What is the change? Following recent changes that combined businessmen visit, commercial visit and work visit visas into one category, Letters of Invitation (LOIs) now have a new format.

What does the change mean? The new visa is called the Business Visit visa. Previously issued LOIs are no longer being accepted by Saudi consulates, and the new LOIs no longer state whether they are for business, commercial or work visit visas, nor do they state the permissible activities.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Business Visit visas.
  • Business impact: To avoid delays, employers should ensure that the LOI follows the correct format.
  • Next steps: Employees may need to re-apply if their LOI was issued before implementation of the visa change.

Background: The authorities previously combined the visa type into a single Business Visit visa; however, there were still two types of LOI that distinguished between commercial and work visit visas. These LOIs have now also been combined into a single category.

 Analysis & Comments: Employers and affected employees should be aware that the categories of permissible activities have not changed. As such, employees should be careful to keep their activities strictly within those stated when they applied for the LOI. These changes appear to have the aim of reducing the ability of companies to rely on hiring expats through work visit visas, and to rely more on work residence visas (Iqamas). Furthermore, all LOIs now go through a process of pre-approval by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and approval is at the ministry’s sole discretion. This has not impacted processing times but does mean that those from restricted countries and female applicants under 30 no longer need a separate pre-approval.

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