UK grants Middle East citizens easier travel
News - Travel

London is calling as travel to UK becomes easier for Middle Eastern citizens

The United Kingdom government has announced a significant change to visit visa requirements specifically tailored for nationals from the Middle East, particularly the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and Jordan.

The development will have a substantial impact on the travel plans of Middle Eastern visitors to the UK. Under the new regulations, citizens from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, and Jordan will no longer be required to obtain visit visas. Instead, they will be offered an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) valid for two years at a cost of £10 ($12). This means that Gulf travelers and Jordanians will now have entry requirements in line with citizens of the United States and Australia.

Previously, GCC nationals had to apply for a separate £30 ($37) document for each visit to the UK/London. However, with this recent announcement, the UK government aims to streamline the process and make it more affordable for Middle Eastern travelers. The ETA will allow them to visit the UK multiple times over the two-year period, significantly reducing the administrative visa burden.

The scheme will be launched for Qatari nationals in October 2023, and for the remaining GCC countries and Jordan in February 2024. Additionally, the UK government plans to expand this initiative worldwide throughout 2024. This move aligns with the UK’s broader strategy to enhance border security and improve the overall customer experience by digitizing its immigration systems by 2025.

The implementation of the ETA scheme is expected to have a positive impact on the UK’s tourism industry, as visitors from the Gulf states and Jordan contribute significantly to its economy. Last year alone, more than 790,000 Gulf visitors spent £2 billion ($2.5 billion) during their stays in the United Kingdom.

The ETA application process will be simplified and expedited, utilizing a user-friendly mobile phone app. Interested individuals will need to provide biographic and biometric details, including a digital photograph, and answer a set of suitability questions.

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick emphasized that the new ETA scheme offers excellent value for money compared to similar international programs. He stated,

“Visitors from the Gulf states and Jordan make a huge contribution to the UK’s tourism industry, and the new ETA scheme will make it easier and cheaper for them to travel to the UK. This small additional cost to visitors will enable us to bolster the security of the UK border and keep our communities safe.”

Minister of State for the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia Lord Ahmad expressed his delight at the introduction of the Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme and emphasized the strong partnership between the UK and the countries in the region. He stated,

“By cutting costs and visa requirements, the ETA scheme will ensure visitors from the Gulf states and Jordan can enjoy traveling with ease to the UK, boosting business and tourism links between our countries.”

The change in UK’s visa rule change is a significant development for Middle Eastern travelers, especially those from the GCC countries and Jordan.

The implementation of the ETA scheme will simplify and expedite the travel process, making it more accessible and cost-effective for visitors from these regions. By aligning entry requirements with other international visitors, the UK government aims to strengthen its ties with the Middle East and encourage increased tourism and business opportunities between the two regions.

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