Virginia, US
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| Nikhil Bande

Travel Privileges for GCC Residents

When you are in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council ) region, it is important to know certain basic rights and privileges associated with the GCC-issued residence permit in your passport. Certain nationals are barred from entering GCC countries via the visa-on-arrival route.

Do you often wish it was a borderless Middle East? Well, the wishful thinking becomes a reality when someone is a resident of one of the member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC countries). The GCC consists of UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The agreement allows GCC residents to travel in these countries without any obligation to seek a visa from a consular post. However, the recent exception remains Qatar, which is not accessible now to the residents and nationals of UAE and Saudi Arabia following the severing of diplomatic ties in June 2017. Further, Saudi Arabia imposes consular visa processing on all residents in the GCC region except for GCC nationals.

When you are in the GCC region, it is important to know certain basic rights and privileges associated with the GCC-issued residence permit in your passport. Certain nationals are barred from entering GCC countries via the visa-on-arrival route. The reciprocity schedules and bilateral relations among nations may require consular visa processing or prearranged visa approval for residents from the receiving member state. Applicants with UAE residency who would normally have required a consular visa issued in their home country can enjoy visa-on-arrival in the GCC member states (except Saudi Arabia). Now as a part of tourism promotions, certain countries outside the GCC region also allow GCC residence permit holders to seek a visa on arrival.

To travel within and outside of the GCC region, GCC residents generally must have a passport and a GCC residence permit valid for at least six months (though for some countries three months is sufficient). In some cases, GCC residents are only eligible for a visa-on-arrival when traveling to other GCC countries if their GCC resident permit was issued at least three months prior to travel and will be valid for at least another six months upon arrival. In many cases, possession of a GCC residence permit also allows a person to visit another non-GCC country as a tourist without a consular-issued visa, even for nationals of countries for whom visas-on-arrival would not normally be available.

Finally, it is interesting to note that a person’s job title, which is listed on his or her GCC residence permit, plays a vital role in the issuance of a visa-on-arrival in certain GCC countries for certain nationalities. I always advise clients to check in advance to avoid hassles at the port of entry. Hearsay must be avoided, as each applicant is unique. Many applicants prefer to have a higher-ranking job title in their passports as this sometimes eases travel in the region. However, the applicant’s nationality may require him or her to obtain a consular-issued visa notwithstanding any advantage normally conferred by a superior job title. The matrix can be quite complex and ever-changing, especially for multiple-nationality holders.

For further advice on best visa-on-arrival practices in GCC, please contact me at NBande@fragomen.com