Cape Town - The Saudi Arabian visa portal application system has reportedly been changed to allow Umrah pilgrims to travel once a year without paying SR2 000 (about R7 000).

The reported amendment has come into effect from Thursday (Dec 1).

Only travellers visiting the Kingdom for a second or subsequent times in a Hijri calendar (Islamic calendar) will be liable to pay the SR2 000 fee.

Travel agents have confirmed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) system has been amended and they have tested it.

However, there has has not been any official announcement from the Saudi government as yet.

The Saudi government implemented the SR2 000 visa fee a few weeks ago causing an international outcry. Only one free visa for three years was originally allowed.

Adapted from a press release for IOL