British citizens travelling to Saudi Arabia will soon be eligible for five-year multiple entry visas, according to immigration firm Fragomen Worldwide.
Fragomen said a Memorandum of Understanding between the governments of the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia, referenced in the Official Gazette of Saudi Arabia, shows that British citizens travelling to Saudi Arabia now can apply for longer-term visas than those habitually issued, which have previously lasted between three and 12 months.
Certain nationalities can apply for longer term visas of up to five years, subject to a discretionary decision by the visa-issuing authority, under bilateral agreements signed with Saudi Arabia.
“Currently, citizens of select countries including Japan, US and France can enjoy visas with validity of three, four or five years,” said Marcin Kubarek, manager, knowledge and content at Fragomen Worldwide.
“Now, the UK joins this group, following the MoU signed between the two countries.”
Kubarek said the agreement is in line with the policy of attracting investment from various economic partners of Saudi Arabia, but will also benefit Saudi citizens.
“The Saudi government recognises that by easing up the country’s immigration regulations in such a way, it will be more attractive and more cost-effective for the UK investors and businessmen to travel to Saudi Arabia.
“But we need to remember that this is a bilateral agreement, and therefore Saudi citizens will be able to benefit from visit visas to the UK with validity of up to five years, which will accommodate very well to those visiting the UK for tourism or medical treatment.
Asked whether the move may be related to the UK seeking improved trade relations outside the EU post-Brexit, Kubarek said: “It is likely more of an initiative from Saudi Arabia’s side, looking at easing visa regulations for their own citizens travelling to the UK, but also to facilitate business travel for potential investors.”
In response to emailed questions, Muzammil Ahussain, executive vice president of Almosafer, which is part of Al Tayyar Travel Group’s Strategic Online Business Unit said: “In line with the Saudi Vision 2030 announced by Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman, we fully support all developments for inbound and outbound tourism for Saudi Arabia.”
“In terms of outbound tourism, London has always been popular for Saudi travellers and continues to be in our top five destinations outside of the GCC. Any encouragement; be it visa processes or regulation amends which supports ease of travel to the UK from Saudi will underline the multiple reasons which already motivate travel to the UK and even boost repeat visitation,” Ahussain added.
Referring to another recent Saudi initiative, under which visas will be offered for special events, he said: “We look forward to welcoming more travellers to the country in the wake of the new visa regulations coming into force in December for special events be those sporting fixtures or entertainment events for example.”
(Reporting by Imogen Lillywhite; Editing by Michael Fahy)
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