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Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by a king chosen from and by members of the Al Saud family.  The king rules through royal decrees issued in conjunction with the Council of Ministers, and with advice from the Consultative Council.  The king appoints members of both councils.  Islamic law is the basis of the authority of the monarchy and provides the foundation of the country’s conservative customs and social practices.  Saudi Arabia has a modern and well-developed infrastructure, and facilities for travelers are widely available.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Saudi Arabia for additional information.

Saudi Arabia

   
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 COUNTRY OVERVIEW
Country Name: Saudi Arabia
Continent: Middle East
Capital City: Riyadh
Boundary Countries:

Iraq 814 km, Jordan 744 km, Kuwait 222 km, Oman 676 km, Qatar 60 km, UAE 457 km, Yemen 1,458 km

Recommended Hospitals in Capital:

King Faisal Specialist Hospital (Riyadh), Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Mishari Hospital (Riyadh), GNP Hospital (Jeddah).

Main Cities:

Riyadh, Jeddah, Dhahran, Mecca, Medina, Ha il, Duba, Tabuk, Ra’ s al Khafji

Country Size: 2,149,690 sq km
Population: 27,019,731 note: includes 5,576,076 non-nationals

 

COUNTRY GENERAL INFORMATION
Language:

Arabic.

Currency: Saudi riyal (SAR)
Predominant Religions:

Muslim 100%

National Holidays: Unification of the Kingdom, 23 September (1932)
Economic Status:

This is an oil-based economy with strong government controls over major economic activities.

Security:

Land Forces (Army), Navy, Air Force, Air Defense Force, National Guard, Ministry of Interior Forces (paramilitary)

US Presence:
U.S. Embassy in Riyadh
P.O. Box 94309
Riyadh 11693
Saudi Arabia
Telephone: 966-11-4883800
U.S. Consulate General in Dhahran
P.O. Box 38955
Dhahran Airport 31942
Saudi Arabia
Phone: (966-13) 330-3200
U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah
Falastin
Al-Hamra’a
Jeddah 23323, Saudi Arabia
Phone: +966 12 667 0080
Document Requirements:

A passport valid for at least six months and a visa are required for entry.  Visas are issued for business and work, to visit close relatives, and for transit and religious visits by Muslims.  Visas for tourism are issued only for approved tour groups following organized itineraries.  Airport and seaport visas are not available.  All visas require a sponsor, can take several months to process, and must be obtained prior to arrival.  Effective May 2008, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs agreed to issue 5-year multiple-entry visas to American visitors and students.  All Saudi Embassies have the authority to issue the 5-year visas, but only the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C.  appears to be doing so at this time.  In the past, American citizens have reported being refused a Saudi visa because their passports reflected travel to Israel or indicated that they were born in Israel, although this has not happened recently.  Women visitors and residents are required to be met by their sponsor upon arrival.  Women who are traveling alone and are not met by sponsors have experienced delays before being allowed to enter the country or to continue on other flights.

Women considering relocating to Saudi Arabia should be keenly aware that women and children residing in Saudi Arabia as members of a Saudi household (including adult American-citizen women married to Saudi men, adult American-citizen women who are the unmarried daughters of Saudi fathers, and American-citizen boys under the age of 21 who are the sons of Saudi fathers) require the permission of the Saudi male head of their household to leave the country.  Married women require their husband’s permission to depart the country, while unmarried women and children require the permission of their father or male guardian.  The U.S. Embassy can intercede with the Saudi government to request exit permission for an adult American woman (wife or daughter of a Saudi citizen), but there is no guarantee of success, or even of timely response.  Mothers are not able to obtain permission for the departure of minor children without the father’s agreement.

On February 20, 2008, a new regulation went into effect requiring Saudi men seeking the mandatory permission from their government to marry foreign women to sign a binding document granting irrevocable permission for foreign-born spouses and children of those foreign spouses to travel freely and unhindered in and out of Saudi Arabia.  However, this regulation is not retroactive.  Under Saudi law, women married to Saudi men prior to the effective date of these new regulations still need their husbands’ permission to leave Saudi Arabia, and their children still require their fathers’ permission to leave the country.

Visitors who overstay their visit in the Kingdom are subject to a fine of 10,000 Saudi Riyals (or $2,667) and incarceration pending deportation proceedings.  Americans should request clarification from Saudi Immigration authorities upon arrival as to the permitted length of stay.   A common mistake among visitors is confusing the validity of their Saudi visa with the permitted length of stay in the Kingdom.  The U.S. Mission in Saudi Arabia has received several reports of Americans fined for inadvertently overstaying their permitted time in the Kingdom.  It can take up to two weeks to resolve such an error with Saudi Immigration authorities. Travelers can now check their permitted length of stay online at the Visa Validity Service website by typing in their passport number and Saudi visa number.

Americans entering Saudi Arabia on visitor visas normally do not need an exit permit but may be prevented from departing the country if they are involved in a legal dispute.  American citizens involved in labor disputes or employment dismissal will not be granted an exit permit prior to court resolution or abandonment of the case by the American citizen.  Saudi sponsors have substantial leverage in the negotiations and may block departure or bar future employment in the country.

All travelers to and from the Kingdom carrying cash amounts, transferable monetary instruments, or precious metals exceeding 60,000 Saudi Riyals (or $16,000) are required to declare them to Saudi Customs.  Customs forms are available at all Saudi ports or downloadable from the Saudi Arabian Customs Office website.  Failure to declare or provide accurate information can lead to prosecution, legal penalties and confiscation.

Visitors to Saudi Arabia should generally obtain a meningitis vaccination prior to arrival.  A medical report or physical examination is required to obtain work and residence permits.

Residents in Saudi Arabia who are departing the country must obtain an exit permit prior to leaving and an exit/reentry permit if they intend to return to Saudi Arabia.  The Saudi sponsor’s approval is required for exit permits.

Saudi Arabia has not imposed HIV/AIDS travel restrictions on any particular group of travelers.  All travelers who are coming to work in the Kingdom must undergo a medical exam and present a medical report confirming that they are free from contagious diseases, including HIV/AIDS.  Any worker testing positive for HIV/AIDS would not be allowed to work in the Kingdom.  Please inquire directly with the Embassy of Saudi Arabia before you travel.

Note for Dual Nationals:  Several American citizens of Saudi descent have encountered difficulty leaving the Kingdom after entering on a Saudi Laissez Passer rather than a Saudi or U.S. passport.  If an American citizen has a claim to Saudi citizenship, Saudi missions abroad sometimes propose to issue a Laissez Passer to facilitate travel into the Kingdom.  This only leads to difficulties when the traveler wishes to depart the Kingdom, however, as the traveler must first obtain a Saudi passport.  American citizens of Saudi descent should understand that Saudi nationality is not confirmed quickly or easily, and documentary requirements encountered in Saudi Arabia may differ from those described by Saudi missions abroad.  On average, the processing time for a Saudi passport in these cases has been six to twelve months.  Once you are in Saudi Arabia and have started the passport process, you cannot depart.  Obtaining a U.S. passport at the Embassy will not help, as the Saudi government may refuse to recognize the validity of a U.S. passport presented by a Saudi passport applicant for travel out of Saudi Arabia, if it was not also used to enter Saudi Arabia. We strongly recommend that American citizens who also have Saudi nationality enter Saudi Arabia with either a Saudi passport or U.S. passport and Saudi visa, but not with a Laissez Passer.

For further information on entry/exit requirements, travelers may contact the following Saudi government offices in the U.S.:

  • Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, 601 New Hampshire Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20037, telephone (202) 342-3800.
  • Saudi Consulate General in Houston:  5718 Westheimer, Suite 1500, Houston, TX 77057, tel: (713) 785-5577
  • Saudi Consulate General in Los Angeles: Sawtelle Courtyard Building, 2045 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025, tel: (310) 479-6000
  • Saudi Consulate General in New York:  866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 480, New York, NY 10017, tel: (212) 752-2740

Visit the Embassy of Saudi Arabia website for the most current visa information.

Major Airports:

Airports: 208, Airports w/paved runways: 73

Servicing Airlines:
Risks and Precautions:

US Dept. of State Travel Warning, updated 23 December 2010
http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_932.html

The Department of State authorized the return of all family members to US Embassy Riyadh, US Consulate General Jeddah, and US Consulate General Dhahran, but continues to warn US citizens about the security situation in Saudi Arabia and reminds US citizens of recommended security precautions. The Department of State urges US citizens to carefully consider the risks of traveling to Saudi Arabia. There is an ongoing security threat due to the continued presence of terrorist groups, some affiliated with al Qaida, who may target Western interests, housing compounds, hotels, shopping areas, and other facilities where Westerners congregate. These terrorist groups may employ a wide variety of tactics and also may target Saudi government facilities and economic/commercial targets within the Kingdom. This updates and replaces the Travel Warning issued February 18, 2010, to note the authorized return of US government dependents to all posts in Saudi Arabia.

The last major terrorist attack directed against foreign nationals was in 2007. Significant measures since then by the Saudi government have greatly improved the security environment throughout the Kingdom. The Department of State has since authorized the return of all family members to US Embassy Riyadh, US Consulate General Jeddah, and US Consulate General Dhahran. While these changes reflect a continued improvement in the security climate in Saudi Arabia, particularly in the Eastern Province and Riyadh, it is important to note that there remains an ongoing security threat. US citizens who visit Saudi Arabia are strongly encouraged to take precautions when selecting hotels or housing compounds to ensure that stringent security measures are provided. In addition, US citizens are always advised to be aware of their surroundings when traveling or visiting commercial establishments frequented by Westerners. US citizens are also advised to keep a low profile, vary times and routes of travel, exercise caution while driving, entering or exiting vehicles, and ensure that travel documents and visas are current and valid.

If the security threat changes or specific threats affecting US citizens are discovered, this information will be made available through the Warden System and US Mission websites. Warden messages can be found on theU.S. Embassy Riyadh website.

All travelers are encouraged to enroll in theDepartment of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive the latest travel updates and information. Updated information on travel and security in Saudi Arabia may also be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 from within the United States and Canada or, from outside the United States and Canada, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays.) For additional information, consult the Department of State's Country Specific Information for Saudi Arabia and Worldwide Caution. For after-hours emergencies, US citizens may telephone the Embassy in Riyadh at (966) (1) 488-3800, the Consulate in Jeddah at (966) (2) 667-0080, or the Consulate in Dhahran at (966) (3) 330-3200.

Mortality Statistics:

Infant MR total: 12.81 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth: TOTAL 75.67 years (male 73.66/female 77.78)
 

Immunization Indicators:

Required: DURING THE HAJJ- proof of vaccination against meningitis & polio.
Recommended: Malaria, Hep A & B, Rabies, Typhoid, Boosters: tetanus-diptheria, measles & polio as needed.

Infectious Disease Concerns:

Malaria risk in Al Bahah, Al Madinah, Asir, Jizan, Makkah, Najran, and Tabuk Province. No risk in urban areas of Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, and Ta’if.

Overall Quality of Medical Services:

Good modern medical care and medicines are available in several hospitals and health centers in the major cities of Saudi Arabia, but only adequate medical care may be available in the outlying areas. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.

Providers in Network:
Direct Payment: 1
Referrals: 207
View Network Providers
Recent Medical Threats/ Concerns/Warnings:

Note additional risk of infectious disease during the Hajj. Refer to “Immunization Indicators” for more detail.

Communications Info:

Country Code:  +966
Internet Code:  .sa

 



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