ALERT: Hajj travellers warned of visa changes

2016-11-04 09:13 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town - The South African Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHC) says it has been notified that there is a shortage of yellow cards, which are a mandatory inclusion for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's visa applications.

Some 3 million pilgrim make an annual Islamic pilgrimage to the royal kingdom, said to be the largest annual gathering in the world.

in light of the shortage, the SAHUC says it has however requested that the Royal Embassy accept a signed doctor’s letter on the doctors' letterhead confirming that the individual had taken the yellow fever and meningitis vaccines.

The Embassy of KSA has agreed to SAHUC’s request.

"The batch numbers of the relevant vaccines must be listed on the letter and the letter attached to the passport for submission," says SAHUC spokesperson Hassan Choonara.

Travellers should note Doctors letter must include the following:

- that the doctor (full name) hereby confirms that the passenger (full name and passport number) has taken - the yellow fever and meningitis vaccines on (date).
- the batch number needs to be included as well
- this signed letter on the doctor’s letterhead needs to accompany the passport to the embassy when applying for a VISA 

"We recommend that each applicant keeps a copy of this letter and once the yellow cards are available, transfer the information to such yellow card accordingly," says Choonara.

Visa costs outcry

Added to this, the KSA has also increased prices of the Umrah visas as of 2 October. The increas ia a contentious issue, which sees pilgrams who have travelled in the last three years needing to pay SR2 000 (or about R7 300) per visa to travel to Saudi Arabia. The increase sparked an outcry, as well as an online petition 'calling it inhuman'. 

First time visitors and pilgrims who have not travelled in the last three years will not need to pay the Umrah visa fee.

Choonara says, "We have met with the Embassy and we continue to the appeal for the KSA to reconsider this Umrah visa fee." However, Choonara stated the SAHUC was ' not calling for a boycott in any way". 

"The SAHC supports the outcry and will support any international efforts to get it revisited in order to get it removed," says Choonara.

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