Bahrain’s expats slam new visa rules
Manama, February 14, 2012
Expatriates in Bahrain have hit back at new immigration rules that will mean people from dozens of countries will no longer be able to obtain visas on arrival.
The changes are being implemented in a bid to prevent violations and ensure equal treatment with countries that enforce strict entry rules on Bahrainis, said Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa.
Visitors from the UK and 26 other European Union countries, as well as the US, Canada, Australia and Japan will be among those affected.
'The minister has ordered that the implementation of such procedures be completed following co-ordination with the relevant bodies,' said a ministry statement.
'This comes following the violation of facilities by some citizens from other countries when they tried to obtain an entry visa at various border points.'
The new rules caused alarm among the expatriates, who said it would have a negative impact on the economy.
An Australian citizen, who only wanted to be known as Christina, said the tourist visa on arrival policy was one of the best things about Bahrain.
'It makes it so easy and convenient to come to Bahrain, friends can come from Dubai at the drop of a hat, but now this just puts a stop to all that,' she said.
'By introducing this idea, Bahrain is slowly closing its doors to visitors, which at this precise time, is not what the country needs. As a trial, they could perhaps increase the price of getting a visa at the airport, but to close the option of getting one as you land altogether will be damaging. People just won't come here.'
A German resident echoed her feelings, saying Bahrain needed more visitors and the money from tourism.
'Bahrain needs visitors, and not just those from the GCC who can get into the country without a visa anyway,' said the man, who only wanted to be known as Thomas.
'Also what about foreign businessmen coming here for short periods of time for meetings, do they have to apply in advance as well? The ease of getting a visa at the airport was so hassle-free and made the process of coming here much quicker.”
'I think if people have to wait for applications to be approved or even rejected will put people off choosing Bahrain as a destination,” he added.
A British resident, who did not want to be named, was also puzzled by the sudden change in rules.
'The process to get a residence permit takes such a long time, so what about those people who have to leave the country every three months to renew their visa,' she said.
'Does that mean that such people will be stranded outside the country while they wait for their visa applications to be processed? Before they start bringing in such changes, the process of getting a residence visa must be speeded up, to prevent a huge delay and some angry people who cannot get into the country.'
However, new rules were welcomed by Bahraini Ibrahim Hassan, who said that it was only fair that foreigners go through the same process of visa applications as Bahrainis do when they wish to travel abroad.
'It is a good idea, why should we have to pay so much and wait for a visa when people from the same country can enter Bahrain so easily,' he said.
'However, while I do support the change in rules, I do think that introducing it now and for citizens from all countries that require visa applications from Bahrainis is not the most ideal time. It should come into effect slowly and steadily.'
British Embassy officials declined to comment, saying they only became aware of the new directives yesterday morning. – TradeArabia News Service
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