As Saudi tourist numbers surge, UK opens new Jeddah visa center

The number of students heading to the United Kingdom is between 16,000 and 20,000

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The United Kingdom welcomes over 100,000 Saudis every year. About 45,000 applications are from the Kingdom's Western Region, only seeking visas for tourism and education purposes, British Ambassador Sir John Jenkins said here Monday evening.

The ambassador was talking to the press after opening a new visa center in Jeddah. The number of Saudi visitors to the UK, he said, has increased by 20 percent, while hoping that more British nationals could visit Saudi Arabia to explore its vast heritage.

The new visa center in Jeddah, he said, has new upgraded centers "aimed at providing a first class experience to our highly valued Saudi customers.” Britain's popularity as a destination for leisure and business continues to grow, he said.

Steven Dick, a British Embassy spokesman, said the number of students heading to the United Kingdom is between 16,000 and 20,000. “All students have to go through the same visa process whether part of scholarship program or not,” he said.

Asked if they have specific visas for male guardians accompanying female students, the spokesman clarified that male guardians of students going for long-term studies can have dependent visas. For students going for six-month study, their male guardians can accompany them by applying for visit visas.

However, male guardians of female students studying in the UK for more than six months and less than a year can stay with them just for six months. “There is no plan to change it. We are reviewing the policy,” added Dick.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on May 28, 2014.

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