UK visa changes expected: official

Monday, Oct 28, 2013

Dubai: The jury is still out on visa-free entry changes being considered by the United Kingdom for Emirati visitors but UK government officials said yesterday some visa processing rules could be amended in the near future.

In response to unconfirmed media reports that some Gulf nationals will soon be able to secure a UK visit visa through an online process only, UK visa officials said on website application sites that all visitors from the Gulf must also secure an appointment at a UK embassy or consulate before visa permission is granted.

The UK government told Gulf News on Monday that changes are being considered and may be announced soon.

Otherwise, it is business as usual.

“Passport holders from all Gulf Arab States require a visa to visit the UK for any purpose. There is currently no change to these existing visa requirements,” said a UK spokesperson in an emailed statement on Monday.

“We keep all visa arrangements under constant review and we expect to announce changes to some visa regimes shortly.”

The United Arab Emirates, meanwhile, is still awaiting two separate visa initiatives being weighed by the European Union as well as the UK.

A decision by the EU for visa-free entry by Emiratis into 27 countries is currently on the table with countries such as Spain and Germany speaking publicly in favour of the move earlier this year.

The UK, meanwhile, is said to be looking at similar visa-free entry for Emiratis although there has been no new confirmation on the issue since the idea was first floated earlier this year by high-level UK officials.

On May 28, Gulf News reported that the UK Government is actively considering a proposal to waive visas for Emiratis, quoting Alistair Burt, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

“We will let people know [once a decision is made],” Burt said, declining to give an indication as to when the changes would come into effect, if at all.

Burt was speaking at press conference with Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Federal National Council Affairs, following a meeting in Abu Dhabi of the UK-UAE Taskforce co-chaired by them.

Emiratis have been pushing for the UK visa exemption citing statistics that there are 100,000 British expatriates living in the UAE not including a further one million British tourists visiting the UAE every year.

By contrast, on the Home Office UK Border Agency said that for now, Emiratis must secure a visit visa far in advance before travel to the UK.

“You can apply for a visa up to three months before your date of travel to the UK. You should clearly state when you intend to travel and when you would like the visa to be valid from. We strongly advise you not to confirm your travel arrangements until you have received your visa,” said the Home Office UK Border Agency on its website.

The agency stated that online submissions, for the time being, are not sufficient and must be accompanied by a personal visit by visa applicants to UK missions in UAE.

“To complete the application process (even if you are applying online), you must book and attend an appointment at one of our visa application centres in Abu Dhabi or Dubai,” the agency said.

By Derek Baldwin Chief Reporter

Gulf News 2013. All rights reserved.


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