Visa-free travel to Schengen countries soon? GCC-EU talks see progress
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Visa-free travel to Schengen countries soon? GCC-EU talks see progress

Visa-free travel to Schengen countries soon? GCC-EU talks see progress

Representatives of the GCC and EU meet in Belgium to discuss the visa-waiver programme

Gulf Business
Schengen visa application

Could travel to the Schengen area countries be visa-free? Yes, if talks progress smoothly, between the GCC countries and the European Union states that make up the Schengen zone.

Jasem Mohamed Al Budaiwi, secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and Luigi Di Maio, EU Special Representative for the Gulf region, discussed the visa waiver process for GCC citizens in the Schengen area, during a bilateral meeting held in Brussels on Monday, reported state news agency WAM.

According to a report by the Qatar News Agency (QNA), “During the meeting, they discussed the GCC-European bilateral relations, including issues related to the visa waiver process for GCC citizens in the Schengen area.”

Albudaiwi had previously informed reporters of his optimistic outlook, regarding discussions aimed at exempting Gulf citizens from the visa requirement, underscoring the significance of his upcoming visit to Brussels.

When asked whether the EU intends to follow suit, Bueno informed local media that the European Commission had proposed in 2022 the exemption of Qatar and Kuwaiti nationals from Schengen visa application requirements.

However, he highlighted the necessity of internal deliberations among EU member states and the European Parliament on this matter.

While expressing the Commission’s inclination towards implementing exemptions for Qatar and Kuwait, Bueno cautioned that the process is intricate, requiring approval from both the European Council and European Parliament.

EU Commission contemplates visa-waiver for Kuwait and Qatar

The European Union (EU) Commission is contemplating the lifting of visa requirements for Kuwait and Qatar based on several key criteria, as revealed in a recent report:

  1. Irregular migration
  2. Public policy and security
  3. Economic benefits
  4. EU relations with the countries

The Commission’s assessment concluded that both Kuwait and Qatar present a low risk in terms of irregular immigration.

Should the European visa requirements for these GCC countries be lifted, travellers would be eligible for the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).

ETIAS: Streamlining travel

ETIAS, an electronic travel authorisation system applicable to France and other European countries, is set to launch in 2025.

If the visa-waiver programmme comes into effect, GCC citizens who do not require a visa for France, will be mandated to register through the ETIAS platform before departure.

The ETIAS application process is entirely digital, involving the completion of an online form with basic personal and passport details, alongside security inquiries.

Upon approval, the travel authorisation is electronically linked to the passport, enabling multiple trips to the Schengen Area for up to 90 days within a 180-day period. ETIAS validity extends up to three years.

By lifting visa requirements and introducing ETIAS, travel from GCC countries to France and the broader European region is expected to become more expedient and accessible, streamlining the overall process for travelers.

Read: UAE residents now eligible for Morocco eVisa: How to apply

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