Abu Dhabi

The number of Emergency Travel Documents, ETDs, issued to British nationals living in the Gulf has dropped considerably during the past two years.

According to Julia Longbottom , director for Consular Affairs in Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the number fell by 12.37 per cent between 2016 and 2018 for the entire Gulf, while the decline in the case of UAE was 28.9 per cent during the same time.

“In 2018, we issued 333 ETDs to British nationals in the Gulf, 187 of these were issued to British nationals in the UAE. This is a reduction in comparison with 2016 when we issued 380 ETDs to British nationals in the Gulf, 263 of which were in the UAE,” she explained.

The British Embassies have been issuing ETDs mostly because of the applicants’ failure to check passport expiry date and renew it in time.

They had even run a campaign to remind British expatriates to check the expiry of their passports and make a diary note to renew them nine months ahead of time.

“The UAE is home to approximately 102,000 British people, and is the holiday destination of choice for another 1.5 million,” the official said.

“We do all we can to encourage British citizens to take appropriate care of their passports and to ensure that they do not allow their passports to expire if they have any plan to travel, particularly those who live outside the UK,” the official added.

However, there will always be some whose passports are lost or stolen, or who fail to realise that their passports have expired,

Longbottom said. “We remain ready to assist with provision of ETDs when they are overseas and have a need to travel more quickly than they can obtain a UK passport. The UK has a public undertaking to reduce the number of preventable incidents before they happen or to stop them from escalating.

We have produced various communications campaigns in the UAE aimed at British nationals to raise awareness of issues, particularly those related to local laws and customs.Other prevention priorities include working with the local authorities so we can provide a greater understanding of UAE legal process to British nationals.”

Travel advice

The UK is also publishing clear and accessible travel advice for 225 countries worldwide to help British nationals make informed decisions and plan safe and trouble-free trips abroad, Longbottom said.

About the UK’s preparations to ensure a smooth entry for UK nationals to European Union countries and vice versa after the Brexit, the official said that the EU had confirmed that it would grant UK nationals visa-free travel to the EU after the UK’s withdrawal.

This means that UK nationals will not need a visa when travelling to the EU for short stays. This would apply even if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

If a deal is reached, it will apply as of the end of any transition period, Longbottom explained.

The EU’s European Travel Information and Authorisation System, ETIAS, scheme would require nationals of non-EU countries who do not require a visa to fill in a form and pay a small fee ahead of travel, which would be valid for three years, the official pointed out.

This is similar to the US ESTA system -The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation, ESTA, - an automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Programme, VWP, she said.

ETIAS scheme

The EU intends to introduce their ETIAS scheme by 2021. The UK also plans to introduce an Electronic Travel Authorisation, ETA, scheme in future, which will require visitors and transit passengers who do not normally need a visa to come to the UK to obtain an ETA prior to travel, the official said.

This will enable the government to conduct security checks on passengers and make more informed decisions on information obtained at an earlier stage, as to whether individuals should be allowed to travel to the UK, she said.

In future, the UK will by default be a third country and the EU has announced its intention to apply ETIAS to UK citizens, the official pointed out.

“It is similarly our intention to require EU citizens [except Irish nationals] to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation, ETA, when coming to the UK in the future,” Longbottom said.

The detail of the UK’s ETA scheme is currently under development and requires primary legislation before it can be introduced, she added.

UK approved 99 per cent of visa applications to Emiratis in 2017-2018

Abu Dhabi

The United Kingdom approved approximately 99 percent of regular visa applications submitted by Emiratis from July 2017 to June 2018, a top UK official told the Emirates News Agency, WAM.

The UK issued 5,940 visas in total to Emiratis during that 12-month period, which meant each visa was issued in an average of three working days, said Julia Long bottom, Director for Consular Affairs in Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

“That’s well within our standard processing time of 15 working days [on general terms],” she said in an email interview.

Apart from regular visas, the UK has been issuing Electronic Visa Waiver, EVW, an alternative to visas for Emiratis since 2015. The UAE is one of only four countries, which is part of the EVWs scheme.

However, she was not in a position to reveal the number of EVWs issued to Emiratis. “This question would require a Freedom of Information request before figures could be released,” Longbottom said.

The Freedom of Information, FOI, request is a process that involves a formal written submission under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 that gives UK citizens and others the right to request certain information held by the public bodies and organisations.

The Electronic Visa Waiver allows Emiratis travelling to the UK for tourism, business, study or medical treatment to a stay up to six months. They can travel without a visa simply by filling in an online form at least 48 hours before they travel.

The service offered is flexible, as customers do not have to visit the visa application centre and can submit their details online between three months to 48 hours in advance.