E-visa uncertainty affects pilgrims


Rozina Islam | Update: 19:44, Aug 17, 2015

Many pilgrims are not being able to perform hajj this year due to certain unresolved complications regarding online visa applications.
Almost half of the aspirant hajj pilgrims did not receive Saudi visa due to errors in the online form and photo submission system. Family members who applied together for visa, are facing the most trouble, as some of them are receiving visas while the others aren’t.
On Sunday, the first hajj flight of Bangladesh Biman took pilgrims who were scheduled to fly two or three days later just to fill up the seats. Half of the pilgrims who were originally scheduled for Sunday’s flight did not get Saudi visa due to the mistakes in their online visa application. The flight finally left for Jeddah on Sunday morning with around 400 pilgrims.
The government fears that if the Saudi government keeps delaying the visas, many pilgrims of the same family will have to take different flights. Moreover, many pilgrims will not be able to perform hajj at all, and the pilgrims will have to pay almost twice the original plane fare. The government might lose around Tk 5 crore.
A total of 1,01,758 people from Bangladesh are expected to perform Hajj this year. Of them, about 2,700 would be travelling under the government’s management. Biman Bangladesh Airlines would transport 51,000 pilgrims.
The air fare for the pilgrims has been set at $ 1,515 dollars for economy class and $2,500 for business class. Other taxes would be added as well.
The ministry of religious affairs has sent a letter to the Saudi Embassy in Dhaka on Sunday, requesting to speed up the visa procedures.
Online visa application, mostly known as E- visa system has been introduced to the pilgrims of Bangladesh for the first time this year.
Religious affairs secretary Chowdhury Md Babul Hasan admitted the complications, but blamed the Saudi authorities as well. “The Saudi Embassy is being quite uncooperative. Yesterday, they sent back almost 250 passports without any visa. Most of the passport holders who did not get the visa are government officials,” he said.
In the letter to the Saudi Embassy in Dhaka, the religious affairs secretary said the pilgrims who are going to perform hajj under the government’s management, already have their timeline scheduled- including renting houses in Makkah and Madina.

However, half of the pilgrims have not received Saudi visa on their passports. He asked for the Saudi government’s cooperation so that these pilgrims can quickly get their visas.
The scenario is just the same for the pilgrims who have arranged to travel under private, the secretary said.
Civil aviation and tourism minister Rashed Khan Menon said, “If our hajj flights get canceled, or have to leave empty, the entire flight schedule will be disrupted. In that case, both the government and the pilgrims will face loss.”

According to the religious affairs ministry website, the visa printing system of the Saudi embassy is not supporting some of the authorized photos of the E-visa system. The pilgrims have been advised to follow the rules of the Saudi embassy about photo submission. They have also been advised to use Firefox internet browser to upload photos.