The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are now a step closer to launching a game-changing Schengen-style visa to boost regional tourism.
Last week, during a meeting of GCC ministers in Muscat, Salim bin Mohammed Al Mahrouqi, Minister of Heritage and Tourism in Oman, announced that the unified visa has been approved unanimously.
Exploring the Gulf Bloc with a Single Visa:
The single visa is a tourist’s ticket to explore the six-member Gulf bloc – the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait.
Multiple Gulf ministers and top officials, including those in the UAE, have revealed in the past few months that the unified visa would be launched “soon.”
What is a unified GCC visa? Like a Schengen visa that gives tourists access to several European countries, the GCC wants to implement a visa to let visitors hop between countries that make up the Gulf bloc.
Currently, tourists must get visas for the six Gulf countries separately, even though the destinations are connected via air and road.
Economic and Job Opportunities:
How will the scheme help? In May this year, a top UAE official highlighted that tourists — especially long-haul ones — would benefit from a unified package to visit different countries in the GCC. The scheme will also increase their length of stay and boost tourist spending.
Expected Launch and Further Details:
When will the visa be launched? Omani media quoted Minister Mahrouqi saying the scheme would be launched “very soon.”
A timeline was not specified, but Oman Observer reported that it will be presented at a meeting of regional interior ministers in November in Muscat.
More details about the visa scheme, including cost and duration, are expected to be announced by the end of the year.
Visa Accessibility for GCC Residents:
Can residents of GCC countries apply for the visa? Currently, citizens of GCC countries enjoy visa-free travel between the member states.
It’s not immediately clear if expatriates residing in these countries can or would need to apply for the unified visa once it’s implemented.
However, last month, Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri, UAE Minister of Economy, said the GCC is considering a single visa system that will see its residents travel freely between member states.
How many countries can one visit with a visa? Visa holders could visit all six GCC countries: UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait.
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