Pakistani Umrah pilgrims need to get biometric verification before applying for visa. Biometric verification will cost Pakistani pilgrims an additional Rs. 1,040 million each year. The Travel Agents Association has called to stop this process.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s (KSA) new visa law has been implemented from today. Under the new law, every pilgrim will need to get biometric registration before applying for a visa. To implement this law in Pakistan, Saudi authorities have partnered with Etimad.
Biometric registration is a very complicated system, especially for the uneducated Umrah pilgrims from rural areas. For biometric registration, pilgrims have to take an appointment for this service. Then they have to get to Etimad’s office on time for biometric registration.
It is also a costly process; each pilgrim has to pay Rs. 650 for registration. According to official data, about 1,600,000 Pakistani travel to KSA for Umrah or Hajj. These people will have to bear an extra cost of Rs.1,040 million thanks to the new law.
Chairman Travel Agents Association Pakistan (TAAP) Muhammad Yahya Polani told ProPakistani that this process not only causes stress, it also adds extra cost for Pilgrims.
“KSA should review this policy. Pakistani pilgrims are mostly living in remote areas of the country and this will cause them additional hassle. Pilgrims have to wait for hours for this process.” Polani said.
An Etimad official told ProPakistani that they have established a state of the art biometric system. Etimad is working on behalf of different governments that require the service.
“The biometric identification of applicants involves providing unique identifiers to applicants and may be established through fingerprint scanning, face, iris or retina scanning using sensors that acquire the information.” the official added.
Etimad Pakistan processes visa applications for Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in the country. Every individual requiring a visa for Hajj, Umrah, business, work or any other purpose will have to come to visit Etimad Visa Service Centers (VSC).
Currently Etimad has 6 VSCs in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta. These centres collectively process around 1.2 Million visa applications for KSA per year.