, have two centralized organization called SEJEL and ENJAZ. The remit for SEJEL is to receive from several independent contractors, charged with operating electronic means to accept, process and issue visa approvals related to UMRA visit only. Some of them are; Bab-al-Umra; Tawaf; Way to Umra; Nesma; Gama and so on.
    ENJAZ is essentially a bank with the remit to receive electronically uploaded applications for all types of entry visas except UMRA or HAJ. There is a charge for processing the application which, licensed agents, are required to pay through their credit card system online.
    SEJEL generate a MOFA whilst ENJAZ generate an E NUMBER. This is done only if the pre-conditions are satisfactorily complied with by those who have the authorization to access and operate the live system.
    Like any websites these two sites also suffer from hacking or failure due to overwhelming uploads or if the servers fail. When that does happen, the result is disastrous for the foreign agents as they have to wait until the system is operational again and the whole exercise is repeated with “new payment” again. There is no contingency in place to avoid the repetition nor to refund the earlier payment. Such breakdown has taken up to a week to restore which, in turn, plays havoc with a pilgrim’s planned travel schedule.

    The function of UO .
    The Ministry of Haj authorises the UO to appoint Umra Agents overseas. The overseas agent is called “External Agent or EA”. There is no ceiling on the number of EAs appointed by the UOs as long as a pre-set criteria/condition can be met by the EA.
    The EA has to have an IATA membership, must be registered as a Trading Company in his country and must provide a Bankers Guarantee or Bond of SR200,000. The EA must also either provide contracts entered into with hotels in Makkah and Madinah. Such hotels or buildings must have passed the basic health and safety measures known as “Tashreeh” and meet the minimum space level for occupants per room known as “Tashneef”. They must also provide an agreement on how their pilgrims are to be handled logistically especially as the overseas pilgrims are NOT allowed to stay with friends or relatives nor be transported by them or by un-authorised transport service.

    The EA is required to state the number of pilgrims he will be managing to send for UMRA on the basis of the whole UMRA season and broken down into average monthly basis. These numbers are matched with the housing arrangement he has made through the contracts with hoteliers in Makkah and Madinah.
    The EA is EXPECTED to meet the targeted numbers which is counter checked every month. This is the “QUOTA” he has been allowed although the SAUDIs insist that there is no QUOTA for the western world and that the EAs are free to bring any number they please as long as there are management plans in place to handle them in Saudi Arabia.
    In addition, his entry, on daily basis, is counter checked against the vacancy in his contracted hotels. If the hotel is full, on the day of the system upload, the application is refused until there is vacancy in the hotel contracted by the EA.
    The EA can accept pilgrims who are either the citizens or are legitimately domiciled in their country. Visitors to UK from other countries including the EEC cannot apply for Umra / Haj visa from UK.
    The details of the applicant are loaded onto the electronic system using one of the companies above (GAMA, Way to Umra, Nesma etc). This information is automatically transmitted to Foreign office, Ministry of Haj, Ministry of Interior, the UO and the SEJEL.

    The travel schedule and the type of package are also fed into the system. This determines the duration of stay for the pilgrim, the date of his arrival and departure and the names of the hotel he will be staying. A payment of SR650 per pilgrim is then either manually deposited at a local bank or through electronic means to SEJEL. This deposit is returned once the pilgrim arrives in Saudi Arabia, to the UO. The EA also transmits appropriate payment to the UO who then settles the package payment to various parties.

    The electronic system in SEJEL generates a Mofa which is transmitted to the UO, the Foreign Office, the EA and the EA country’s based Saudi Consulate.

    When the EA receives the MOFA he prepares an Umra Visa application form. The pilgrim’s photograph is scanned and loaded on the website dedicated to the consulate in the EA’s country of operation along with the MOFA number. The website generates an “E Number” which is entered on the visa form and submitted with the pilgrim’s passport to the Saudi consulate. A printout of the E Number is attached to the visa form. This printout contains the e number in barcode form.
    The Saudi Consulate, in London, accepts passport for Umra visas on the morning of Mondays and Tuesday s only.

    The Saudi consulate reads the bar-coded number which is then reconciled with the Mofa number they had received directly from SEJEL. It combines that data with the photograph of the pilgrim and prints out a visa which is adhered into the pilgrim’s passport and which is returned to the EA on Thursday or Friday.

    The Consulate occasionally query the visa application if names do not match or overseas visitor’s passports are submitted for Umra visa which is not allowed. It is essential that names of dependants must match with that of the “Mehrim”. Otherwise verified proof of relationship have to be produced for the visa to be issued.

    The original MOFA is valid for conversion into an electronic number within 10 working days of its issue. The Visa issued by the consulate is valid for 30 days of HIJRA month to be utilised and the pilgrim to arrive into Jeddah within that period.

    The immigration officer enters the visa detail which matches up with the MOFA details and shows to him how long that pilgrim’s visit is for. The immigration officer then issues a number on the passport but does not write the duration of the visit.

    This information is logged on the SEJEL. The pilgrim is expected to leave within his package period or 28 days after entering Saudia whichever is first. If he does not leave, the UO gets notified by the SEJEL that they have “RUNNERS”. If the total percentage of the runners reach 2% SEJEL shuts down the EA’s entry system until his pilgrims exit.
    If the total exceeds 4% the EA is blacklisted and could be banned from acquiring a renewal of his Umra License.
    The Pilgrim MUST have a voucher of his travel schedule and hotel booking references prior to his travel. This information is transmitted to the UO. The UO arranges a “MANDOOB” or a representative at the terminal of the pilgrim’s programmed arrival.
    The pilgrim is directed to the nearest “TEHSEEL” office attached to the terminal where his passport is scrutinised. Ministry officials may be around and can intervene to check that the pilgrim’s documentations are in order and that he has appropriate transport and housing to be transferred to by the UO.
    Tehseel office passes the passport to the Mandoob who then escorts the pilgrim to the waiting transport for transfer to his pre-arranged destination. Pilgrim’s (from the western world) passports are rarely held back by the UO but that is a distinct possibility and the pilgrim may have an additional hassle to visit the UO’s office in Makkah or Madinah to retrieve their passport back. Passports and airline tickets from pilgrims of other nations ARE retained by the UOs (eg Pakistan/India).

    There were around 40 licensed Umra Agents in UK in 2010 who, between them, generated 60,000 Umra visas.

    The Saudi consulate, in UK, is known to have “lost” passports or misplacing them. They never ever accept this failing and would never issue receipts for the passport they accept from the EAs for Umra visas or Haj visas. On the average, around 50 passports are lost every year and the blame is placed on the EA.
    If the lost passport is a British one, a replacement/new passport is often issued by the IPS within 36 hours. However, if the nationality is any other than British then there is often no recourse mainly because of the indefinite leave to remain in UK cannot be obtained from the Home Office for the new foreign passports and without that endorsement the holder cannot re-enter UK.
    In 2007 I lost one passport for Haj. In 2009 I lost 6 passports for UMRA and last year I lost 7 passports of which 3 were Indian, one Pakistani and 3 British. Those who lost the passports were in great difficulty trying to find out whether I was telling the truth or the Saudi Consulate who denied ever losing any passports.
    Be prepared for such an incident to occur and never disbelief your agent should that un-fortunate victim turn out to be you.

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    Re: Umra visa - The Process

    salaam ismail bhai
    thank you very much for the wonderful insight into the umrah process,just one question
    if a person goes on a ramadhan umrah and wants to do full ramadhan is there restriction to the amount of days he can stay or for ramadhan there is exceptional?
    jazakallah

  3. #3
    Odan Ismail Simjee's Avatar
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    Re: Umra visa - The Process

    Wa Alaikum Salam WR WB.

    Good question.

    The only restriction, which I forgot to state in the thread, is that they can refuse you a visa if you have performed an umra within the specific umra season.

    For Ramadan, a majority usually visits for the whole month whilst a few go over that and stay upto 40 days. The stay of 30 days is acceptable but not one day more although the authorities, over there, often turn a blind eye to the "overstayers" as long as they leave by 8th of the month of Shavval.

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    Re: Umra visa - The Process

    salaam ismail bhai
    if anyone's been in umrah once in the season ,can they be refused visa
    for example if a person goes in easter and wants to go back in ramadhan will they be refused visa.

  5. #5
    Odan Ismail Simjee's Avatar
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    Re: Umra visa - The Process

    Quote Originally Posted by KISMET View Post
    salaam ismail bhai
    if anyone's been in umrah once in the season ,can they be refused visa
    for example if a person goes in easter and wants to go back in ramadhan will they be refused visa.
    I believe I answered this question in the post above.

    Yes, you are more than likely to be refused a visa for second umra within the same umra season.

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    Re: Umra visa - The Process

    There is a chance you won't get refused though, this year I went to Umrah with my family in March, and then I obtained an umrah Visa in June. And on top of that I went Hajj too alhamdulillaah.

  7. #7
    Odan Ismail Simjee's Avatar
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    Re: Umra visa - The Process

    Quote Originally Posted by AbuHaniyyah View Post
    There is a chance you won't get refused though, this year I went to Umrah with my family in March, and then I obtained an umrah Visa in June. And on top of that I went Hajj too alhamdulillaah.
    Ya AbuHaniyyah, it IS the year that they started their crazy policy of refusing visa to those who had performed an umra already. Haj was not effected by that policy.

    Kismet is asking about the next umra season commencing February 2011 InshaAllah and my reply is in the affirmative in anticipation of the Saudis continuing with their last year's policy.

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    Post Re: Umra visa - The Process

    Assalamualekum brother
    I am from india ,i am willing to be a approved umra agent
    so what is the procedure plz help me
    by the best umra application service provider company name
    and contact no.
    thanks a lot.

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    Re: Umra visa - The Process

    Quote Originally Posted by Ismail Simjee View Post
    Ya AbuHaniyyah, it IS the year that they started their crazy policy of refusing visa to those who had performed an umra already. Haj was not effected by that policy.

    Kismet is asking about the next umra season commencing February 2011 InshaAllah and my reply is in the affirmative in anticipation of the Saudis continuing with their last year's policy.
    Brother Ismail Simjee, is there any new system for checking passport on the Jeddah Airport, because some one just arrived on 29th July and they told me there is some scanning machines for scanning the umrah passengers passports in place of manual scanning of visas and passports, so in the future there will be a same procedure for umrah passengers, please advise us something about the procedure on arrival on the jeddah airport and transfer procedure to makkah, normally people say if you dont have pre booked transfer they will ask you so many questions on arrival, but many people go there without any thing only with umrah visa or it is totally in the hand of the ministry whether they ignore or they pick.

  10. #10
    Odan Ismail Simjee's Avatar
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    Re: Umra visa - The Process

    Quote Originally Posted by Rayyankhan View Post
    Brother Ismail Simjee, is there any new system for checking passport on the Jeddah Airport, because some one just arrived on 29th July and they told me there is some scanning machines for scanning the umrah passengers passports in place of manual scanning of visas and passports, so in the future there will be a same procedure for umrah passengers, please advise us something about the procedure on arrival on the jeddah airport and transfer procedure to makkah, normally people say if you dont have pre booked transfer they will ask you so many questions on arrival, but many people go there without any thing only with umrah visa or it is totally in the hand of the ministry whether they ignore or they pick.


    I was there just a month ago and did not see anything new.

    All mutamirs are asked to hand their passports over to the officers of "Tehsiliya".

    Tehsiliya scan tye passport and record their arrival for umra.

    The passports are handed to the representatives of the umra company on whose behalf your umra visa has been issued. The name of the umra company is there in the visa.

    The umra company reps, if they are honest, will ask you about your transport arrangement to Makka or Madina, if you have landed in Jedda or your transport to your hotel if you have landed in Madina.

    They will escort you to your waiting car and hand the passports over to the driver of that car. Period.

    If you have landed at the haj terminal and have no company car arranged, you will be compelled by the umra company rep to take a car they will allocate to you even if a car has been arranged prior to your arrival if the driver of that car is a non-saudi.

    If the umra company rep is not that honest, he will force you to take a car/taxi even if you can prove that a car is waiting for you. The bill for that car is passed on the UK agent from whom you had taken the visa. You end up paying for two cars. In this case neither the UK agent nor you have any redress.

    The reason?

    Very clear. ALL Mutamirs are under an obligation to have a pre-arranged package that include your hotels, your reception at Jedda/Madina, your transfer from the airport to your destination and the internal transfers. That is the law.

    Umra companies allow flexibility to many UK agents to make these arrangements. A majority of them dont. So, a majority of UK agents gives you an off the shelve package because they have no flexibility.

    Others, like myself, being large have our agreement with the umra companies in Saudia to do the whole package.

    We make your hotel bookings of your choice and either ask the umra company to provide the internal transport or arrange one ourselves. We give you the voucher and send a copy of the same ahead of you to the umra company. The umra company informs their airport rep of your arrival and you are escorted by them to your car. End of story.

    As I rely on my sub agnets to do likewise they arrange your visa only from me and other agents like me. In many instances, these sub agents do nothing and sell the visa on to you at a higher rate and let you go without a pre booked package.

    When the company rep meet you at the airport and, if he is honest, but spots an official of the ministry of haj hanging around, he will put you in a car/taxi and send you off speedily. I get charged the bill and will need to recover that from you months after you have gone and come back due to their accounting mechanism.

    If the umra company rep is dishonest and finds you at the "tehsiliya office" you had made his day. He will put you in car/taxi and charge you exorbitantly or get his company to bill me this hefty rate.

    Is this the answer you are seeking?


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