Friday, November 17, 2017
The Saudi Arabian Hajj Ministry has implemented a biometric visa system which will come into effect on the 4th of December 2017 in South Africa. This means that accredited hujaaj and individuals wanting to go on umrah are now required to go to the VFS offices to have their photos taken, biometrics done and their information uploaded onto the system before obtaining a visa to travel to the country.
Once this is done, the accredited operators who have done the application for the pilgrim would send the passports to the Saudi Embassy to complete the process of obtaining a visa. According to reports, the Saudi government has taken this decision to ensure the safety pilgrims coming to perform hajj and umrah in the city.
South African Travel Haj Operators Association (Sathoa) representative Shaykh Imraan said the process is mandatory and that 12 accredited operators are the only ones that can have the application processed.
“Our mu’tamireen need to know that there are only 12 operators that can get the application done. You can visit our website to find the accredited operators.”
Concerns are being raised around the logistical inconvenience as there are only two biometric facilities in the country.
“The logistical worry is the fact that we have only two centres, one in Cape Town and the other in Johannesburg. The VFS offices and representatives of the Embassy have informed us that they are in the process of opening up offices in Durban as well. But we are worried about those pilgrims wanting to travel from other parts of the country who would now need to travel to these centre to the Biometrics centre,” he explained.
December is known to be a busy umrah period. What does the implementation of the Biometric visa system mean for pilgrims set to fly out in the month?
“For all those departures up until the 25th of December, operators will apply for e-numbers and MOFAs which can be submitted to the Embassy without the Biometric. But this can be accepted now prior to the system being implemented. Therefore operators need to apply for these before the 4th of December and mu’tamireen need to bring in any outstanding documents,” Saban added.
There is a cost involved in obtaining the biometric which is about $4.50, which is equivalent to about R70.