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Passports for Saudi women now in 15 mins

Riyadh, Aug 26 (IANS) Women in Saudi Arabia were overjoyed when they discovered that procedures for obtaining their passports would now be completed within 15 minutes, a media report said.

Speaking to the Saudi Gazette, Maj. Gen. Abed Al-Harthy, Director of Passports in the Makkah Region, told the Saudi Gazette that the number of Saudis applying to obtain a passport was on the rise on a daily basis, and women were on the forefront. 

"All the passport centres are engaged in carrying out the order to issue passport to all those above the age of 21 years without any restrictions." 

He pointed out that in the past, the system was different where only men above the age of 21 were allowed to travel without a permit, but women required the presence of a guardian (husband, father or brother).

Now for women above the age of 21, there were no such requirements.

One female applicant told the Saudi Gazette: "The procedures were easy and simple as I got delivery of my passport within quarter of an hour."

Another woman said: "Now I can renew my passport myself after the new amendments came into force." 

Meanwhile, the Directorate General of Passports has announced that it would not send any text messages to head of the family in the event of the travel of a woman above the age of 21 years.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia ended its travel restrictions for women, who were earlier required to take permission from a "male guardian" to travel or obtain a passport. 

Previously women without a passport of their own were instead given a page in their male guardians' passports, making it impossible for them to travel without guardian accompaniment.