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In the 27 days following the introduction of the UK Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW), more than 5,000 Emiratis, Qataris and Omanis have logged online to apply for visa-free travel to the UK. With London noted as a favourite destination among GCC travellers, the new application process quashes previous rules requiring biometric information and upfront payments from each traveller, weeks prior to travel.
Responding to a query on Twitter just days after the waiver was rolled-out, UAE national, @Herbalmiswak, likened the new process to a system already in place in America, tweeting: “…it’s not visa-less, but is like the Euro-American ESTA.”
The new application process takes the hassle out of planning short-term visits to the popular summer holiday spot, with families or individual travellers now able to apply for a visit visa just 48 hours prior to travel.
One Emirati said the new system will witness an influx of GCC nationals visiting the UK, as they are now able to up and leave at short notice, unlike before.
Dubai-born mother-of-two Abida Al Madhi,20, says she travels to London at least twice a year with her family to visit relatives there, and says the EVW has taken the pressure out of organising trips back and forth. “Being a mother, I have to think about 100 things at once when planning a holiday. I never had any problems before, but I just had to remember to apply for the visa for myself, my husband and my two children months before travelling to the UK.” She says the new, quick and easy process now allows her to concentrate on other necessities like stocking up on Arabic sweets and gifts for friends and family residing in the UK.
According to UK tourism agency, VisitBritain, a record 530,000 visitors from the three GCC states visited Britain in 2012, and with the introduction of this new waiver, projected figures are expected to dwarf this number.
Since January 1, 1,948 Emiratis, 1,369 Omanis and 2,184 Qataris have completed an EVW, and VisitBritain expect an increase of up to 40 per cent more UAE tourists into the UK by 2020 — a projection which is bound to help build relations between the two countries.
Although the new application process is meant to promote ease-of-use for the traveller, a few hiccups have been highlighted along the way, with some customers not yet familiar with how to complete an EVW form correctly.
All travellers are required to enter their name, exactly as it appears in their passport. Exact details of travel is also a requirement, with flight numbers, timings and dates to be declared by all customers.