Passport holders of the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman will no longer need a visa to travel to the UK starting from next year.
The UK government has said on its website that the country’s first ever electronic visa waiver scheme will be launched early next year “to make it cheaper and easier for business travelers and tourists to visit the UK from Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.”
The new electronic visa waiver (EVW) will be available online free of charge and can be obtained by travelers up to 48 hours before departure. They will no longer need to provide biometric data, attend an appointment at a visa application center or hand in passports prior to travel.
The waiver applies to visit, business or tourist visas of up to six months of stay. Students planning to go the UK for work or study will still need to apply for visas in the normal way.
“I am very pleased that the British government is enabling easier access to the UK for Emiratis,” said Dominic Jermey, British ambassador to the UAE, according to the Abu Dhabi-based The National.
“As you know, the UK is sometimes known as the ‘Eighth Emirate’. The UK and UAE share many close ties and our nationals are frequent visitors to each other’s shores. I look forward to welcoming many more Emiratis to the UK.”
British Ambassador to Qatar Nicholas Hopton, meanwhile, said: “I am delighted that this new scheme, will make it so much easier for Qataris to visit the United Kingdom. We look forward to welcoming even more visitors from Qatar to the country so many regard as their second home. This change will improve the service the UK offers to Qataris and responds to concerns raised with us by the Qatari Government.”
The UK government said the Visa applications from UAE, Oman and Qatar are growing year on year. In 2012 there were 30,148 applicants in the UAE, 20,490 in Qatar, 12,596 in Oman, and 63,780 in Kuwait.
It said a record 530,000 visitors from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states went to Britain in 2012. Gulf tourists injected an estimated $2 billion into the UK economy that year.
“Visitors from the GCC spend an average of $3,417 per person per visit which is significantly above the spend from other country nationals, the government reported, quoting VisitBritain.