Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to get
electronic visa waiver status

From 1 June 2022, nationals of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain can apply to travel to the UK (for tourism, business, study or medical treatment) for up to six months without having to apply for a visit visa beforehand.

Both countries will join other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states with electronic visa waiver status, the Home Office has confirmed this week. An electronic visa waiver allows the holder to travel to the UK without obtaining a visa provided they complete an online waiver for each visit. A small fee will be applied, and it is quicker than applying for a visa as there is no need to provide biometric information (photo and fingerprints), attend a visa application centre or hand in your passport in advance of travel.

The move has been made to help strengthen the UK’s partnership with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain whilst enhancing diplomatic ties and economic prosperity. Once implemented, citizens from both countries will enjoy a smoother transit through the border when visiting the UK, as all the necessary security checks will be carried out ahead of travel.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “This visa waiver for Bahrain and Saudi Arabia will better connect the people of our countries and boost economic prosperity.

The electronic visa waiver is a quick, digital alternative to the regular visit visa and ensures all the necessary security checks are carried out in advance of travel. The visa improvements announced today will provide greater security for our citizens while making it easier and cheaper for visitors from the Gulf to travel here for leisure and business.”

Customers who have already applied for a Visit visa and have not yet submitted their biometrics can withdraw their application and receive a refund on their visa fee. Withdrawals can be made here.

How to apply for an electronic visa waiver to enter the UK

You can get an electronic visa waiver (EVW) instead of a visa if you are a national of Kuwait, Oman, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates (Bahrain and Saudi Arabia will join this list from 1 June 2022).

An EVW allows you to visit the UK for up to six months for tourism, business, study or medical treatment. You must apply online between 3 months and 48 hours before you travel. It costs £30.

To apply, you will need:

  • your current passport
  • an address in the UK where you will be staying
  • details of your journey, including departure and arrival dates and times.

Each person travelling needs their own EVW, including children. If someone is applying on your behalf, they must enter their own contact details as well as yours.

When completing the online application, you should take care to enter the requested information carefully, as you will not be allowed to travel if any details are incorrect. Your personal details must match the details on your passport exactly (including any punctutation such as spaces, hyphens, apostrophes or full stops) and your travel details must also be exactly right.

You will need to change your travel details on your EVW if you decide to travel at a different time, if you leave from or arrive at a different airport than planned, or if you arrived in the UK more than 8 hours later than planned.

How long does it take?

After you have submitted your application, you will receive an email within 24 hours with a link to download your EVW which you will need to show when you travel to the UK. You can print the document or show it on an electronic device such as a smartphone or tablet.

Your EVW will only permit a single entry to the UK. If you want to enter the UK again, you will need to apply for a new EVW or a visa.

Travelling to the UK for another reason?

You can only apply for an electronic visa waiver to visit the UK. You cannot use your EVW to work in the UK, get married or register a civil partnership. If you intend to undertake any activities that are not permitted under the Visitor rules, you may need to apply for a visa.

Smith Stone Walters can assess your eligibility for a range of UK visa types. If you require support with a UK visa application, please contact us today to discuss your requirements.

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