Sunday, January 5, 2014

Do Kuwaitis Still Need UK Visas?

In short, yes until further notice. 

Electronic Visa Waiver Explained by the British Ambassador Frank Baker...

Since the announcement of the scheme, many of my Kuwaiti friends have asked me how it will work and when it will come in. There is clearly still uncertainty, rumour and misinformation out there. So let me explain.
Firstly, on the timing, the same visa waiver scheme will apply in four Gulf countries. It will come in on January 1 for the UAE, Oman and Qatar. The rollout to Kuwait will be later, once the technology works. The reason Kuwait is later is a simple matter of numbers and technology. Kuwait has more visitors than the other countries combined. If we added Kuwait to the scheme in January, the system might fail. Rather, Kuwaitis will get to benefit once we’re sure the system works. But until then, and including from January 1, Kuwaitis travelling to the UK still need a visa.
Secondly, on what a visa waiver will cover, it provides for a single entry visit to the UK for tourism, business, healthcare or study for a period of up to six months. However those travelling to work or to study for a period longer than six months will still need to apply for the relevant visas as usual.
Thirdly, on process – applicants have to submit a form online at least 48 hours before they intend to travel. There is no requirement to go to an application centre or submit biometrics. The online form has an account system which means you only have to submit personal information once (name, date of birth, passport number etc). You will also have to give travel details. You will then be sent a visa waiver which you need to print out and take to the airport. Each visa waiver is only valid for a single trip. But, you are able to have as many as you need simultaneously and can apply in advance. So if you went to Brussels for the day you could print out two separate visa waivers, one for when you arrive in the UK, the second for your return trip from Brussels. Getting a visa waiver is completely free.
This is the first time the UK has ever introduced such a system, and we’re delighted that the Gulf is the first place it will be used. However the commitment of the UK Home Office continually to improve our visa system and facilitate access to the UK for our Kuwaiti friends does not begin and end with the electronic visa waiver. Below are a few examples of other work we’re doing:
  1. In response to feedback from Kuwaiti customers we will, from 1stApril  2014, move the premises of our visa application centre to Al Tijaria tower- a far more modern spacious setting becoming of the high regard in which we hold our Kuwaiti friends.
  2. Thanks to the hard work and close coordination between the visa team at the Embassy and the Ministry of Higher Education, we were able to introduce a new system for accrediting sponsored students which made it much easier this year for Kuwaitis on scholarships to the UK to get their visas in time.
  3. We have now introduced an online payment and application system for all application types apart from those using the short ‘VAF Lite’ visa application form (which is the form generally used by Kuwaitis going on tourist trips to the UK)  . This option should help ease the process for students, those working in the UK and those going to the UK for healthcare. We committed to introducing online facilities for VAF Lite users in the early part of 2014.
  4. We have worked with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to set up a migration working group under the auspices of the six monthly Joint Steering Group. This, amongst other things, will discuss any and all concerns and questions the Kuwaiti government has about the operation of the UK visa regime, in all fields. Already we are working closely at, for example, improving cooperation to ensure urgent medical cases are processed quickly.
Answering questions about visas has been one of the dominant themes of my time in Kuwait. I understand the importance placed on it. I hope that the hard work we have put in will mean that in future many of the questions will longer be required. Rather that the experience of Kuwaitis travelling to my country will be even more positive and rewarding than it is already.

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