Six Arabian Gulf countries are now taking steps to adopt a Schengen-type common visa system to attract more tourists and businessmen to come and invest there.
Once the work of a committee now drafting common visa rules is approved by the Gulf Cooperation Council and its member-states, the new visa would benefit travelers who go to Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
Citing GCC secretary-general Abdul Rahman Al Attiyah, GulfNews reports that “a committee set up to study the possibility of issuing unified GCC visas to foreigners has been asked to frame rules and regulations”, with security aspects being addressed as well.
Qatari businesses have welcomed the move towards a Schengen-type unified visa system:
This would encourage foreign investment in the region. We welcome any move that aims at enhancing business and investment in the region.
Prior to the planned adoption of a common visa system, the GCC encouraged citizens of its member-states to travel within the 2.5-million square-kilometer total area of its member-states using only their national identity cards.
Many Asians have flocked to the six GCC countries either to invest or to work in their companies and in their citizens’ households.
Elsewhere in Asia, the Philippines in 2009 proposed a similar Schengen-type unified visa system for the member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) which covers 10 countries and a total land area of 4.4-million square kilometers.
The Schengen Agreement has allowed free travel into and around 25 countries in Europe using a common, unified visa system.
Signatories to the Schengen Agreement are Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg Netherlands, Portugal, Spain. Italy, Austria, Greece, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland. All are members of the European Union, with the exception of Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.
Nationals of the 25 countries may travel freely across the Schengen Area, a privilege shared by holders of a Schengen visa issued by any of the same countries.