The Hajj pilgrimage is well-known as among Islam's 5 pillars. Before the pandemic, millions of Muslims flock to Makkah from all over the world to visit the Masjid-E-Haram and participate in various religious rituals and devotion. In addition to this Ibadah (an act of worship), Muslims can also perform the Umrah, or "minor Pilgrimage," which requires Muslims to travel to the Sacred City and perform a series of rituals.
After the successful Hajj season the year before, Saudi natives, expatriates, as well as foreign pilgrims have been able to do Umrah. What about Umrah packages - Muslims Holy Travel, though? Will the Saudi authorities impose new limitations and guidelines? Let's take a closer look at the minor pilgrimage known as Umrah in 2022.
When Will Umrah Be Held In 2022?
While it is preferential to undertake Umrah during the sacred month of Ramadan, it can be done at any time of the year. But, Umrah is performed according to the Saudi government's restrictions and regulations. The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Hajj & Umrah started issuing the new guidelines and rules & regulations in January 2022.
Foreigners are allowed to participate in the Umrah, according to the Ministry of Hajj & Umrah. International pilgrims must obtain a vaccination certificate from the authorized institutions in their country of residence and then submit it with their application form, according to the latest announcement.
However, due to the advent of the Omicron variant, the Saudi Ministry of Hajj has declared that Umrah permits will only be issued once every 10 days. Pilgrims would no longer be able to undertake consecutive Umrahs due to the 10-day waiting period.
This newly announced rule aims to stop the coronavirus from spreading in Makkah's Grand Mosque, where social distancing restrictions and mask-wearing regulations have been imposed once again. Moreover, foreign pilgrims who have been fully immunized against Covid-19 with the vaccinations Saudi-approved Arabia may skip quarantine after their arrival in Saudi Arabia. Foreign pilgrims may also stay for up to 30 days, which is a welcome or positive move by the Saudi government. It's worth noting that, owing to the Omicron variant, Saudi Arabia has suspended flights from a specified number of countries. These specified countries’ names are listed below;
- South Africa
- Union of Comoros
- The Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Guidelines For Umrah 2022 And Its Vaccination Requirements:
According to the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, all international and domestic pilgrims aged 12 and onward who have been immunized against COVID-19 or recovered from coronavirus will be allowed to enter the Masjid-E-Haram in Makkah and Masjid-E-Nabawi in Madina.
All pilgrims must use the Eatmarna or Tawakkalna apps, after which they will receive an entry permit. Those who enter the Mosques without a permit will pay a fine of SR1,000. The date and authenticity of the permit will be confirmed and checked at the Grand Mosque. The permission holders’ vaccination status will be verified as well.
Unauthorized cars will also be restricted in the center zone around Makkah. Also, the worshippers or pilgrims should come on time otherwise they will lose their time slot.
Foreign Umrah seekers must follow certain rules:
For foreign pilgrims permitted to enter the kingdom Of Saudi Arabia and undertake Umrah this year, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has established the following rules and guidelines that must be followed:
1. Pilgrims must spend at least 6 hours in a care center in Makkah before going to perform Umrah. This will allow authorities to verify the vaccination status of pilgrims depending on the type of recommended vaccines.
2. Pilgrims will then be given their bracelets, which they must have to wear. They will then be led to the Al-Shuwaikh gathering point, where they must show their bracelets in order for documentation and permits to be properly verified.
3. All pilgrims must adhere to the Umrah date and time frame assigned to them. It's also worth noting that during Ramadan, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has enabled hotels for Umrah pilgrims explicitly without the involvement of a third party. This implies that hotels in Makkah can assist foreign pilgrims who want to perform the Umrah.
Rules Regarding Vaccines:
Foreign pilgrims who have received complete doses of the below-mentioned vaccines and been fully immunized against COVID-19 are allowed to enter Saudi Arabia for any reason, such as for performing Umrah.
- Oxford/AstraZeneca: 2 doses
- Janssen: 2 doses
- Moderna: 2 doses
- Pfizer/BioNTech. 2 doses
- Sino-Pharm + 1 dose of any of the above-mentioned vaccines
- Sino-Vac + 1 dose of any of the above-mentioned vaccines
People who have been completely vaccinated with the foregoing vaccines but have not yet received a booster shot are also allowed to enter Saudi Arabia for short stays or visits, including Umrah.
What Would Be The Registration Process For Vaccinated Pilgrims?
The status of the candidate's vaccination must first be registered on Saudi Arabia's Muqeem site at least 72 hours before traveling.
The vaccination certificates must be certified by the legal health authorities such as the Ministry of Health or any Authorized Health Authority of the traveler's native country. While traveling to and from the Kingdom, the original certificate must be brought with you.
Before boarding and at the entrance points, all information will be checked or verified. Failing to comply with these requirements and rules will result in entry prohibition as well as other legal actions.
Rules For Quarantine:
Foreign pilgrims will not need them to stay in quarantine if they are completely vaccinated with Saudi-approved vaccines. On the other hand, the pilgrims immunized with other vaccines approved by WHO (World Health Organization), will need to put up with a 3-day institutional quarantine. These pilgrims must provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test report after 48 hours of isolation in order to get free from quarantine and continue with the Umrah.
Tawakkalna & Eatmarna Smartphone Apps:
The only official portals certified to provide valid permits are the Tawakkalna and Eatmarna apps, and officials have warned the general public to avoid dubious websites as well as filling out fake forms. If the pilgrim’s health condition is not stable enough to enter into Tawakkalna, then he/she will need to visit Health Center.
For Umrah, What Kind Of Visa Is Necessary?
To go on the sacred journey, foreign pilgrims can apply for an Umrah visa or an Umrah e-visa. Both visas have their own set of requirements, which we'll look at here;
1. Umrah Visa Requirements:
- Fill out the original Umrah visa application form attentively. All you need to do is send a large, self-addressed envelope to your nearby Saudi general consulate for getting this form. However, it is highly advisable to enlist the services of a certified travel agency like “Muslims Holy Travel” in order to ensure that the process goes well and hassle-free.
- A recent colorful passport-size picture with a white background. The applicant's complete face must be visible to the camera and facing straight in front of it. Views from the side or at any angle will not be acceptable.
- A passport that is valid for at least 6 months from the date of application submission.
- A verified and non-refundable airline or flight ticket. Departure will be a must, within 2 weeks of entering the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. If the applicant is not a citizen of the country from where he or she is applying, then it is necessary to submit a valid residency permit.
- A certificate of Meningococcal Meningitis vaccination will also be necessary to attach. The vaccination certificate must be valid for at least 10 days before the entrance and must not be older than 3 years. The pilgrim must have a vaccination certificate with them when entering Saudi Arabia.
Note: A COVID-19 vaccination certificate is necessary for entry into Saudi Arabia, but it is not a requirement of the Umrah visa.
2. Umrah E-Visa Requirements:
- An umrah visa application form can be filled completely and attentively online.
- A valid passport.
- A recent passport-size photograph.
- An authentic email address
- A debit or credit card
Please remember that the Umrah e-visa is only applicable for pilgrims who live in specified countries.
Both the umrah visa and the e-visa have a two-week validity period. You should undertake Umrah and make sure that your departure from Saudi Arabia is on time during these two weeks.
However, you may have to pay for certain services linked with the Umrah visa once you arrive in Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, if you have a Saudi tourist visa or an e-visa, you can register for Umrah and get the appropriate permits to perform it. The Saudi tourist visa and e-visa both are one-year multiple-entry visas that permit holders to commute to and gain entry in Saudi Arabia for up to three months (90 days) per visit.