Friday, October 3, 2008

Government work in Ramadan and Hajj periods

A lot of potential expatriates planning to work in Saudi Arabia have been asking me various queries about Government-related work during Ramadan and Hajj periods. I thought I might as well write a post on it, because it is so important.

For those who are unfamiliar with the laws of Saudi Arabia, Ramadan is a month in Islamic calendar in which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. The official working hours in all offices, both Government and private, is restricted to 6 hours for Muslim employees. Drinking, eating and smoking in public is strictly prohibited during this period, from dawn to dusk. This applies to all, irrespective of their faith.

It is common knowledge that normal work slows down during this period, as people would be fasting and the efficiency is much below usual. Hence, for any liaisoning work with government agencies, eg., passport, visa stamping, renewal, iqama, etc., one must take this into account. There are two official sets of holidays in Saudi Arabia. The first, called Eid-ul-Fitr falls at the end of the month of Ramadan. The second, called Eid-ul-Adha, or popularly known as Hajj holidays, falls approximately a couple of months after the Eid-ul-Fitr holidays.

Saudi embassies all over the world usually close 2 weeks before these two sets of holidays. So, expatriates who are processing their visa papers in their home countries must give adequate allowance for this. In particular, I would like to draw the attention of those who are processing visit visas (please check my earlier post on family visit visa from the archives on the right hand side of this blog).

As already mentioned earlier, once a visit visa is stamped by the Saudi embassy or consulate in your home country, the visitor must necessarily enter the kingdom within one month from the date of stamping. Otherwise, the visa would get cancelled automatically. If the visitor is going to enter the kingdom just a week after Eid-ul-Fitr or Eid-Al-Adha holidays, care must be taken to submit the documents in the embassy just a week prior to the long closure of the embassy. Remember, if you submit too early, the visa would get cancelled if the visitor does not enter the kingdom within 30 days. If you submit too late, the embassy / consulate would be closed prior to the holidays.

In fact, visit visas to Muslims during Ramadan are not issued by the Saudi authorities because they discourage people coming on visit visas to perform 'Umrah'. For non-Muslims, only 1-month visit visas are issued in this period, which of course, can be renewed twice, each renewal of one month duration. It is another issue that some Muslim visitors do manage to do Umrah while on a visit visa, but officially this is prohibited. For those visitors who want to do Hajj, normally this is not allowed. In certain cases, special permission must be obtained after paying the required fees, otherwise they would not be allowed to even board the bus without a Hajj permit. In any event, everything is on a case to case basis, so one cannot generalize.

I would also advise those of you who are planning to process their family visas (permanent residence) to avoid submitting their documents during Ramadan or Hajj period because of the uncertainty and delays involved. Remember, the embassy would be so busy, particularly during Hajj period, that processing your family visa would be second priority.

And finally, do remember that all the dates with Government agencies are based on Islamic calendar and not Gregorian calendar. Please click this link to convert from one calendar to the other.

Hope this information was useful to you.


American Bedu said...

Expat Guru,

As always another excellent post. I so enjoy reading your blog and commend you on your clear way of explaining the various facets of getting settled in successfully to life in Saudi Arabia.

Even after several years here now it still does not cease to amaze me how this country slows down so substantially during Ramadan and the subsequent Eid al Fitr celebrations. I'm certainly not against some time off and holidays but I do believe that it is taken to the extreme here and ultimately hurting the Saudi people in their pockets where it counts.

Most governmental employees, universities, banks and other businesses have been off from work since 23 September. Many do not return to work until 11 October. While a nice break, what kind of impact is this break having on the Saudi economy both globally and domestically?

American Bedu

Expatguru said...

Thanks, American Bedu, for your comments. It never stops to amaze me at how much time and money is lost in such long holidays. Lost business opportunities would ultimately hurt the overall economy. I wish things would change soon.

Anonymous said...

Dear Expatguru. I didnt really know where to leave my question so here I am.I have been offered a job in KSA and the negotiations are quite advanced. I was told today that I would need to submit a Police Clearance Cert with my docs. I have a 1986 conviction for theft (for varying reasons, too topheavy to disucss here) for which I pled guilty and was given a suspended sentence. Then in 1995 I was involved in an honour fight & was charged with assault. I pled guilty again and paid an admission of guilt fine. Question, will I still be able to obtain a Iqama with this on my record? If not, is there anyway to appeal the rejection, if any? Your advice and comments would be appreciated. Kind regards. Hank

Expatguru said...


As long as there is no criminal case pending against you in the kingdom, your past record will have no bearing on issuance of a new visa for you, because they would have been considered as closed cases. You should have no reason to worry. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

hi expat guru
my question is sumone told me that we cant get visit visa of sudia during last three months of islamic calender is it true

Expatguru said...


There is no such written rule. However, about a month prior to Haj season, the online link for visit visas is kept blocked. No one knows why but people can't just apply for new visit visas during this period. Hopefully, once the Haj season is over, it would be unblocked.

Anonymous said...

respected guru thanks for ur reply
i want to further know during that blocked online new visa period can one renew the old visit visa and can one perform hajj on visit visa if not then if v r one a visit visa in KSA n want to perform haj what is the procedure for it

Expatguru said...


Officially, you CANNOT perform Haj while on a visit visa, as Haj permit will not be given. However, I do know some cases where people have performed Haj while on a visit visa. These are old people and entry into Mecca region purely depends on the discretion of the official on duty there, on a case to case basis, on humanitarian grounds. So, there is a big risk for those on visit visa to undertake Haj, because until you are actually permitted by the policeman on duty, you are not sure whether you will gain entry or not.

erdte said...

Hello Expert Guru,
My name is Altaf, I’ve proceed family visa through an agent. Now I want to know that how to verify that visa.

Expatguru said...


It is impossible to verify it yourself. There is no link or any other source.

Anonymous said...

Hi Expatguru,

I'm currently working 1year now in KSA and I'm planning to resign to my job. I would like to ask if is it possible for me to have a final exit visa but I'm planning also to go to Dubai? I have a friend there who is willing to sponsor me a 30days Tourist Visa. Is it going to be a problem while entering Dubai? My friend told me to book a ticket from KSA to Point of origin with a stopover in Dubai and then he said, I have to request cancellation of my ticket from Dubai to Point of origin.. Is it legal? Thanks

Expatguru said...


Please fill in your query in the form using the link in the top right corner of this blog. I charge a nominal fee for my consultancy, which would get you a detailed, personalized and confidential reply by email.