RIYADH – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is setting into motion an electronic fingerprinting system in embassies and consulates that has been successfully employed by the General Administration for Passports to link up the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
The electronic link-up system is expected to help combat visa forgery and speed up the processing of visas.
Muhammad Al-Salloum, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Consular Affairs, said that the program, launched Wednesday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Riyadh, was in its first stage which deals with business visas and would be implemented on Nov. 29.
Recipients of business visit visas, whether on paper or electronically, will be permitted to stay in the country for one month, while only electronic transactions will be accepted for business visas from Dec. 29.
Al-Salloum added that the ministry had completed 70% of its visit visa program, but that applicants for family visit, Haj, Umrah or medical treatment visas would have to submit documents to the ministry personally, a measure that would soon be made unnecessary with the introduction of the electronic visa applications.
While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working with the Ministry of Interior on the issuing of visas, there has still been no exchange of information between the two ministries concerning the loss of passports by Saudi nationals abroad, but Al-Salloum assured that the two ministries were in contact with officials from the National Information Center, an affiliate of the Ministry of Interior, to resolve the issue.
As to the delay in granting visit visas to businessmen, Al-Salloum said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had a permanent representative at the Saudi Arabian General Investments Authority to coordinate and submit visa applications to the ministry, which in turn grants the visas to the authority.
Al-Salloum said the ministry issued a total of 7.2 million visas last year, and that 300 cases of forged visas for private companies had been detected. Most of the forgeries, he added, were of chamber of commerce seals.
65,000 commercial visas were issued during the same period, along with 600 business visas, while 6,000 tourist visas were granted to applicants from 36 countries. – Okaz/SG