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UK announces major visa change for Gulf countries to boost weak economy

June 7, 2023 at 1:33 pm

An older copy of the British National (Overseas) passport, left with a newer copy arranged in Hong Kong, China, on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021 [Paul Yeung/Bloomberg via Getty Images]

The UK government has announced major changes to visa requirements for the six countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Jordan. Nationals of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, UAE and Jordan will be offered an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) lasting two years for just £10 ($12), according to a report in Arabian Business. The change will mean that Gulf travellers and Jordanians will have entry requirements in line with citizens of the US and Australia.

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Under the previous system, nationals from the seven Arab countries had to apply for a £30 ($37) document for every separate visit. The new system announced by the UK government yesterday will require them to pay $12 to apply for an ETA, which will allow them to visit the UK multiple times over a two-year period.

The scheme is set to launch for Qatari nationals in October 2023, and for the rest of the GCC states and Jordan in February 2024 ahead of a worldwide expansion throughout 2024.

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Boosting the UK economy is a major factor in the change. “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,” Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said. “The cost of an ETA will be one of the best value in the world compared to similar international schemes. This small additional cost to visitors will enable us to bolster the security of the UK border and keep our communities safe.”

Gulf visitors are highly valuable to the UK economy. The more than 790,000 visitors from that region spent £2 billion ($2.5 billion) during their stays in the UK last year.