GCC to introduce EU-style visa in 2014
Riyadh, December 21, 2013
The GCC is planning to introduce an European-style Schengen visa by the first half of 2014 that will enable the Gulf-based expats and foreign businessmen to move easily across the borders of the member states, said a report.
The GCC interior ministers are working on the details of the project, which will help boost tourism and trade in the region, and cut out lengthy bureaucratic delays, reported the Arab News.
Media reports earlier this year the GCC officials were planning a single-entry visa for tourists valid for a month besides multiple-entry visas that could be issued for one year based on certain conditions including the presentation of evidence showing sufficient financial resources.
"The Gulf countries are currently working on the technical details of the project, especially an automated system that will link the member countries," styated the report citing Abdul Rahman Al-Zamil, the president of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Al Zamil urged GCC officials to speed up the project, and said the single visa would facilitate the movement of about 15 million foreign workers working in the Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia.
"The move is significant keeping in mind the growing number of foreigners visiting the Gulf states for business and tourism," he added.
Expatriates living and working in the GCC represent 31 per cent of the Gulf population. Saudi, which has the most foreign workers despite stringent visa regulations, is home to about 9 million foreigners, said the report.
On the benefits of single visa, Al-Zamil said: "The introduction of the visa will have impressive benefits for the Gulf economy and will boost the income of citizens, mainly in the tourism sector." Shahir A. Hamid, a local travel agent, welcomed the move."