For Indian resident Mariam Bibi, every visit to the region is challenging. “My daughter lives in Sharjah while my son lives in Qatar,” she said. “So, every time I come, either I visit only one child, or I have to carefully plan about visas and travel dates well in advance if I want to visit both of them.”
Now, with the new unified Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) tourist visa being unanimously approved by all countries, it could mean a world of difference to visitors like Mariam. “Ever since I heard of the visa, I have been keenly following the news,” she said. “When the unified visa comes, I can easily visit both my kids and also go see my brother who works in Muscat. I cannot wait for the visa to come into being.”
For thousands of residents and visitors, news of the new Schengen-style tourist visa has come as a breath of relief. GCC states unanimously approved the proposed visa, taking it one step closer to fruition. The announcement came at the 40th meeting of GCC ministers which took place in Oman.
Diana Mendoza works with a law firm and often has to travel across the region for her work. “My company takes care of all the documentation,” she said. “However, it is a bit of a pain to always make sure that I have all the visas because I often travel across at least three countries at a time. There are times when my travel plans had to be changed because the visas didn’t come through on time, Once the unified visa comes, I think it is going to make my life a breeze. I wouldn’t even mind paying a premium for it as I think it will be worth it.”
The visa will help travellers explore the six-member Gulf bloc – the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait. The move is expected to boost tourism and increase the number of visitors to the region manifolds. However, finer details about the visa, including the price, are yet to be revealed.
For travel enthusiasts Shafi and Siyad, the move is something that they are keenly awaiting. Last month, the friends drove along the coast of all six GCC countries — starting from Kuwait and ending in Kasab — in celebration of this visa. “For us, the proposed unified GCC visit visa is the best thing that could have happened to encourage travel in the region,” said Siyad. “We are hoping that once it comes into place, people will get inspired by us and explore more tourist locations in the GCC.”
The duo, who have travelled extensively across the region, say they currently take multiple visit visas to be able to travel across the entire bloc.
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