Saudi Arabia is planning to open expat-only immigration counters to help speed up the arrivals process for an estimated 10 million residents, a Passport Department official has reportedly said.
The kingdom’s aviation sector is undergoing a massive expansion and upgrade program, with about 25 airports either under construction or being expanded.
Its General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) expects annual passenger traffic to soar from 65m in 2012 to 100m by 2020, including almost a doubling of domestic traffic to 28.5m.
That will put enormous strain on immigration control at international airports.
Presently, only citizens of the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries are eligible for expedited immigration processing, as is the case at all GCC international airports.
Residents of some of the GCC countries can apply for e-gate cards that allow them to skip the immigration queue, however, they can only be used in their country of residence.
Spokesman for Saudi’s Makkah Passport Department office, Mohammed Al Hussain, said the department planned to open counters for expatriates only.
“This is part of our expansion plan,” he was quoted by Arab News as saying.