Entry and Exit:
Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Saudi Arabia for the most up-to-date information.
Applicants for Saudi visas need to provide fingerprints with their applications.
For information about visa requirements for pilgrims wishing to undertake either the Hajj or Umrah, contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Saudi Arabia or visit the Ministry of Hajj website.
One-time visitors on a single-entry visa do not need an exit permit to depart Saudi Arabia. However, foreigners holding Saudi work and/or residency permits who wish to depart Saudi Arabia need to obtain an exit permit. The request for these permits is submitted to the Saudi Ministry of Interior via the foreigner’s Saudi sponsor.
Persons involved in business or labour disputes or employment dismissal disputes are generally not granted an exit visa until the case is resolved in the courts or abandoned. This may take many months. Saudi sponsors have substantial leverage in such dispute negotiations.
Women and children residing in Saudi Arabia as members of a Saudi household need permission from a male relative to depart Saudi Arabia. Women visitors and residents travelling alone who are not met by sponsors have experienced delays before being allowed to enter the country or to continue on other flights. Since February 2008, a Saudi man who wants to marry a foreign woman must sign a binding agreement to allow her and their children to travel freely to and from Saudi Arabia. This requirement does not apply to marriages before 20 February 2008.
All passengers must declare any cash, transferable monetary documents or precious metals worth more than Saud Riyals 60,000 (approximately AU$15,000) on arrival to and departure from Saudi Arabia. Saudi customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning the importation into the country of banned items such as weapons, and items held to be contrary to the tenets of Islam, such as pork products, alcohol products, pornography (including images of scantily clad people, particularly women), religious books and materials (other than those reflecting orthodox Islam). For more information and declaration forms, visit the Saudi Customs website.
Saudi Arabia requires all travellers under the age of 15 years travelling to Saudi Arabia from countries reporting polio outbreaks to provide proof of up-to-date polio vaccination. Travellers should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Saudi Arabia for further information.
A valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate is required for entry into Saudi Arabia if you have come from or transited an area with a risk of yellow fever.
You may be refused entry to Saudi Arabia if your passport or luggage has evidence of travel to Israel, such as Israeli entry or exit stamps or any stickers with writing in Hebrew.
Make sure your passport has at least six months’ validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.
When you are in Saudi Arabia, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can’t get you out of trouble or out of jail.
In recent years, a number of Australians have been arrested while travelling or living in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi authorities did not report these cases to the Australian Embassy in Riyadh. We strongly recommend you register your travel and contact details with us and keep family and friends updated on your whereabouts.
The Australian Embassy will make every effort to gain consular access to detained Australians at the first available opportunity, however, consular officials are required to obtain prior approval for their visits from the Saudi authorities, and approvals are not granted automatically.
Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.
People suspected of committing an offence in Saudi Arabia may be detained without charge or access to legal assistance for months while waiting for the investigation to conclude and an appearance in court.
People convicted of an offence can expect long jail sentences, public floggings, heavy fines or deportation. Penalties for certain offences, such as trafficking, possessing or using drugs, are severe and include the death penalty. Other offences punishable with the death penalty include murder, adultery, rape and abandoning religion (Islam). Penalties for some criminal offences include corporal punishment and deportation. Theft-related offences may be punished with amputation, while offenders may be sentenced to lashes for other crimes.
Saudi authorities do not permit criticism of the royal family or Islam, and the government prohibits the public practice of religions other than Islam. Preaching religions other than Islam may result in imprisonment and corporal punishment. Strict laws apply to blasphemy and religious pilgrims should avoid making statements or utterances that could be interpreted as blasphemy. People suspected of violating these restrictions have been sentenced to long jail terms and floggings.
Homosexual activity is illegal and penalties include the death penalty.
Australians who might engage in activities that involve any local legal matters, particularly with regard to family law (divorce, child custody and child support) and employment contracts, are strongly advised to seek professional advice and ensure they are aware of their rights, responsibilities and obligations.
All Saudis wishing to marry non-Saudis must get a letter of approval from the Ministry of the Interior.
Foreigners are required to carry their residency card (iqama) or their passport with them at all times. The Saudi authorities have the right to check identification and this can occur regularly, due to the large number of security checkpoints both in the cities and on the roads between cities. Some employers in Saudi Arabia retain the passports of their foreign employees and return them only when the employee needs to travel.
Possession of alcohol may result in imprisonment and corporal punishment. Travellers have been detained on arrival in Saudi Arabia when police have detected the smell of alcohol on their breath.
Women are legally required to wear the abaya, a long black cloak that conceals their body shape, in all public places. The abaya is worn over normal clothing. It is advisable for women to carry a headscarf that can be worn in case of confrontation by the religious police (Muttawa) or a private citizen who takes offence.
Photography of official buildings, including government buildings, military installations, checkpoints, embassies and palaces, and some religious sites is illegal and carries harsh penalties.
Business travellers involved in a commercial dispute with a Saudi company or individual may be prevented from leaving the country until the dispute is resolved.
It is illegal for unmarried couples to live together. Hotels may refuse accommodation to couples unable to provide proof of marriage. Foreign women travelling alone may be refused hotel accommodation, even if they are carrying a letter from their male guardian giving them permission to travel.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.
There are strong Islamic codes of dress and behaviour in Saudi Arabia. Any displays of disrespect for Islam will cause great offence. You should take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.
During Ramadan, eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims.
Men should avoid wearing shorts, or short-sleeved or unbuttoned shirts. For details on legally acceptable clothing for women, please see Local Laws. You should seek advice on what is acceptable clothing before you arrive and take care not to offend.
Foreign women have reported incidents of verbal harassment after being approached by the religious police (Muttawa), usually for not wearing a headscarf. If approached by the religious police, you should remain sensitive to their authority and seek to end the encounter as quickly as possible by covering your hair with a scarf and leaving the area immediately. The religious police may also approach men for wearing shorts in public places.
Unrelated men and women are not permitted to interact in public spaces unless at least one spouse is present. There have been recent cases of the religious police harassing Australian citizens who were sitting in restaurants with friends of the opposite gender. If approached by the religious police, you should remain sensitive to their authority and seek to end the encounter as quickly as possible by leaving the area immediately.
Public displays of affection, including kissing and holding hands, are considered offensive.
Public events are segregated according to gender.
Information for dual nationals
The Saudi Government does not recognise dual nationality. This may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australian/Saudi dual nationals who are arrested or detained.
It is illegal to hold two passports in Saudi Arabia – second passports will be confiscated by the immigration authorities if they are discovered.
Dual nationals page in Australian Government site provides further information for dual nationals.
Where to get help:
In Saudi Arabia, you can obtain consular assistance from the:
Australian Embassy, Riyadh
KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA
Telephone: (966 1) 488 7788
Facsimile: (966 1) 488 7973
If you are travelling to Saudi Arabia, whatever the reason and however long you’ll be there, we strongly recommend you register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency – whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.
In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.