RIYADH, Nov 18, (AFP): New visa fees will not deter investment in Saudi Arabia, which is easing procedures for foreign business, the commerce minister said Thursday, countering concerns by foreign critics.
Majed al-Qasabi “confirms the charges for entry visas will not affect the flow of foreign investments to the kingdom, which seeks to attract quality investment,” a statement issued to AFP by his spokesman said.
Investors and business people could now get multiple entry visas for up to two years, allowing them “to repeatedly enter the kingdom as required by their interests”, the statement said.
The previous maximum validity was one year.
A visa consultant earlier told AFP the one or two-year visas cost 5,000 and 8,000 riyals ($1,333 and $2,133).
Single-entry business visas are now priced at 2,000 riyals, several times higher than before, the consultant said.
Diplomats and other sources earlier told AFP the new fees, effective last month, risk deterring foreign investment needed to transform Saudi Arabia’s oil-dependent economy.
Diplomats said higher fees would be a particular disincentive for small and medium-sized enterprises.
The changes do not apply to the European Union or United States, while fees for British nationals have only slightly increased, the visa consultant said.
Qasabi, the minister of commerce and investment, heads an executive committee to improve the kingdom’s business environment.
He said plans by authorities to automate the granting of visas to foreign investors are in “their final stages”.
This would cut the time needed to issue the entry permits, he said.