Hajj and Umrah are the sacred rituals carried out by citizens, residents and visitors of the kingdom. Saudi Arabia has implemented numerous efforts and developments to facilitate the needs of pilgrims. This section will introduce the regulations of Hajj and Umrah and the required procedures for both domestic and external pilgrims to ensure that the process of each is carried out in accordance with the appropriate regulatory steps. Considering that we are currently in the middle of a pandemic, the kingdom has introduced efforts to guarantee that Hajj and Umrah are carried out successfully and in complete alignment with the COVID-19 health protocols for Hajj and Umrah. You will also be informed about the many services offered by the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s mosque, aimed at providing safety and ease of performance of religious rituals, while also understanding how you can contribute and register to be a volunteer.
Since the unifying of the kingdom by the founder King Abdulaziz Al-Saud (May God have mercy on him), the Hajj and Umrah have been the blessed services that the kingdom has given great attention. All the kings of Saudi Arabia have set their sights on the services of pilgrims and visitors for the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah. Therefore, the kingdom has assigned a ministry competent authority for everything related to the affairs of pilgrims, Hajj and Umrah, and to coordinate between all the different government sectors in that matter.
Hajj and Umrah Regulations
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah (MHU) relies on smart systems to facilitate Hajj rituals. These systems are:
- E-track electronic system for the external pilgrims. It is an integrated system applied from the initiation of making binding contracts on housing, transportation, and catering until the departure of the pilgrims. This e-track system, and the contracts it contains, allows for transparency and monitorial capability to follow up the implementation and the extent of adherence of each party to its responsibilities under the supervision of MHU.
- The E-track electronic system for the domestic pilgrims: It is a number of systems and data found at a developed e-portal that shows the various service programs offered by the companies and agencies of domestic pilgrims. The Ministry ensures for those requesting to perform hajj the choice of suitable hajj packages, and allows for them to make electronic contracts on various services with the companies and agencies. It also provides an electronic system for payments of contracts in order to protect the pilgrims' rights. The MHU, through the e-portal, enables the process of transferring the requests for hajj permits, after contracting to the systems of the Ministry of Interior (MOI) in order to issue hajj permits.
- Visit the e-track electronic system, and choose the appropriate service to the pilgrim. For reservation and permit
- To pay the fees of the program electronically
- To obtain the Hajj permit
The MHU adopts a method which is based on transparency and seeks to facilitate the pilgrims' procedures through the following steps:
- Procedures begin by signing the agreements on hajj arrangements between the states' delegations and the MHU, which include several terms and controls, and define the rights and duties of each party with utmost clarity and transparency
- Equipping the e-track system of the external pilgrims for preparing and registering the service providers in the Kingdom (housing, transportation, catering, and the services of the Arbab Al-Tawaef Establishments).
- Executing the binding contracts on housing, catering, transportation...etc. between the pilgrims' representatives (The offices of hajj affairs and tourist companies) and the service providers, in addition to monitoring the performance quality
- After completing the contracts, the pilgrims' data are entered and sent to the authorities concerned in order to issue Hajj permits
- Afterwards, the MHU supervises and follows up the services provided to the pilgrims, in accordance with the contracts made since the arrival of the pilgrims to the entry points in the Kingdom until their departure
- Organizing the services of pilgrims
- Regulating the related matters of Hajj and Umrah visa holders
- The executive regulations for organizing the services of pilgrims
- The regulation to prevent non-Saudis from dealing in the field of pilgrims and visitors’ housing
First: It starts from the month of Muharram, the first month of the Hijri year, i.e., before the beginning of the Umrah season. The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah ensures that the licensees have fulfilled all the requirements, based on the statements and reports issued by the `Umrah electronic systems. Here are some of the most important requirements:
- Making sure that there is nothing that prevents the activation of the licensee on the part of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, the Passport Department or the National Information Center of the Ministry of Interior
- The licensee shall pay all the amounts of money due to any other authority
- They have to be fully prepared by making sure that their administrative personnel and social insurance certificates are in order as well as preparing their three locations, in Makkah, Al-Madinah and Jeddah, and providing all required facilities and arrangements
- Providing the service packages, which the licensee will use in applying to the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah's authority in charge of issuing visas for those intending to perform `Umrah to complete the endorsement procedures
- Submitting the first part of the operation plan (from the beginning of the year to the Jumada Al-Thani) and having it endorsed by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah
- Submitting the second part of the operation plan (from Rajab to Sha`ban) and having it endorsed by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah
- Abiding by the modifications of regulations approved by the authorities in charge and putting them into effect during the period of `Umrah, e.g. the proportion and number of Mu`tamirs who fail to return home on time and the embassies'production capacity limits
- Submitting the contracts of the external agents after having fulfilled all requirements, including membership of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), having the contract endorsed by the Saudi Mission [Embassy or Consulate] in the agent's country, holding an account at an approved bank and paying bank guarantees
Second: It starts to be implemented when the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has made sure that the licensees are fully prepared and their systems have been activated, according to the first part mentioned above. The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah carries out the following tasks, based on the statements and reports issued by the electronic systems of Umrah services:
- Receiving Umrah visa applications in the light of the approved operation plan and regulations of visa issuance
- Processing the data concerning arrivals, departures and lagging of the Mu`tamirs in the Kingdom after the departure of the other Mu`tamirs
- Controlling and following up on the companies' electronic and practical commitment to the service packages to be offered to the Mu`tamirs
- Controlling and following up on the Umra services and reporting any violations and referring them to the committee in charge (Committee for Considering Complaints of the Mu`tamirs)
- Receiving complaints and referring them to the committee in charge (Committee for Considering Complaints of Mu`tamirs) and guiding those who are lost and following up on their condition of health and transportation
- Investigating and imposing penalties on the licensees and their external agents
Biometric Self-registration App
Under the directives of the wise leadership to facilitate the Pilgrims and Mu`tamirs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched the application of self-registration of the vital features of Pilgrims and Mu`tamirs through smartphones. The kingdom will be the first country to use the registration of vital features for visa applicants via smartphones.
The App enables Hajj and Umrah visa applicants in the countries in which the App will be operated, to register features from their whereabouts via smartphones, and they will not have to review visa issuance centers, under which their visas will be issued electronically. When Pilgrims and Mu`tamirs come to the Kingdom, they will only perform a matching process without the need to re-register their vital features, and this will facilitate the process of their entry via the ports through which they will submit.
Saudi Arabia Mitigation Plans on COVID-19 for Hajj and Umrah
The government of Saudi Arabia gives pilgrims and visitors the greatest attention, and always strives to enable the pilgrims to perform their rituals to the fullest, and this includes providing them with safety and security. As a result of the global pandemic of the Coronavirus, and in implementation of the recommendations of the World Health Organization, the Kingdom suspended the performance of Umrah in order to preserve the health of visitors of the Grand Mosque. In fact, it provided the necessary services to pilgrims stranded in Makkah and Madinah, by providing them needed transportation to send them back to their countries and exempting them from the legal consequences of their late departure.
The Hajj season 1441 was an exceptional season, as the country, all its sectors, worked together with the greatest possible effort to ensure the safety of pilgrims and control the outbreak of the virus. The number of pilgrims has been reduced from previous years, and all pilgrims are from inside the kingdom; citizens and residents, and it stipulated that the percentage of non-Saudis who reside in the Kingdom should be 70% of the total pilgrims, and the percentage of Saudis would be only 30% of the pilgrims, and that the Hajj of Saudi citizens be limited to Health practitioners and security workers recovering from the COVID-19.
The Ministry of Health has developed health protocols for the 1441 AH Hajj season to ensure the safety of everyone.
In response to the aspirations of Muslims inside and outside the kingdom, King Salman bin Abdulaziz allowed the Umrah in accordance with health standards and conditions to ensure the safety of all, by permitting pilgrims in four stages:
Allowing citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah, starting on Sunday 17 Safar 1442 corresponding to October 4, 2020, at a rate of 30% (6 thousand Umrah pilgrims/day) of the capacity, that considers the health precautionary measures of the Grand Mosque.
Allowing citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah, visits and prayers, starting on Sunday 1 Rabi al-Awwal 1442 corresponding to October 18, 2020, at a rate of 75% (15 thousand pilgrims/day, 40 thousand worshipers/day), that considers the health precautionary measures of the Grand Mosque, and at a rate 75% of the capacity of Rawdah and considers the health precautionary measures of the Prophet’s Mosque.
Allowing citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia and other countries to perform Umrah, visiting and prayers, starting from Sunday 15 Rabi Al-Awal 1442 corresponding to November 1, 2020, until the official announcement of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic or the disappearance of the danger, and that is 100% (20 thousand pilgrims/day, 60 thousand worshipers/day) of the capacity, considers the health precautionary measures of the Grand Mosque, as well as 100% of the capacity, considers the health precautionary measures of the Prophet's Mosque. The pilgrims and visitors from outside the kingdom arrive gradually, and from countries in which the Ministry of Health decides that there are no health risks related to the Corona pandemic.
Allowing citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia and other countries to perform Umrah, visiting and prayers at 100% of the natural capacity of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque, when the competent authority decides that the risks of the pandemic will cease.
To ensure the organization of the process, the Ministry allocated an application to perform Umrah, prayers, and visit the Rawda of the Prophet, so that it would be easy to count visitors per day and manage them: the App Store - Google Play application.
General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque
The Presidency provides services to visitors to enable them to perform religious rituals in a safe and pure environment. The Presidency provides, through its website, many services that can be viewed on this page.
The Presidency website has a section for the Grand Mosque of Makkah and another one for the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah to enable visitors to view the mosques' facilities and the services available in each of them. Such as:
- Grand Mosque’s doors
- The Holy Kaaba
- Translation sites in the Holy Mosque
- The Prophet's Mosque news
- The Prophet's Mosque Library
Volunteers Efforts During Hajj and Umrah
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has dedicated on its website the page "Be A Helper, an initiative concerned with volunteering during the Hajj period, in order to organize the volunteering process and make the most of the volunteers' efforts and ensure the quality of volunteer services for pilgrims.The voluntary areas are:
- Welcoming and farewelling pilgrims
- Operations and guidance
- Health care (visit this page)
- Environmental volunteering
- New-media volunteers
Hajj and Umrah Smartphone’s Applications
The ministry provides e-services via smartphones’ application, such as:
- Hajj services App Store – Google Play
- Umrah services App Store – Google Play
- Manasikana App Store – Google Play
- Ershad App Store – Google Play
For more applications, please visit this page.
Apps for Hajj
- Electronic Services
- Laws and Regulations
- e-services rating
- Statute for the Treatment of Persons Arriving in the Kingdom on Hajj, Umrah or Other Visas
- Law of Transporting Pilgrims to the Kingdom and returning them to their Countries
- Domestic Pilgrim Services Law
- Umrah services and regulation
- Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships
- FAQs – Domestic Pilgrims