Riyadh: Saudi Arabia has extended the validity of iqama (residence permit) and re-entry visas of expats stranded abroad as a result of the current travel restrictions until August 31, 2021.
In addition, the validity of visit visas for visitors who are in the countries from where entry is suspended due to the COVID pandemic has also been extended until August 31.
These countries include Egypt, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Turkey, the UAE, Lebanon, South Africa, Ethiopia, Brazil, Afghanistan, and Vietnam.
The General Directorate of Passports stated that it had already begun renewing these visas and that it was doing so without any fees being charged to the visa holders.
The decision to extend the validity of the visas follows a directive issued by Saudi ruler King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
The move comes as a big relief to Indians, especially Malayalis. Of the 1.54 million Indians in Saudi Arabia, 80 per cent are from Kerala.
They are the second most numerous diaspora in the Kingdom.
The extension will take place automatically in cooperation with the National Information Center, without the need to report to the office of the general directorate.
Earlier this month, Saudi had decided to suspend direct passenger flights between the Kingdom and India.
Saudi nationals are barred from travelling, directly or indirectly to these countries, unless they obtain special permission to do so.
The Kingdom’s citizens are also banned from travelling to the UAE, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iran, Turkey, Armenia, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Venezuela and Belarus.
Non-Saudi nationals from any country to where Saudi has banned travel can only enter the kingdom if they have stayed 14 days outside of those specific countries.