Thursday, 10 February 2011

GCC Inching Closer to Unified VISA System

Following the recent announcement of relaxed labour laws in the UAE, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have announced that they are working on issuing ‘unified’ visas for ‘foreign tourists and businessmen’.  This is common sense – it means that people travelling to one GCC state on business will not need to apply for new visas when hopping around what is a relatively small geographical area.  It also makes life easier for GCC citizens wishing to take their foreign employees with them as they move around the region – maids for example.  Previously a maid would have to apply in advance for a visa to another GCC state, hindering the smooth movement of citizens (and therefore business). 

It will be interesting to see how this plays in Saudi Arabia, which has tough entry criteria – business men usually need an invitation from a business partner within the country before applying for an entry permit, a process which takes days or even weeks.  It will also be interesting to see if Saudi Arabia implements special provisions to prevent access to women who hold a unified visa.  Clearly such matters will take time to be ironed out but the thrust of all of these new laws is towards a more open, flexible business environment.  Great news for the region and for companies doing business here. 

- George Stothard

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