Bahrain’s new visa policy is expected to boost the nation’s tourism sector and attract more investment to the local economy.
Started this October, Bahrain became one of the few Gulf countries to offer an extremely flexible visa scheme to visitors.
The small island kingdom’s new visa policy allows nationals from almost 100 countries to obtain an online visa either ahead of travel or on arrival.
According to the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), the public agency tasked with attracting investments to the country, the new visa policy, which was fast tracked from the original January 2015 launch, will ease the travel process for expatriates travelling to and from Bahrain.
As per the new policy, citizens from 66 countries will be able to receive visas upon arrival in Bahrain while also being eligible to apply for an online visa ahead of their visit.
Visitors from another 36 countries, which include emerging economies such as India and Pakistan, will be able to obtain electronic visas, taking the overall number of countries eligible to receive e-Visas up to 102.
Online visas can be obtained ahead of travel through a simplified online application and the eligibility to receive a visa can also be checked prior to application via the government’s eVisa website, the EDB said.
The reformed policy also allows visitors to extend their month visa for up to three months, EDB said. Multiple entry visas will also be issued.
“This policy will provide easier and quicker access for businesses with operations in Bahrain and will also help to attract more tourists to the Kingdom,” said Shaikh Ahmed bin Isa Al Khalifa, of the Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior.
These new visa policy measures mark Bahrain’s attempts to recover past socio-political upheavals and lay down these flexible entry requirements so as to make the country more business friendly and help it reduce the impact of political disturbances that have ravaged its economy.
“The decision to revise the visa policies was taken based on key economic and travel trends worldwide, and so they will support both the business community and the tourism sector in Bahrain,” Kamal Bin Ahmed, Minister of Transport and acting chief executive of the EDB, told Gulf Business.
He explained that the new visa rules would also impact the country’s tourism sector as he expects to see a rise in the number of visitors to the country.
The new policy coincides with business activity, with investments in the Gulf country also picking up as economic conditions improve.
The Bahrain Economic Quarterly report, issued by the EDB, revealed that second quarter GDP growth reached 3.2% in comparison to the first quarter.
The Kingdom experienced economic year-on-year growth of 5.6% in the 2nd of 2014. Meanwhile, total GDP growth for this year is expected to reach about 3.7%, the report said.
Bahrain attracted around $114 million in foreign direct investment in 2013, up 12% from the amount secured in 2012, according to the EDB.
“Strong economic fundamentals have continued to attract international investors to the Kingdom, with substantial increases in businesses owned by international investors and in non-resident shareholders’ equity over recent years,” said Ahmed.
“This new policy will further enhance access for current and future investors,” he added, while also suggesting it will make Bahrain a more attractive location for companies to establish a regional base.
But those standing to gain the most from the country’s eased visa policy are visitors from up and coming economies.
“It particularly benefits nationals from emerging economies in Asia – including India, Pakistan Indonesia; Europe – including Poland, Croatia, and Hungary; and South America – including Brazil, Argentina and Colombia.”
Could these new visa rules be a new trend to come in the G C Countries and / or would they trigger yet another round of business upturn?