GCC countries in talks to introduce Schengen-style visa for expats

GCC countries in talks to introduce Schengen-style visa for expats



The initiative is expected to boost tourism in the region.

GCC countries could soon introduce a Schengen-style visa allowing expats living in the UAE - and other GCC countries - to travel visa-free across all neighbouring countries. The proposal aims to mirror the Schengen zone in Europe, which permits border control-free travel for citizens or residents of participating countries within the European Union.

Currently, only GCC nationals can travel freely across the countries, but discussions are underway at the ministerial level to introduce a single unified visa that would benefit all GCC countries. This initiative is expected to significantly boost tourism revenues and footfall across the region.

The proposal was raised during this year's Arabian Travel Market, and panellists agreed with the idea. Fatima Al Sairafi, the minister of Tourism in Bahrain, even shared that travellers tend to fly to Europe and spend their time in several countries rather than just one. She explained, "We really saw the value this can bring … [to] all of us."

Abdullah Al Saleh, the undersecretary for the Ministry of Economy, echoed her sentiments and added that having "umbrella regulations, policies, and procedures" could facilitate growth and contribute to a comprehensive vision of the GCC. Likewise, the CEO of Saudi Tourism, Fahd Hamidaddin, remarked that travellers don't think of a country but a region. He also noted that Saudi Arabia benefited greatly from the FIFA World Cup in Qatar and served as a "test pilot" to explore the implementation of such policies.

If approved, the Schengen-style visa would make it possible for expats living in the GCC to travel visa-free across all GCC countries. This will be a significant boost to the tourism sector across the region. The talks at the ministerial level show that the GCC countries are taking a proactive approach.

So, whether you're a seasoned traveller or planning your next adventure, keep your eyes peeled for further updates on this exciting proposal.