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The UK Home Office will launch a new visa waiver scheme early next year to make it cheaper and easier for business travellers and tourists to visit the UK from Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.
The new electronic visa waiver (EVW) will be free of charge and is a quick and simple alternative to a visa application. Its introduction is expected to increase the number of visits from Qataris, Emiratis, Omanis and Kuwaitis and reflects the strong ties between the UK and these countries.
Prime Minister David Cameron announced the new scheme at the Lord Mayor of London’s annual dinner on 11 November. It is expected to launch in Qatar Oman, and UAE in early 2014 and similar arrangements will be extended to Kuwaiti passport holders later on in the year.
Applicants will need to submit an EVW online at least 48 hours before they are due to travel and it will do away with the need to provide biometric information, attend an appointment at a visa application centre or hand in passports prior to travel. The EVW will be available for visits of up to six months, however those coming to the UK to work or study will still need to apply for visas in the normal way.
British Ambassador to Qatar Nicholas Hopton said:
“I am delighted that this new scheme, will make it so much easier for Qataris to visit the United Kingdom. We look forward to welcoming even more visitors from Qatar to the country so many regard as their second home. This change will improve the service the UK offers to Qataris and responds to concerns raised with us by the Qatari Government.”
Further details on the scheme will be announced in due course, until then current visa rules will apply and visitors can check the UKBA website for the latest information on the UK’s visa service.
Visa applications from UAE, Oman and Qatar are growing year on year. The number of visas issued in 2012 is as follows:
A record 530,000 visitors from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states came to Britain in 2012 (up six per cent on 2011). In 2012, the UK enjoyed a record year for tourism where £18.6 billion was injected into the economy from overseas visitors, of which £1.2 billion came from the GCC countries. Visitors from the GCC spend an average of $3,417 per person per visit which is significantly above the spend from other country nationals. (Source: VisitBritain)
The UK is the second most visited destination by residents of the UAE with the number of visits doubling in the last ten years. Leisure visits predominately take place in July to September. London in particular is a popular destination for tourists with shopping, entertainment and dining the main attractions.