In the spirit of the pilgrimage, Saudi Arabia’s king has offered to pay the visa fees for first-time pilgrims, according to Khaleej Times. Minister of Haj and Umrah Mohammed Bin Saleh Bentin explained that the cost of first entry for pilgrims to Umrah and Haj will be covered by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman.
The minister made the statement during a coordination meeting on Sunday with the Presidency of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, saying, “Our partnership is aimed at removing all the obstacles that may face the Haj and Umrah pilgrims and facilitate their arrival to the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah.”
During the meeting, attendees were shown a presentation of the services being extended to pilgrims such as the warm welcome on arrival, the promotion of the guidance services, the advancement of the voluntary work, and the modern technological services to keep pace with the Kingdom's 2030 Vision aimed at consolidating the values of Islam including moderation and tolerance.
According to Saudi Gazette, the ministry has set Shawwal 20 (July 4) as an initial date for the Haj and Umrah local companies to receive their tents in Mina and Ramadan 12 as the date these companies will receive their seasonal licenses.
Speaking earlier this month to the news site, Deputy Minister of Haj and Umrah Dr. Abdul Fattah Bin Sulaiman Mashat addressed fears that pilgrims, including locals, would be charged a SAR 2,000 (almost $540) fee for Haj and Umrah.
“Let me make it clear because there has been a misunderstanding about the SR2,000 fee. It is considered an entry fee for the Kingdom, and Haj and Umrah has nothing to do with it; however, those who are entering the Kingdom for the first time will be not be charged as per the instructions of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques," he explained during the final day of the first Makkah Economic Forum. “Those who are entering the Kingdom for the second and subsequent entries will be charged SR2,000.”