New push for UK visit visa waiver for Bahrainis
Manama, August 12, 2014
Legislators in Bahrain are pushing for the country's passport holders to be afforded the same privileges when visiting the UK as nationals from other neighbouring GCC states.
Last year the UK Home Office announced that as of January 1, passport holders from Oman, Qatar and the UAE would be able to visit the UK for up to six months without a visa if they completed what is known as an electronic visa waiver (EVW) form, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
Bahrain's diplomats and holders of "special passports", which are issued to legislators and government officials, can also take advantage of visa-free travel if they hold an EVW but the rest of the country's citizenry cannot.
Shura Council chairman Ali Saleh Al Saleh said it was incomprehensible that citizens of other GCC states should be afforded such a privilege on visiting the UK when passport holders from Bahrain, with its long-standing ties and close relationship with the British, have no such right.
"They now allow diplomats and special passport holders to get the electronic visa waiver," said Al Saleh.
"I agree that Bahrain has a longer and more prominent relationship with the UK than Oman and should have been offered the EVW, but I don't know why we don't have it and they do.
"We, the Shura Council, are trying to get the visa-on-arrival for everyone."
Al Saleh explained that the issue needs to highlighted for something to be done about it.
"I can't understand why we don't have the waiver, but that is an issue that the Foreign Affairs Ministry should be answering," he said.
"The issue is not being discussed and I think it is because it is not being covered by the media."
A spokeswoman for the UK Home Office refused to comment on why Bahrain was not being afforded the same privileges as other GCC member states.
"The electronic visa waiver scheme was introduced for passport holders of Oman, Qatar, and the UAE following an increase in the demand for visas from their nationals over a number of years," she said.
"This is a new scheme, so a sensible phased approach to implementation is being taken to ensure it operates smoothly.
"For all other countries and visa categories, there is currently no change - although we keep all visa arrangements under constant review to take account of changing circumstances."
A spokesman for the UK Embassy in Bahrain said that the decision had nothing to do with them and was purely a Home Office decision.
No one from the Foreign Affairs Ministry was available for comment.
According to figures compiled by the UK's Office of National Statistics as part of its annual International Passenger Survey, Bahrain residents visited the UK an estimated 30,000 times last year spending £2,094 ($3,493.9) per visit on average.
Meanwhile, Qatar residents visited 61,000 times spending £2,930 per visit on average and UAE residents visited 262,000 times spending £2,008 per visit.
An estimated 18,000 visits by Oman residents were recorded, with £4,905 spent per visit on average. - TradeArabia News Service