RIYADH: The UK’s electronic visa waiver scheme is now available to Saudi citizens, Britain’s top envoy to the Kingdom said on Thursday, adding that the initiative would help to deepen economic and diplomatic ties between the two countries.
“Saudi nationals can now apply to travel to the UK (for tourism, business, study or medical treatment) for up to six months using the system,” British Ambassador Neil Crompton told Arab News.
“This is a wonderful moment which will strengthen ties between the two countries.”
The change to the UK visa system took effect on Thursday and is open to all Saudi citizens. The online process is “quick, very straightforward (and) not expensive,” the envoy said.
“It’s a big improvement in our service, which is consistent with the desire of both our governments to improve the bilateral relationship, and in particular to increase the people-to-people links between our two countries. It’s very exciting news, and we look forward to seeing more Saudis in the UK,” he added.
Crompton said on Twitter that people wishing to apply for an EVW should do so via the UK government’s website (gov.uk/get-electronic-visa-waiver). The cost is £30 ($38) and applications can be made between 48 hours and three months in advance of travel.
Once approval has been granted, which can take up to 24 hours, people can download their EVW for presentation at the airport check-in desk. Changes to the document can be made up to 48 hours ahead of travel.
Afnan Ahmed, a frequent Saudi visitor to the UK, said the new system would be a boon for travelers.
“In the past it was not easy,” he told Arab News. “I applied for a visa in December 2021 and had to wait for three months to get approval. I live in Madinah and had to go all the way to Jeddah to do the biometrics. It cost me about SR3,000 ($800) plus a train ticket.
“So having a simple, fast and inexpensive online system for Saudis is really good news for me. It will make traveling to the UK much easier.”
Meanwhile, the UK Embassy in Riyadh on Wednesday night celebrated the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II ahead of similar festivities around the world.
Elizabeth was just 25 when she acceded to the throne on February 6, 1952 on the death of her father, King George VI. Her coronation the following year was attended by the late Saudi King Fahd, who was making his first official state visit, even before he had become crown prince.
The embassy marked the 70-year anniversary by highlighting the long-standing relationship between the monarchies of the UK and Saudi Arabia. On a colorful night, the flags of the two countries flew over the embassy as hundreds of foreign dignitaries, diplomats and members of British and Saudi society gathered together.
“We are here tonight for a special occasion of the Platinum Jubilee. She has been an example to us all,” Crompton said of the queen.
“Saudi Arabia and the UK share a very cordial relationship,” he added. “The KSA has so many exciting things going on, and it’s a fantastic time for the bilateral relationship. So many people are going to new economic projects, cultural projects, education projects and working together. So I think the future is very exciting for us.”