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UNITED KINGDOM: New Electronic Visa Waiver Scheme for Middle Eastern Business Travelers

The Home Office recently proposed changes to the Immigration Rules to provide a new, straightforward, and free alternative to a visa for short-term visitors from Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. The intention is to extend the program to Kuwait later in 2014. These countries are currently visa nationals for the UK, which means that until now they have been required to apply for visas to enter the UK as visitors.

As of January 1, 2014, a passport holder from these countries can travel to the UK visa-free if he or she has obtained an electronic visa waiver (EVW) document online at least 48 hours in advance of travel to the UK and presents the document to an Immigration Officer upon request on arrival. A simple online form needs to be completed for which there is no fee and no requirement to give biometrics or attend a visa application center. Full guidance will be provided on the Home Office website. Some visitors may still prefer a long-term multi-entry visit visa and the facility to obtain these visas will remain. This change is expected to ease business travel for these passport holders and make the UK a more attractive destination for business travelers.

The concept is similar to the Visa Waiver Program available for certain nationalities traveling to the United States, although a fee is charged for the U.S. program.

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