Visiting the Gulf States for expats and holidaymakers is about to become a lot easier with the introduction of a free travel area.
Senior officials are ready to implement cross-border travel between the six Gulf States without the need for visas.
Millions of expats live and work in the states, plus the region is a favourite holiday destination for hundreds of thousands more each year.
The Gulf States comprise Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar.
The no-visa travel scheme is part of a wider plan by the Gulf States to make the region a free travel area for 35 foreign nations who will be granted easy access.
Gulf State railway
A £10 billion trans-Gulf State railway linking major cities across the region is also under construction, and dumping the need for visas to cross borders will make the service more efficient as well.
“Dispensing with the need for visas with the Gulf State area will boost local economies and encourage tourism,” said Salah bin Suloum, assistant director general for the Entry Permits Section at the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai (GDRFA-Dubai).
“Each state already imposes similar security and a visa check, so extending the scheme within the region seems a sensible next step.”
He explained the hold-up in implementing the go-anywhere visas was down to security fears within individual states which have now been overcome.
No date has been put on the start of the scheme.
Visa portal glitches
Meanwhile, a new online portal in Dubai for processing visas for workers in the technology, electronic commerce and media free zone is leading to delays after a flood of applications.
The authorities admit the electronic system is experiencing ‘significant delays’ in issuing visas.
“The portal will speed up how applications are processed and the issue of documents, but we have encountered some problems so far due to a huge volume of applications,” said a spokesman.
The portal opened in October, but many companies have found the system has disrupted renewing visas and taking on new staff.
The new portal means no personal applications are required and companies will have renewal reminders issued, plus a facility to apply for 12-month residency permits and well as entry visas.
However, while the system is struggling to cope, companies have been told to make alternative arrangements for visa applications.