Last week, the European Union (EU) Commission proposed to lift visa requirements for nationals of Kuwait and Qatar. If approved by the European Parliament, the visa-waiver would allow Kuwait and Qatari nationals holding biometric passports to travel to the EU without the need for a visa, for short stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period for business, tourism or family purposes.

The proposal comes after the EU Commission assessed a number of criteria including irregular migration, public policy and security, economic benefits, and the Union’s relations with the two countries, as well as its contribution to strengthening relations with Gulf countries.

The EU High Representative/Vice-President, Josep Borrell, said: “Our proposal to lift visa requirements for Qatari and Kuwaiti nationals is a first step to make it easier for people from the entire region to travel to the European Union. The final objective is to ensure regional coherence and ultimately achieve visa free travel for all Gulf Cooperation Council countries. Together with our upcoming Joint Communication on the Gulf, this proposal will reinforce the overall partnership and strengthen the cooperation between the EU and the Gulf Cooperation Council.”

It is now for the European Parliament and the Council to examine the proposal and decide whether to grant visa-free travel to nationals of Kuwait and Qatar. If the proposal is adopted, the EU will then negotiate a visa-waiver agreement with the two countries to ensure full visa reciprocity for EU citizens. Visa-free travel to the EU for nationals of Qatar and Kuwait will start applying once the visa waiver agreement enters into force.

Exemptions from the visa requirement play a key role in facilitating people-to-people contacts and strengthening political, economic, research, educational, cultural and societal exchanges. The proposal for visa exemption for Kuwait and Qatar nationals is a step towards stronger regional coherence in the Gulf region, following the visa exemption granted to the United Arab Emirates in 2014.

Under the visa exemption, travelers can visit all EU Member States except for Ireland, as well as the four Schengen associated countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). The visa exemption does not provide for the right to work in the EU, although Member States have the possibility to allow travelers to conduct a paid activity during their stay.

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