British nationals can now enter Saudi Arabia for up to six months on a single entry under the new Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW), which came into effect on 2 August. An EVW permits a single-entry visit of up to six months. Entrants are permitted for the purposes of tourism, business, study or medical treatment.
According to the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the EVW can be obtained by filling out the designated application form on the Unified National Visa Platform at visa.mofa.gov.sa. If you’re travelling for any other purpose, you should apply for a visa through visa agencies accredited to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia.
Applicants must have a confirmed flight booking and applications must be submitted between 90 days and 48 hours before the proposed date of travel. If approved, the visa will be emailed to the applicant via within 24 hours of submission. Tourist visas are valid for 360 days from the date of issue and can be used for visits of up to 90 days.
The UK currently offers a similar EVW tourist facility for Saudi citizens, which has been effective since 1 June 2022. There is no requirement for applicants to provide biometrics, attend a Visa Application Centre or hand in passports in advance of travel for an EVW. However, the previous visa requirements for work, study and settlement in the UK remain in place.
From February 2024, however, visitors from Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and Jordan will be able to apply for a new Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) ahead of their visit to the UK, ensuring they can enter the UK with improved ease and convenience.
The ETA, which will replace the UK’s current Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) scheme, is a multiple-entry travel authorisation with a two-year validity period. It will enable visa-free travel to the UK for business, tourism, study or medical treatment for periods of up to six months from all GCC countries and Jordan. For periods longer than six months, a British visa will be required.
The ETA will streamline travel to the UK because GCC visitors can apply in advance and receive a swift decision on their application. As part of the application process, visitors will need to provide biometric details and answer a set of suitability questions.
The cost of an ETA will be in line with similar international schemes. The £10 processing charge is less than that of a UK visa and will permit visitors to make multiple visits to the UK. ETA applications will be processed quickly, and applicants will be notified by email once their travel authorisation has been granted.
“ETAs will enhance our border security by increasing our knowledge about those seeking to come to the UK and preventing the arrival of those who pose a threat,” said UK Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick. “It will also improve travel for legitimate visitors, with those visiting from Gulf Cooperation Council states being among the first to benefit.”
The ETA scheme will first be opened to Qatari visitors on 15 November 2023. It is due to then be extended to visitors from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan from February 2024.
Saudi Arabia is a high-growth market offering significant opportunities for companies across a range of sectors. Sovereign Corporate Services provides company formation and management, together with comprehensive advice and support to assist companies of all sizes to establish and sustain operations successfully in foreign markets – from full back-office solutions to assistance with tax and regulatory compliance. This includes accountancy, human resources, pensions, insurance, trademark and intellectual property protection, obtaining local licences and permits and executive relocation.
Sovereign is a leading independent provider of corporate, private client and retirement planning services. We currently manage over 20,000 structures for a wide variety of clients – companies, entrepreneurs, private investors or high net worth individuals (HNWIs) and their families – and have assets under administration in excess of £20 billion. As an international provider with a presence in over 20 jurisdictions around the world, we are dedicated to offering integrated advice, products and services to internationally mobile businesses and people that have sophisticated and often complex needs.
For further information or assistance on Saudi Arabia’s new Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) scheme, please contact James Elliot-Square, Sovereign PRO Partner Group Regional Business Development Manager.