Smart cards to make GCC travel easy
Manama, June 1, 2010
GCC citizens could soon travel between the six member countries with just electronic identity cards, instead of passports, it has emerged.
They will be able to use smart cards issued by their own countries to pass through electronic gates at GCC airports.
A trial system is currently operating between Bahrain and Qatar, with plans to link databases throughout the GCC.
Long-term plans include allowing similar facilities for expatriates, said General Directorate of Nationality, Passports and Residence assistant under-secretary Shaikh Ahmed bin Isa Al Khalifa.
Talks are also underway to create a joint GCC visa, so that if someone acquires a visa to enter one country, it will also be valid to enter the other member states.
Shaikh Ahmed was speaking at the 25th Meeting for GCC's Passport, Nationalities and Immigration General Managers, which opened yesterday at the Taj Ballroom in the Sheraton Bahrain Hotel and Towers.
"Every GCC country has an e-gate and most of them have an electronic ID project that has been used as means of identity within the country," he stated.
"The eventual step will be to combine efforts, easing the process at the borders by having each country's smart card usable in the other countries' gates."
Bahrain is running a trial scheme with Qatar and the UAE is expected to be the next in line, stated Shaikh Ahmed.
"Any GCC country that has established the smart ID card and issued it to all citizens can be linked together," he said.
Plans for similar cards for expatriates to travel between GCC countries are being studied in collaboration with Bahrain's Central Informatics Organisation, said Shaikh Ahmed.
"We will then present the outcome to decision-makers and see what the next step will be," he added.
The idea of a unified visa for the GCC region is also being discussed at the three-day meeting.
"The unified visa is a topic of annual discussion," stated Shaikh Ahmed.
"There is already such an initiative between Oman and Qatar and now Kuwait wants to tie with them."
Bahrain is already involved in similar discussions with Kuwait.
"The agreements are not implemented yet and we are still studying the cases of other countries which tried it," said Shaikh Ahmed.
The meeting will continue until tomorrow and is headed by Brigadier General Adnan Abdullah Al Kandary, who is the head of the Kuwaiti delegation.
"We would like to thank our sister country Bahrain and especially His Majesty King Hamad for our warm welcome," stated Al Kandary.
"We would also like to welcome our fellow brothers from the GCC to this meeting,which aims to simplify the procedures of movement for our citizens between GCC countries."-TradeArabia News Service