EU Unveils Extended Schengen Visas for Saudi, Omani, and Bahraini Citizens

U Unveils Extended Schengen Visas
  • 3 minutes
  • Apr 25, 2024

The European Union (EU) has recently announced a major development in its visa rules for citizens of Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Bahrain. In a move that aims to standardize visa regulations, Saudi citizens residing in these countries will now be eligible for multiple-entry visas with a validity period of five years. This update comes as part of the EU’s efforts to harmonize visa regulations for all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries whose citizens require visas to access the Schengen Area.

New Visa Regulations for Saudi, Bahrain, and Oman Citizens

Under the new visa rules, nationals living in Bahrain, Oman, and Saudi Arabia will be able to obtain multiple-entry visas, allowing them to visit the EU multiple times over a period of five years using the same visa. This is a significant step forward in strengthening people-to-people relations between the EU and the GCC.

The updated visa code, known as the “cascade,” follows a harmonized approach to issuing multiple-entry visas with extended validity for all eligible applicants, including first-time travelers. During the validity period of these visas, holders will enjoy travel rights equivalent to visa-free nationals.

Enhancing Strategic Cooperation

This announcement was made during the EU-GCC High-Level Forum on Regional Security and Cooperation in Luxembourg, where Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, is leading the Saudi delegation. The forum serves as a platform to discuss enhancing security and strategic cooperation between the Gulf states and the EU.

During the forum, various topics were addressed, including the developments in the Gaza Strip and the importance of reaching an immediate ceasefire. The relaxed visa regulations for Saudi citizens highlight the commitment of both the EU and the GCC to fostering stronger ties and facilitating easier travel for their citizens.

A Step Towards a Schengen Waiver

Experts view this visa rule update as a preliminary move towards a Schengen waiver for Saudi citizens. The Schengen Area, which comprises 29 European countries, is the largest free-travel zone globally. It recently expanded to include Bulgaria and Romania, eliminating air and maritime border controls. The removal of land controls is expected to be decided in the near future.

This development aligns with the EU’s Joint Communication on a “Strategic Partnership with the Gulf,” which encompasses EU relations with Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Bahrain. The introduction of the five-year visa rule contributes to the strategic partnership’s objective of promoting stronger collaboration and mutual understanding.

Streamlining Tourist Visa Processes

The announcement of the relaxed visa rules for Saudi citizens comes after the Gulf countries’ previous plans to introduce a unified tourist visa similar to Schengen. The aim of this initiative is to streamline logistical efforts for both residents and tourists, making it easier to explore multiple destinations within the Gulf region.

By simplifying visa procedures and extending the validity period, the EU is demonstrating its commitment to attracting tourists and strengthening cultural ties with Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Bahrain. The extended five-year visa is expected to boost tourism, business, and cultural exchanges between the EU and the GCC.

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