Manama: Bahrain has limited the issuance of its 72-hour visas given to expatriates living in GCC countries.
According to the new set of regulations, visas will still be issued at entry points to expatriates holding senior positions, such as bankers, managers, doctors and engineers, and their families.
Representatives of trade companies, families and employees working for Gulf families and their dependents will also be given the visas at Bahrain's entry points.
However, all other categories will have to obtain visas from Bahraini embassies before making the trip to Bahrain.
In the run up to the announcement of the rule changes, all expatriates who had valid GCC residence permits were given an on-arrival visa irrespective of their occupation.
Expatriates who had professional category visas were given free entry, while those in the labour category had to pay BD 2 for the Bahraini visa.
Under the new rules applied since February 1 but announced on Tuesday by immigration officials, visitors from 36 countries will be given visas at the entry points upon providing a return ticket, enough cash to cover their stay in the country and a known and exact address.
The 36 countries are Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russia, San Marino, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, the UK, the US and the Vatican.
Colonel Sami Al Rasheed, head of the Saudi Passport Department at King Fahd Causeway, Bahrain's only terrestrial link, told Saudi daily Arab News that they had been informed that expatriates whose profession on the Saudi residence permit was listed as house driver, watchman, laborer, plumber, electrician, painter, welder, mason or shepherd would no longer be allowed to enter Bahrain without a valid entry visa issued by the Bahraini embassy in Riyadh.
The official said that the new Bahraini rule had no impact on Saudi Arabia's own regulations.
"There is no bar from the Saudi side. The Saudi Passport Department issues six-month multiple exit/re-entry permits to all legal expatriates irrespective of the profession on their iqama (residence permit)", he was quoted as saying.
"Drivers, electricians and plumbers - everybody gets these permits provided the request is signed by their Saudi sponsors," he said.