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30 November 2023

Fingerprint, face scan, 'everytime' for Saudi visa

By Parag Deulgaonkar

Even if you have been to Saudi Arabia and have already gone through the biometric enrollment in the UAE, you will still have to undertake the biometric process every time you apply for a new visa.

“One has to give his fingerprints and facial image every time he/she applies for any kind of Saudi visa,” Raghu Athimooam, Chief Operating Officer, VFS Tasheel, said on Monday.

The biometric process became mandatory from Monday. VFS Tasheel has been mandated to handle biometric enrollment services in 33 countries and has already started the service in Bahrain, Japan, South Korea, Netherland and Switzerland.

There are, however, a few exemptions to the norm: Such as applicants applying under the “Diplomatic” visa category, applicants for whom the embassy has requested the visa service centre to exempt in writing (prior to the appointment date) and applicants who cannot do the biometrics enrollment due to a medical condition (medical certificate required).

Asked if there were plans to introduce mobile biometric enrollment service, Athimooam said: “We are working on it. We are looking at taking the mobile enrollment service to a place and keeping it there for some time or to any of the VVIPs. We are working on it, but it will take.”

So what happens in case of service disruption caused due to the Ministry’s servers being down for an hour or more, VFS Tasheel official says they will accept the application and forward it to the Ministry, stating the reason.

“The applicant, if granted a visa, will have to do the biometric enrollment at the border,” Athimooam revealed.

The service charge for biometric process for all categories, including Hajj and Umrah visa is Dh17.

Fees are subject to change as per exchange rate agreed with Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If there is a change in fees applicable on date of appointment, the new fees will be collected in the centre, according to VFS Tasheel.


Face scan, fingerprint must for Haj, Umrah pilgrims to Saudi from today

Biometric enrollment has become mandatory for all visa applicants to Saudi Arabia from today (May 26, 2014).
All UAE residents, who are preparing to perform Hajj, Umrah or business visits, to Saudi Arabia will have to visit the centres of VFS Tasheel, the company mandated for managing and administrating the visa process, in the UAE to give their fingerprints and facial image when applying for a visa.
Saudi Arabia instituted biometric requirements in an effort to ease the travel process for individuals and the process is mandatory for people aged between 12 and 70 years of age.
“The whole process of giving one’s fingerprint and having a photograph taken will take not take more than three to five minutes,” Madhan Gopalakrishnan, Chief Executive Officer, VFS Tasheel, said.
VFS Tasheel has been mandated to handle biometric enrollment services in 33 countries. The company has already started the service in Bahrain, Japan, South Korea, Netherland and Switzerland.
“The UAE is the sixth country to join the list. We will be rolling out the biometric system in a phased manner. The move is taken to ensure that the waiting period for pilgrims and visitors is reduced,” said Kannaiyan Shankear, Regional Head Operations - Middle East, VFS Tasheel.
Hajj and Umrah pilgrims will have to book an appointment with their travel agents, take an appointment online and then come for fingerprint and facial scan at the local centres.
All applicants are required to carry their original passports when coming to record their biometrics, which will involve a fee of Dh17.
“We have a total capacity to process 3,800 applications in the UAE, which is enough to meet the peak capacity during the period of Haj and Umrah,” Shankear added.
He disclosed that none of the information was stored by the company and was collected solely on the Ministry of Foreign Affair’s software.
During the Haj and Umrah, VFS Tasheel processes 55,000 applications a month from the UAE. On a daily basis, the The company processes 1,000 “full purpose” visa, which are other than Haj and Umrah applications.

 “The UAE stands fifth on the list of visa applications for Saudi Arabia with nearly 600,000 applications per year. Egypt takes the first place followed by Pakistan, Indonesia and Philippine,” said Raghu Athimooam, Chief Operating Officer, VFS Tasheel.