Expat and tourist Gulf States free travel movement visa on the cards

Published:  8 Jan at 6 PM
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A free movement visa valid for travel between all six Gulf states is expected to be rolled out by the middle of 2014.

The Gulf Co-operation Council is ironing out details of the visa, based on the European Union Schengen scheme which allows holders of its visa free movement across all member states except Ireland and the UK. The aim of the visa is to make travel between Saudi, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman far easier by cutting out unnecessary red tape.

The visa will be available to expat business people and tourists wishing to travel between states, and will work through an automated system linking the member countries. It’s expected to make cross-border business far less stressful and should also boost tourism in the region.

Formerly, those wishing to travel from one Gulf state to another had to apply for travel documents, thus slowing down tourism and business growth. The present delay in introducing the new visa is being put down to the lack of a computer network linking border posts and customs departments for information exchange between states.

At the present time, each state has its own system, with ongoing negotiations attempting to slim down the process to aid compatibility with the needs of each border agency. For example, the UK, US, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea as well as residents of the 26 Schengen states enjoy visa-free entry to Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the UAE but not to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Restrictions on the issuing of a free movement visa to any traveller banned from any one Gulf state will be imposed, and the unified visa will only be necessary for tourists and expats. A single-entry visa should have one-month validity, but annual multi-entry visas are expected to be introduced as well.
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