Kuwait and Qatar nationals to travel visa-free to the EU and Schengen area, proposed by the Commission
On 27 April 2022, the EU Commission proposed visa-free travel to EU countries for Qatar and Kuwait in an attempt to improve the European Union’s relationship with Gulf countries.
If the proposal is approved, Kuwait and Qatar nationals with biometric passports will be exempt from visa requirements if they need to travel for business, tourism, or family purposes to an EU country for up to 90 days (in a period of 180 days).
The proposal is based on the fact that biometric passports (which are issued by Qatar and Kuwait) are a prerequisite to acquire visa-free travel to EU countries, and that both Kuwait and Qatar involve low irregular migration risks. They also have a very collaborative attitude with EU countries in regards to security issues and are relevant economic partners in the area of energy for the whole European Union.
“Today we are proposing short-stay visa-free travel to the EU for Qatari and Kuwaiti citizens with biometric passports – facilitating people-to-people contacts and strengthening business, social and cultural ties”, said Vice President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas. “This is the result of the success of the governments of Qatar and Kuwait in achieving far-reaching reforms and reflects the increasing intensity and depth of EU relations with both countries. It is an important achievement for citizens in both regions, and I hope that the European Parliament and the Council will adopt our proposal swiftly.”
If the European Parliament and the Council adopt the proposal, the EU will start to negotiate a visa waiver agreement with Kuwait and Qatar. Once the visa waiver agreement enters into force, Qatari and Kuwaiti people with biometric passports will obtain the benefit of visa-free travel to countries in the European Union. The only exception is Ireland, which will not provide visa-free entry to Qatar and Kuwait citizens. Also, they will have visa-free entry to the Schengen associated countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland).
Qatar and Kuwait citizens will not have the right to work in the European Union, though. At most, EU countries can let them carry out a paid activity during their short-stay period.
Currently, more than 60 countries in the world have already received the benefit of visa-free travel to the European Union. Nationals of visa-exempt countries are subject to the EU Entry/Exit System (EES) as of second half of 2022 and to the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) as of May 2023.
New visa exemptions may be announced in the future —especially for interested parties from the Gulf Cooperation Council—based on an evaluation against the criteria set in the EU rules regarding visa requirements.
“The proposal for visa exemption for Qatar and Kuwait nationals facilitates business travels, tourism and family visits to the EU. It is also a step towards stronger regional coherence in the Gulf region when it comes to visa regimes”, said Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson. “The EU will continue engaging with the remaining visa-required Gulf countries that are interested in visa-free travel to the EU.”
It is worth noting that the UAE had signed an agreement with the European Union for visa exemption in May 2015, making the UAE the first country in the Gulf region, Arab countries and the Middle East to grant its citizens a visa exemption to travel to the Schengen countries and the European Union.