Everything GCC nationals need to know about visa-free travel to the UK in 2023

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Last month, Britain’s Home Office announced that by 2023, Gulf Corporation Council nations will be able to travel to the United Kingdom visa-free, making them the first batch of countries to benefit from the new Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) visa scheme.

Al Arabiya English spoke to an immigration expert based in the United Arab Emirates to weigh in on what the new scheme will entail and what it will mean for GCC nationals.

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“The UAE is one of the UK’s most important trading partners in the region. Through the signing of the Partnership for the Future and the Sovereign Investment Partnership last year, the UAE and UK continue to strengthen collaboration across a variety of areas, and in granting the UAE greater access to the UK through the Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) system, this will further strengthen the economic and diplomatic ties between the two countries,” Nazar Musa, CEO of PRO Partner Group, said.

Under the new scheme, nationals from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain will be eligible for visa-free travel to the UK by 2023, which Musa expects will go live as early as the end of 2022.

“Currently, and before the introduction of ETA system in 2023, citizens from Gulf countries are using the Electronic Visa Waiver system, which is completed online before they plan to visit to the UK. The Electronic Visa Waiver must be completed for each trip,” Musa explained.

He added that the ETA scheme would be more straightforward.

“The ETA scheme is a key part of the UK government’s move to have a fully digital border by the end of 2025. It will broadly apply to passengers visiting or transiting through the UK who do not currently need a visa for short stays, or do not hold another UK visa, and will now be extended to citizens from certain countries.”

The ETA system can be used to meet all GCC nationals’ travel requirements, including tourism, business, or for educational purposes.

Once granted, the ETA will be valid for multiple trips to the UK over an extended period of time, although exact time frames have not been confirmed yet.

“The decision is expected to further cement the UK as a strong tourist destination for Emiratis and will improve bilateral trade between the two countries.”

The Home Office’s decision will bring the requirements of Gulf country nationals in line with other key partners of the UK such as the US and Canada.

The ETA scheme is a key part of the UK government’s move to have a fully digital border by the end of 2025. It will broadly apply to passengers visiting or transiting through the UK who do not currently need a visa for short stays, or do not hold another UK visa.

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