The European Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council are negotiating an exemption from the Schengen visa requirement for Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar. It seems like citizens of these member states will be able to start using the European ETIAS system. But what is the impact of the Oman visa on European citizens?
Early in 2014, the United Arab Emirates was the first GCC country to obtain a visa waiver for the EU. Not long after, the people of Oman urged the government to enter into talks with the EU about obtaining a visa waiver. Many Schengen visa applicants from Oman found the application process very complicated and the processing time too long.
These negotiations have been going on for eight years, but now a deal seems to have finally been struck. Once their accession is approved by the European Parliament and the European Council, travellers from several Gulf states will be able to start using the ETIAS system. This system will become operational by the end of 2023 and will be available to travellers from more than 63 countries. It therefore looks like a few more Gulf States will be added here.
The ETIAS system
The abbreviation ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorisation System. The ETIAS is comparable to the ESTA USA and the eTA Canada. It is an electronic system that issues travel authorisations to travellers from countries exempted from visa requirements to improve, among other things, the internal security of the European Union.
By admitting these Gulf states, the EU and GCC hope to strengthen bilateral relations between member states and promote common interests. One such interest is tourism. Europe is a popular destination for Omani citizens as well as citizens from other Gulf states, both for tourism, business, and education. The EU does not foresee any high security risks in admitting Gulf states to the ETIAS system.
Changes for European citizens
With the hope that the tourism sector will recover quickly after the COVID-19 crisis, Oman has launched a campaign in several European member states to promote visiting Oman. The next step will be to simplify the application process for e-visas for EU travellers to Oman and other GCC countries in order to shorten the average processing time. However, it is still unclear what this relaxation will look like and when this change will take place. More talks will probably have to take place between the EU and GCC to discuss the details.
Individual member states can also make arrangements with each other independently of the EU and GCC. For instance, Spain and Oman are introducing reciprocal visa exemptions with the aim of encouraging the mutual transfer of knowledge. Dutch companies with knowledge of water management and energy have also been active in Oman for some time. Oman is keen to use that knowledge to improve sustainability in dealing with water, agriculture and energy consumption in general. It is therefore beneficial to the country to relax visa rules for Dutch business partners.
Travelling to Oman soon?
If you want to travel to Oman soon, you will need to apply for a visa. Fortunately, the application process for this visa has been entirely digital since 2018. When applying for your visa, you do not need to visit an embassy or consulate.
There are three different e-visas for Oman that you can apply for online. There are two visas that allow you to make a single trip to Oman: a single-entry visa with a maximum stay of ten days and a single-entry visa with a maximum stay of 30 days. Similarly, there is a multiple-entry visa that allows you to make multiple trips during one year, with a maximum stay of 30 days per trip. The cost of the Oman visa is € 49,95 for the 10-day single-entry visa, € 89,95 for the 30-day single-entry visa and € 159,95 for the multiple-entry visa. It is possible to extend the maximum length of stay for each visa once (to 20 or 60 days), but there are requirements in order to do so. You can request these from the local police in Oman.