New special visa deals for Bahrainis on way

MORE special visa arrangements look to be on the cards for Bahraini travellers as a result of a recent successful international conference staged in the kingdom.

Negotiations with business powerhouse China are progressing and countries in South America and Africa are coming close to a satisfactory conclusion.

Parliament’s foreign affairs, defence and national security committee chairman Hassan Bukhammas revealed that the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) 146th Assembly staged in Bahrain earlier this month had enticed foreign parliamentarians to open channels for the visa deals.

“We believe that we’re capable of getting unconditional deals with many countries as they have shown interest in attracting more Bahrainis to visit and possibly invest,” he revealed to the GDN.

He hopes all new visa arrangements will be finalised before the end of the year as Bahrain’s passport strengthens its global accessibility.

“The IPU has proved to be a gateway for helping us to meet with people from countries that were not on our radar and, hopefully, we will manage to at least reach visa deals with 20 to 30 countries,” he said.

According to, the Bahraini passport ranking is 65 and the number of visa free destinations accessible with one is 83.

The list of ‘visa-free countries’ is calculated to reflect the number of countries Bahrain passport holders can enter without a visa, through a visa on arrival, and through Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA).

Bahrain this month unveiled its first-ever ePassport featuring design and security features that reflect the country’s heritage in a bid to make overseas travel more convenient for citizens.

Interior Minister General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa added that the new ePassport would be offered first to those whose passports were set to expire, and the aim was to roll out approximately 150,000-200,000 per year, with a goal of completing the process within five years.

Bahrain continues to press for Schengen visa waivers with its member countries too. “We have been told by officials that the matter is at an advanced stage and that a similar ePassport to that launched by Bahrain is currently being used in Europe. It could help speed up the process,” Mr Bukhammas revealed.

The Schengen Area comprises 27 European countries, including Germany, France, Poland and Spain, that have officially abolished all passport and all other types of border control at their mutual borders.

Committee member Dr Mariam Al Dhaen, who was part of the official parliamentary delegation, said that challenges include countries seeking mutual treatment for their nationals.

“These kind of deals can prove complicated as they involve airspace, airlines, cargo and unconditional entry,” she explained. “But, whenever there is an understanding, it can run smoothly. That’s what the IPU helped us achieve, as many decision-makers from across the globe were present.

“There are deals with African countries at a developed stage such as the two Congos and Central African Republic and with Costa Rica and Argentina in South America.

“We are trying to get a deal with China for electronic visas as a first step and then work on waivers, while Laos is looking into the possibility of a waiver to replace the current visa on arrival arrangement.”

Visitors to the UK from Bahrain and other GCC countries will be amongst the first to benefit from the ETA programme being launched in the coming year.

The programme will replace the current Electronic Visa Waiver scheme which requires visitors to the UK from GCC states to pay a higher cost for a single-use visit.




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