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UK extends visa waiver programme for Gulf states

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  • The UK has expanded its visa waiver programme to include Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, with the effect that travellers from all six Gulf Cooperation Council states can now travel to the UK for up to six months without a visitor or student visa

The British Home Office announced recently that the UK’s electronic visa waiver (EVW) programme will be further expanded to include Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

The EVW programme allows travellers from the six member-states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to travel to the UK for up to six months for “tourism, business, study, or medical treatment.” Along with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the other GCC members are Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

Eligible visitors can apply up to 48 hours before departure for the UK. The process is completed online, carries only a negligible cost (£30), and is much easier than applying for a visitor or student visa.

“The electronic visa waiver is a quick, digital alternative to the regular visit visa and ensures all the necessary security checks are carried out in advance of travel,” said Home Secretary Priti Patel. “The visa improvements announced today will provide greater security for our citizens while making it easier and cheaper for visitors from the Gulf to travel here for leisure and business.”

As we noted recently, the UAE is one of the fastest-growing markets for undergraduate programmes in the UK.

English UK reports meanwhile that some of the GCC states, notably Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, were among the top sending markets for the country’s ELT sector for the first quarter of 2022. In fact, and as we see in the following chart, Saudi Arabia is far and away the leading source market for Q1 2022.

Student weeks by age group and source country for top ten sending markets, Q1 2022. Source: English UK

For additional background, please see:


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