Bahrain set to further ease visa regulations

Posted on » Tuesday, February 17, 2015
By Avinash Saxena

MANAMA: Multiple-entry visa on arrival and longer validity visas will be available from the second quarter onwards, a top official has said.
Nationality, Passport and Residence Affairs (NPRA) assistant under-secretary Shaikh Ahmed bin Isa Al Khalifa told a meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce in Bahrain yesterday that the validity of the visas would be increased from two to four weeks and they would be renewable for three months. The luncheon meeting was held at the Diplomat Radisson Blu Hotel, Residence and Spa. The multiple-entry visa was proposed in response to demand and based on feedback received, he said.

Expatriate residents of other GCC countries wanting to visit Bahrain over the weekend have complained that the BD25 per person visa fee was too high.

Shaikh Ahmed said multiple-entry and longer validity would make the visa more cost-effective.

This would be a part of phase two of implementation of the new visa regime, phase one of which was launched in October last year, he said.

Before the end of the year, it would also be possible for ‘self-sponsoring’ expatriate residents to get visas for their immediate family members, on self-guarantee basis, he said.

Shaikh Ahmed said NPRA offers self-sponsorship to retired individuals who have been working in Bahrain or GCC countries for not less than 15 years. It is also offered to property owners whose property is valued at more than BD50,000 and to foreign investors who invested in projects in industry, trading, tourism, medicine, education or training, or any other recognised project.

The foreign investor’s share must be worth not less than BD100,000.

Any expat can invest in both property and business as long as they meet the criteria. Under the new regime launched on October 1 last year, nationals of 66 countries get visas on arrival.

They include the US, the UK, France, Germany, Russia, South Korea, Japan, China and several states from the European Union and South America.

Electronic visas (eVisa) to Bahrain are also granted to citizens of 102 countries, including India, Pakistan and Indonesia.

Shaikh Ahmed said a two-week visa is currently issued for those applying online, through www.evisa.gov.bh, which can be extended to a maximum of 90 days. The government agency has been targeting clearing such applications within three to four days. He said the initiative was taken to make Bahrain more attractive to tourists and investors in line with government policy.

According to him, the policy is based on certain criteria when adding countries to the visa on arrival scheme, taking into account frequent travellers, investments in Bahrain and countries that are part of the G-20 major economies.

A businessman who attended the meeting requested that NPRA implement a mechanism similar to that used by the LMRA whereby an individual on whom a travel ban is imposed is notified of it promptly.

He said there were many instances of people discovering that they were banned from travelling out of Bahrain only when they reached the airport.

Shaikh Ahmed said efforts were on to bring about much needed changes since such information could be made readily accessible preventing inconvenience to all concerned.

avinash@gdn.com.bh

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