Manama: Four Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries will benefit from the “electronic visa waiver” scheme to be introduced by the UK next year, the British ambassador to Kuwait has said.
“The visa waiver scheme will apply in four Gulf countries and come in on January 1 for the UAE, Oman and Qatar,” Frank Baker said in a message published in Kuwait.
“The rollout to Kuwait will be later, once the technology works. The reason Kuwait is later is a simple matter of numbers and technology. Kuwait has more visitors than the other countries combined. If we added Kuwait to the scheme in January, the system might fail.
“Rather, Kuwaitis will get to benefit once we are sure the system works. But until then, and including from January 1, Kuwaitis travelling to the UK still need a visa,” he said. He added that the British Prime Minister David
Cameron said that Kuwait “is to be included in the rollout of a new electronic visa waiver scheme during 2014”.
“This news was reconfirmed by Foreign Secretary William Hague when he visited Kuwait earlier this month. This decision reflects the close links between our two countries, and in particular how welcoming the UK wants to be to the many Kuwaitis who visit us each year, whether for tourism, business, investment, healthcare or education.”
The GCC, established in 1981, comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Baker did not mention in his message if the waiver will be rolled out for Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
The ambassador said that his message aimed to deal with “the uncertainty, rumour and misinformation out there” and explain the situation to his Kuwaiti friends who have asked how it will work and when it will come in.
He said that the visa waiver would provide for a single entry visit to the UK for tourism, business, healthcare or study for a period of up to six months. However, those travelling to work or to study for a period longer than six months will still need to apply for the relevant visas as usual.
“Applicants have to submit a form online at least 48 hours before they intend to travel. There is no requirement to go to an application centre or submit biometrics.
“The online form has an account system which means you only have to submit personal information once [name, date of birth, passport number etc]. You will also have to give travel details. You will then be sent a visa waiver which you need to print out and take to the airport,” he said in his message carried by Kuwait Times on its front page on Tuesday.
“Each visa waiver is only valid for a single trip. But, you are able to have as many as you need simultaneously and can apply in advance.
“So, if you went to Brussels for the day, you could print out two separate visa waivers, one for when you arrive in the UK and the second for your return trip from Brussels. Getting a visa waiver is completely free.”
Baker said that it was the first time the UK has ever introduced such a system: “We are delighted that the Gulf is the first place it will be used,” he said.