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JEDDAH, Jan 31: Foreign businessmen and investors can now get visas to Saudi Arabia within 24 hours directly from its missions abroad, says Muhammad Bin Ahmed Tayeb, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s office in the Makkah region.

“We have developed a new system for the issuance of business visas. Businessmen anywhere in the world can now apply for visas to visit the Kingdom, without any restrictions,” he told Arab News.

Tayeb said Saudi missions abroad have been instructed to issue business visas within 24 hours. “Applicants do not need a Saudi sponsor to get visas. They only need a letter from the federation of chambers in their respective countries,” he said.

Company representatives carrying an invitation from a Saudi chamber but with no business relations with a Saudi firm are also entitled to receive entry visas.

“Saudi embassies can directly issue business visas as they need not wait for any approval from the Kingdom,” Tayeb said. Although the ministry introduced the new system about a year ago, many people are not aware of the facility. People can apply for different visas through the ministry’s website:

Tayeb said the new visa system was introduced to encourage foreign investors to come to the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia is seeking foreign investment worth SR2.3 trillion in vital sectors such as gas, petrochemicals, power generation, desalination, tourism, railways and telecommunications.

“The new system augurs well with the government’s plan to establish mega economic cities in different parts of the Kingdom,” Tayeb said. The new economic cities in Rabigh, Hail, Madinah and Jizan are expected to draw nearly SR300 billion in investment in high-tech, petrochemical, educational, infrastructure, real estate and tourism projects.

Tayeb, who has been working with the Foreign Ministry for 30 years, said the ministry was still in the process of finalizing the new tourist visa law. “We want to have a foolproof system. It is better to be late than have a weak law,” he said when asked why there was so much delay. There will not be any restrictions on foreign tourists, he said. However, they have to respect the country’s religious values and traditions.

He emphasized the importance of cultural programs and people-to-people contacts to promote relations between countries. “I was very happy to inaugurate the “India Week” program organized by the Indian Consulate here recently and appreciate the initiative taken by Consul General Ausaf Saeed to organize the event for promoting cultural relations,” he said.

Tayeb applauded Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for his timely call for an emergency meeting in Makkah of feuding Palestinian leaders to settle their conflict, saying the call was in line with Saudi Arabia’s unwavering support for the Palestinian cause.

Tayeb underscored the political, economic and social reforms introduced by King Abdullah within a short span. “King Abdullah is an ardent supporter of Arab and Islamic causes. He won’t hesitate to do anything that is beneficial to his people. He wants to achieve balanced development in all parts of the country. Above all, he is a humanitarian king as is visible in all his activities,” he pointed out.

Tayeb said clear vision and credibility are the hallmarks of Saudi foreign policy.

“We have very good relations with all countries, especially with our Gulf and Arab neighbors. We have a special position in the Islamic world being the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. We host every year about seven million Haj and Umrah pilgrims. Saudi Arabia is a reliable supplier of oil. We play a significant role in world economy by stabilizing international oil market,” he said.

Born in Makkah in 1951, Tayeb obtained his master’s degree in international relations in political history from the United States. He worked as a diplomat at the Saudi Embassy in Paris, deputy director of the International Organizations Department at the Foreign Ministry in Riyadh and director general of the office of the state minister for foreign affairs, before taking up his latest job six months ago.


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