Travellers from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain can now enter the UK without providing biometric information, visiting an application centre, or hand in their passport before the trip.
From June 1st 2022, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain will join other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries in attaining electronic visa waiver status that lasts up to six months, to travel to the United Kingdom.
The decision makes travelling more affordable and efficient from the two GCC states.
In 2014, the UK Home Office launched a new visa waiver scheme for travellers from Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Kuwait.
Holders of the Saudi passport can get an electronic visa waiver within 24 hours for approximately $37 (140 Saudi riyals) Saudi Arabia’s Embassy in the UK reported. That is around a third of the old price of $128 for six months.
“The visa improvements announced today will provide greater security for our citizens while making it easier and cheaper for visitors from the Gulf to travel here for leisure and business,” Home Secretary Priti Patel said.
The two GCC countries can now apply to travel to the UK for purposes ranging from tourism, business study, to medical treatment, UK’s governmental department Home Office announced.
Security and border maintenance will still remain, in order to ensure that the necessary security checks are well performed ahead of travel. The decision will also allow smooth transit moves through the UK border for visitors.
Visitors can enjoy the electronic visa waiver status, granted that they fill out and online waiver for each visit. A small fee will be applied, however it is much more efficient than applying for a visa as there will be no need to give biometric information (photo and fingerprints), attend a visa application centre or provide a passport prior to their travel.
“This visa waiver for Bahrain and Saudi Arabia will better connect the people of our countries and boost economic prosperity,” Patel said.
The move is seen as a way to further cement UK’s diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. “Our friendships with both countries are of great importance, built on shared priorities such as trade, investment and security,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss noted.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson embarked on an official visit to Saudi Arabia in March where he met with the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The two countries agreed to form a Strategic Partnership Council.
Johnson’s trip to the oil rich country came after sanctions were placed on Russian gas in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine.