Voicing support for a tourism visa that makes it easy for residents to travel between all six Gulf countries, the GCC’s official business body has forwarded a study on the matter to an alliance of government ministers, according to news reports.
Included in the report is a key stumbling block to the implementation of the visa – a lack of a central electronic linkup between Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain and the UAE.
The visa, which has been talked about for years, if not decades, would streamline the process of passing between GCC countries for nationals and expats, without forcing them to apply and pay for visas in each country before visiting.
The goal of establishing such a pass would be to boost tourism, business, shopping travel and economic activities in the member countries.
Timeline still uncertain
In August, unnamed Kuwaiti officials told Al Rai newspaper that a visa similar to Europe’s Schengen system, which allows travelers to visit multiple member countries with a single visa, could go online as early as next year.
But that deadline seems unlikely, as there is still no unified electronic database that would allow applicants to be screened on the basis of their financial and legal status.
Speaking about the need for such a system, Abdul Rahim Hassan Naqi, the Secretary-General of the Federation of GCC Chambers of Commerce and Industry, told a Saudi newspaper this week, as translated by Gulf News:
“The major problem is the non-existence of an electronic link between the GCC member states,” Naqi said. “Whenever Gulf citizens or foreigners move between GCC countries, their data are recorded and updated only by the state they are leaving and the state they are entering. There is no full Gulf update. We do need to have an electronic link between the six countries of the Council in order to exchange data and therefore ease the implementation of the common Gulf tourism visa,” he said.
The official added the introduction of the visa would “have impressive benefits for the Gulf economy and boost the income of their citizens, while preserving the sovereignty of each state.”