Expat Residents Should Be Allowed Visa-Free Travel Across GCC – Official

The move will boost the GCC’s tourism industry, helping sectors such as aviation and hospitality.

Foreign expatriates residing in the GCC states should be allowed to travel within the six Gulf nations without requiring visas, a senior official has said.

Such a step will enhance intra-Gulf tourism and also boost regional economies, said Salah bin Suloum, assistant director general for the Entry Permits Section at the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai (GDRFA-Dubai).

In an interview with Manafez Dubai, the official newsletter of the GDRFA-Dubai, he said that the move will contribute to improving tourism across the GCC where millions of expatriates are living in similar conditions in terms of “security checks and residency rules.”

This new service will “build the way for new levels of prosperity that will benefit airlines, hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and car rentals among other sectors,” he said.

It also serve as a trial for what will come when the joint $15.5 billion GCC rail project, which will connect all the six states, is completed within the next few years, Bin Suloum added.

His remarks follow recent reports that the GCC is soon planning to introduce a Schengen-style, unified visa for tourists and businessmen from 35 countries.

Samira Al-Gharib, assistant undersecretary for tourism at the Kuwaiti Ministry of Trade, told a local daily in October that plans for a “unified tourism visa” are being considered by the GCC interior ministries, Arab News reported.

“The unified visa targets frequent visitors to the GCC,” she said.

The new visa system would garner huge revenues for the regional tourism sector and help facilitate financial and administrative procedures.

“Security concerns had previously forced GCC states to limit visas to residents only. Under the new system, states will, nevertheless, have their own individual systems to ensure their own security,” she added.