Earlier in March 2019, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced plans to start issuing electronic visas for pilgrims, allowing them to apply online and receive their visas within minutes.
“Currently, pilgrims who are coming from outside the Kingdom are tied to Hajj and Umrah service-providing companies and agents in their countries. The electronic visas will now be issued to these entities who will be licensed to facilitate Hajj and Umrah in these countries,” Abdulrahman Shams, general supervisor of the electronic platform for Hajj and Umrah, said in an interview with MBC.
An E-Visa facility similar to the one as provided by the United Arab Emirates, will make the process easier by issuing the visas without pilgrims having to send their passports to the embassy.
However, there was no confirmation whether this facility will be provided to Pakistani pilgrims travelling for Hajj in 2019.
Earlier this year when Saudi Crown Price, Muhammad Bin Salman, came to Pakistan, Imran Khan (Pakistani Prime Minister) requested the crown price to help facilitate Pakistani Hujjaj during the visa issuance and immigration process.
Seems like Pakistan Government’s negotiations with Saudi Arabia proved to be successful as the Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Dr. Noor-ul-Haq Qadri announced earlier in the year about the E-Visa facility to Pakistani pilgrims.
It can now be confirmed that Saudi Arabia has stated issuing e-visas for Pakistani pilgrims. Image shown below of the first E-Visa issued. (note: personal details like name and image have been removed to protect the identity).
This development is amazing news for overseas Pakistani’s specifically those living in the Gulf countries.
In Previous years, it was mandatory for overseas Pakistanis to come for Visa processing. However, with e-visa policy coming to Pakistan just for visa processing will no longer be required.
In Previous years, it was advisable to come at-least 15 days before group departure for visa processing. Number of days required however fluctuates year on year. This meant that Pakistani expatriates had to come twice to Pakistan if they had to go for Hajj – once for visa processing and once before travel.
Now, people will just have to come to Pakistan just a few days before flight departure for Hajj. This year, as yet, biometrics are not being taken as part of Hajj visa processing. In the future, if it is mandatory for Hajj visa processing, it may require travel before Hajj or if biometrics facility is available in their country of residence, they might be allowed to give biometrics there. There is no clarity on this part.
Hujjaj travelling with Hajj Organizers who offer flights transiting from their country of residence, may not have to come to Pakistan at all. How-ever this will purely depend on the Hajj Group Organizer, flights chosen and Pakistani Government policy.
If there is a via flight that is transiting from your city of residence then we can check with the Hajj Group Organizer if you can join the group in the transiting city. E.g. If a Hajj Organizer offers Emirates in its Hajj Package and you are a resident of Dubai – then we can check with the Hajj Group Organizer if you can join the group in Dubai.
Rupee’s tumble has begun. The value of the US dollar against the rupee touched another all-time high for the second consecutive day, reaching approximately Rs148 in the inter-bank market (as of 12:30 Pm – 16 May 2019).
“Fears of further devaluation as a result of the agreement with the IMF have depressed the currency market and the rupee may lose more against the greenback in the coming days,” Secretary General of Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan Zafar Paracha as reported by Dawn.
Approximately, 85% to 90 % of the payments Hujjaj make for their packages is sent to Saudi Arabia by the operators to make arrangement (like hotel bookings, Maktab payments, food and transport arrangements etc). Only a very small portion of these payments are used for arrangements in Pakistan as these arrangements are limited to Hajj Training Programs, give aways and salaries for Hajj teams traveling from the country.
Due to this Hajj Package price calculation is actually done in Saudi Riyal and then converted in Pakistani Rupees. Hence even a minor depreciation in Pakistani Rupee’s value results in a directly proportional increase in hajj package price.
On average every 1 Rs rise in Saudi Riyal value, will result in package price rising by Rs 15,000 to Rs 50,000 (depending on the Hajj Package)
For many Hajj Group Organizers, the current scenario is very much a flash back from last year’s Hajj.
in 2018, Hajj Operators were stuck in exactly the same situation, as when they released their Package last year the exchange rate was: SAR 1 = PKR 29. However when the booking were being made, it had crept up to SAR 1 = PK34.
Previous trend in the market has been such that Hajj Packages were released in Pakistani Rupees for easy understanding and communication of the package details. However since the Pakistani Government does not provide any protection to businesses in terms of shielding from currency fluctuations like offer financial products like currency futures / swaps etc – Hajj Group Organizers suffered huge exchange rate losses due to this in 2018.
Keeping in mind last years situation, most of the Hajj Organizers have released Hajj Package Prices for 2019 in Saudi Riyal.
Hajj Package prices are pegged in Saudi Riyal (SAR) and the prices provided in SAR would not change during on going bookings. However as stated previously if Pak Rupee depreciates, the package price will automatically rise.
Hence if you have decided to go for Hajj in 2019, then the best way to protect yourself from fluctuations is by :
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