Bahrain, Saudi Arabia get UK e-visa waiver status

The UK Government has announced that from June 1, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia will join other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries with UK electronic visa waiver status, making it easier and cheaper to travel to the UK.

An electronic visa waiver allows the holder to travel to the UK without obtaining a visa provided they complete an online waiver for each visit. They will now obtain their British visa in 48 hours and for a £30 ($37.5) fee. It is much quicker than applying for a visa as there is no need to provide biometric information (photo and fingerprints), attend a visa application centre or hand in your passport in advance of travel.

VisitBritain has already been rolling out a multi-million-pound global GREAT Britain marketing campaign “Welcome to another side of Britain” to inspire visitors to book a trip to the UK.



In 2019, the UK saw 221,000 visitors from Saudi Arabia with those visitors spending £627 million ($784 million). Saudi Arabia is the UK’s 13th most valuable market for visitor spending.

Visitors from Saudi Arabia are some of the UK’s highest spenders, spending on average £2,841 ($3,552) per visit in 2019, more than four times the all-market average. Visitors from Saudi Arabia also stay longer than other international visitors, an average of 16 nights compared to the all-market average of seven.

In 2019, the UK saw 42,000 visitors from Bahrain with those visitors spending £76 million ($95 million). Visitors from Bahrain are some of the UK’s highest spenders, spending on average £1,828 ($2,285) per visit, almost three times the all-market average. Visitors from Bahrain also stay longer than other international visitors, an average of nine nights.

VisitBritain Director for Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa (APMEA) and North Asia Tricia Warwick, said: “It is great news that nationals from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain will be eligible for an electronic visa waiver to visit the UK from June 1. Saudi Arabia is one of our highest spending markets, we know there is strong pent-up demand for international travel from the Gulf and making it easier for visitors to get to the UK is crucial to our message of welcome and to our competitive tourism offer.

“VisitBritain is already out in market competing hard for visitors from the GCC including at the recent Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, reconnecting in person with top travel trade buyers from across the Gulf about why now is a brilliant time to book a trip to Britain. We’ll also be supporting our partners with training and resources to sell Britain as well as hosting events, workshops, incentives and delivering cooperative marketing, aligning with our international GREAT campaign ‘Welcome to another side of Britain,’ showing that Britain is bursting full of fresh and exciting experiences to come and enjoy right now.”

VisitBritain’s latest international consumer sentiment research showed that 84 per cent of Saudi Arabian respondents surveyed intend to travel internationally for leisure in the next 12 months, 51 per cent definitely and, of those, 67 per cent had not yet booked or decided where to go which presents a great opportunity for VisitBritain to influence destination choice and bookings.



Warwick said: “Britain is open for business, welcoming back visitors and has a year of landmark events set to be global tourism draws. Major events including Her Majesty The Queen’s historic Platinum Jubilee, with showcase celebrations underway, the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and ‘UNBOXED,’ the celebration of creativity are all exciting and timely opportunities to promote Britain’s heritage, contemporary culture, innovation and warm welcome, boosting tourism from the Gulf.”

As well as these events, 2022 also sees events including the Women’s Euros and Rugby League World Cup and return of many favourite annual events including Wimbledon, the Chelsea Flower Show and the Hay Festival in May, Royal Ascot in June, the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews in July, the Edinburgh International Festival and 75th annual Festival Fringe in August.