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UK agrees instant two-year visas for Saudi nationals

A passenger at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5. The two-year visas for Saudi nationals will only cost £10 Reuters/Hannah McKay
A passenger at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5. The two-year visas for Saudi nationals will only cost £10
  • Multiple entry for any purpose
  • 11,850 Saudis studying in UK
  • UK fintech business visit

Saudi Arabian nationals can obtain instant two-year multiple entry visas to the UK for business, tourism and study visits following a deal made during a British business delegation trip to the kingdom this week. 

“The new visa offers a validity period of up to two years and multiple entries during the validity period, in addition to costing nominal fees of 10 pounds sterling,” the official Saudi Press Agency said on January 31. 

“It can also be used for the purposes of tourism, business, short study or medical treatment,” it said, adding that the visa would be considered an electronic travel authorisation. 

The e-visa waiver scheme for Saudi citizens first started in June 2022. The new system goes into effect on February 22 but applications have already opened. 

British nationals can also obtain six-month single entry visas for tourism, business, study or medical treatment, part of the e-visa reforms first introduced by the kingdom in 2019. 

According to the British Council, there are 11,850 Saudis studying in Britain, the largest number from the region. 

Britain is trying to raise international student numbers to make up for loss of revenue from a fall in European Union students after Britain left the EU, and maintain its status globally as the number two destination after the United States.  

Minister of state at the British foreign ministry, Tariq Ahmad, made the agreement in a meeting at the Saudi foreign ministry, which occurred during a visit of around 30 fintech companies and investors hoping to benefit from reforms in the Saudi financial services sector. 

Saudi Arabia has become the region’s leading destination for venture capital, growing 33 percent during 2023 to reach $1.4 billion. The government is aiming to have 525 fintech companies by 2030, contributing SAR13.3 billion ($3.5 billion) to GDP. 

The Saudi British Joint Business Council says Britain has around 2,500 fintech companies and a market that saw 409 deals worth a total $5.1 billion in 2023, making the UK the second largest global fintech hub after the US and the leading European market.

“This is the second fintech mission that the Saudi British Joint Business Council has led to the kingdom … and it follows the move towards more open banking in Saudi Arabia as well as the rapid growth of the Saudi fintech ecosystem,” it said in a statement.

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