A Schengen-Style Visa for GCC Countries: What It Means for Expatriates in Saudi Arabia

By Mohammed Ameen

Updated on:

Schengen Style Visa Planned for GCC Countries

GCC’s Schengen-Style Visa

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are working towards launching a ‘Schengen-style‘ visa for tourists, a move expected to boost revenues and increase footfall for all countries in the region. This news comes from Fatima Al Sairafi, Minister of Tourism in Bahrain, who discussed the plans during a panel discussion at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai. This article will explore the potential impact of this unified single visa for expatriates living in Saudi Arabia.

The Unified Single Visa

The GCC countries are aiming to make travel within the region smoother and more accessible, much like the Schengen visa in Europe. The unified single visa is expected to facilitate cross-border travel and allow tourists to visit several countries in the region without restrictions. The GCC nations have developed a unified tourism strategy to maximize their potential as a unique tourist destination. This strategy includes a new application and website to promote all the destinations within the GCC and their unique events.

Increased Footfall and Diversity

The success of co-promoting Bahrain along with the UAE and Saudi Arabia has resulted in increased tourist numbers and diversity. Al Sairafi highlighted that Bahrain exceeded its targeted 8.3 million tourists for 2022, reaching 9.9 million visitors, thanks to the unified promotion strategy. The introduction of a ‘Schengen-style’ visa is expected to boost tourism further and increase the diversity of nationalities visiting GCC countries.

Benefits for Expatriates in Saudi Arabia

The introduction of the unified single visa could have several benefits for expatriates living in Saudi Arabia. Firstly, it would make regional travel more accessible, allowing expats to explore neighboring countries with greater ease. This would provide an opportunity for expats to experience the unique cultures and landscapes of the region without the hassle of obtaining multiple visas.

Secondly, the increased footfall from international tourists may lead to economic growth and job opportunities within the tourism industry. Expatriates living in Saudi Arabia may find new employment opportunities in this booming sector, as the GCC countries work together to increase their competitiveness and sustainability.

Lastly, the new visa system may encourage international events and conferences to be hosted in GCC countries, attracting even more visitors and professionals to the region. This could further increase networking and business opportunities for expatriates living in Saudi Arabia.


The proposed ‘Schengen-style’ visa for GCC countries is an exciting development for the region, which aims to facilitate smoother travel and increase tourism revenues. For expatriates living in Saudi Arabia, this could mean greater access to regional travel, increased job opportunities in the tourism sector, and an enhanced networking environment as international events are attracted to the area. As the GCC countries work together to promote their unique offerings, the future of travel in the region looks brighter than ever.

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