Electronic visa waiver scheme for Middle Eastern business travellers
Launch of new ePassport gates at Gatwick
New Visa4UK website


Electronic visa waiver scheme for Middle Eastern business travellers

The Home Office has proposed changes to the Immigration Rules to provide a new, straightforward and free alternative to a visa for short-term visitors from Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The intention is to extend the scheme to Kuwait later in 2014. These countries are presently visa nationals for the United Kingdom, which means that hitherto individuals have been required to apply for a visa in order to enter the United Kingdom as a visitor.

As of January 1 2014, passport holders from these countries can travel to the United Kingdom without a visa if they have obtained an electronic visa waiver document at least 48 hours before travel to the United Kingdom and present the document to an immigration officer upon request on arrival. A simple online form needs to be completed, for which there is no fee. There will be no requirement to give biometrics or attend a visa application centre. Full guidance will be provided on the Home Office website in due course. Some visitors may still prefer a long-term multi-entry visit visa and the facility to obtain these visas will remain. The new scheme will certainly ease business travel for these passport holders and make the United Kingdom a more attractive destination for business travellers.

The concept is similar to that available for certain nationalities travelling to the United States, although a fee is payable for the US visa waiver scheme.

Launch of new ePassport gates at Gatwick

On December 4 2013 the Home Office announced the unveiling of new-generation, state-of-the-art machines at London Gatwick Airport which allow passengers with an electronic chip in their passports to pass quickly and efficiently through immigration control.

This is one of the measures that the Home Office is focusing on to improve services at the border. Another service is the Registered Traveller Scheme, which is being piloted at both Gatwick and Heathrow airports until March 31 2014 (for further details please see "Home Office launches Registered Traveller Scheme"). If the pilot proves successful, those registered travellers qualifying to take part will benefit from a quicker transaction at the border, as they will not need to be processed through the normal passport desks. There will be a dedicated lane for registered travellers.

Registered travellers with a compatible biometric-chipped passport can use the electronic passport gates at Gatwick. There is an annual membership charge and a fee for registering new passports and using this service.(1)

The scheme is open only to visitors who previously registered under the IRIS scheme during the pilot. However, as part of its consultation on fees and charging, the Home Office is considering extending this type of premium service to other visa categories, including limited leave to remain.

New Visa4UK website

On November 22 2013 the Home Office launched a new Visa4UK website. Applicants are now required to register an account before proceeding to apply for entry clearance to the United Kingdom. The format has changed and a number of additional questions have been added. For those applying under Tier 2, a certificate of sponsorship number is now requested, as well as details of the proposed employment in the United Kingdom. There have been some teething problems with this form, which the Home Office is seeking to rectify.

For further information on this topic please contact Ilda De Sousa at Kingsley Napley by telephone (+44 20 7814 1200), fax (+44 20 7490 2288) or email (idesousa@kingsleynapley.co.uk). The Kingsley Napley website can be accessed at www.kingsleynapley.co.uk.

Endnotes

(1) See eligibility and criteria at www.gov.uk/registered-traveller-scheme.