The United Kingdom approved approximately 99 percent of regular visa applications submitted by Emiratis from July 2017 to June 2018, a top UK official told the Emirates News Agency, WAM.
The UK issued 5,940 visas in total to Emiratis during that 12-month period, which meant each visa was issued in an average of three working days, said Julia Longbottom, Director for Consular Affairs in Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
“That’s well within our standard processing time of 15 working days [on general terms],” she said in an email interview.
Apart from regular visas, the UK has been issuing Electronic Visa Waiver, EVW, an alternative to visas for Emiratis since 2015. The UAE is one of only four countries, which is part of the EVWs scheme.
However, she was not in a position to reveal the number of EVWs issued to Emiratis. “This question would require a Freedom of Information request before figures could be released,” Longbottom said.
The Freedom of Information, FOI, request is a process that involves a formal written submission under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 that gives UK citizens and others the right to request certain information held by the public bodies and organisations.
The Electronic Visa Waiver allows Emiratis travelling to the UK for tourism, business, study or medical treatment to a stay up to six months. They can travel without a visa simply by filling in an online form at least 48 hours before they travel.
The service offered is flexible, as customers do not have to visit the visa application centre and can submit their details online between three months to 48 hours in advance.
“All EVWs are processed within 24 hours regardless of when they are submitted,” Longbottom revealed.
Asked about the possibility of opening ePassport gates at immigration checkpoints in some airports across the UK for travellers from more countries, including the Arabian Gulf, she said the recent changes made to the process had to be monitored before considering it.
It was announced on May 20, 2019 that eligible travellers from seven non-European Union countries – Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States – could use ePassport gates to enter the UK.
“The expansion of the number of nationalities eligible to use the UK’s ePassport gates in May this year is a significant change to our border processes and it will need to be monitored before any further expansion can be considered,” the official explained.
There are currently 264 ePassport gates in operation at 15 air and rail terminals in the UK and juxtaposed controls, the UK-operated border controls in France and Belgium to check passengers and freight destined for the UK, according to the UK Government.
The ePassport gates use facial recognition technology to compare the passenger’s face to the digital image recorded in their passport.
These gates have been available to British and EU nationals since 2008. EU nationals will remain eligible to use them once the UK leaves the EU.
In the year ending September 2018, 51.9 million passengers used them across the UK and juxtaposed controls.