GCC nationals will no longer need a visa to visit the UK starting next year, it has been announced.
They will come under the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme, a privilege so far accorded only to American and Canadian citizens. The move is expected to bolster UK security and streamline border procedures, making it easier for visitors from the region to visit the UK for business or tourism.
The ETA scheme is an important part of the UK government’s move to fully digitalise its borders by the end of 2025.The system will operate using an online application which is checked against a variety of security databases, and if the person has not committed a crime they will be given travel authorisation.
If the person has committed a crime, the application will go for further review to decide whether or not to allow them travel authorisation. The concession will broadly apply to passengers visiting, or transiting through, the UK who do not currently need a visa for short stays, or do not currently hold another UK visa.
The exact details of the scheme, including exactly when it will be launched and how much it will cost, have not been announced.
"This move means that Gulf States will be among the first countries in the world to benefit from ETAs and visa-free travel to the UK," said Home Secretary Priti Patel. "Our number one priority is the security of the UK border and by launching ETAs we can ensure that everyone wishing to travel to the UK has permission to do so in advance of travel and refuse those who pose a threat."
UK ETA holders will simply need to scan the passport they used to apply on arrival at the border; the entry permit will be verified electronically.
The scheme enhances the UK government’s ability to screen travellers and stop those who pose a threat by ensuring everyone wishing to travel to the UK (except British and Irish citizens) has permission to do so in advance.
It is a straight-forward application process and will act as an additional security measure allowing the government to block threats from entering the UK, whilst also providing individuals with more assurance at an earlier point in time about their ability to travel.
Once granted, an ETA will be valid for multiple trips over an extended period. Until the ETA is rolled out, travellers from the Gulf can continue to use Electronic Visa Waivers which allow individuals to complete an online waiver for each visit to the UK.
The system which started this month allows the holder to travel to the UK without obtaining a visa provided they complete an online waiver for each visit.
A small fee is charged, and it is faster than applying for a visa as there is no need to provide biometric information (photo and fingerprints), visit a visa application centre or submit their passport ahead of travel.
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