Gulf Cooperation Council: Simplified Visa Options in the Middle East

Last Updated on October 27, 2023

What is the Gulf Cooperation Council?  

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was first conceptualized in the 1970s as a political and economic union between several states in the Middle East. In May 1981, six states – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – signed the official GCC charter.  

The GCC’s main goal is to unify regional economic affairs, encourage the transfer of information and create stability throughout the region. Through the GCC, member states have developed standard immigration procedures for tourism and business travel. 

Envoy Global’s UAE and EMEA Immigration Team helps employers identify and capitalize on the immigration benefits offered to nationals of GCC member states.  

Entry Benefits for Citizens of GCC Member States 

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GCC member states include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.


Under the GCC charter, citizens of participating countries can take advantage of simplified immigration measures, such as the following:  

  • Extensions to the maximum period of stay (varies depending on the member state). 
  • Expanded citizenship rights that are similar to citizens of the host member state. 
  • Short-term visa-free travel for citizens of certain member states, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE (Qatar grants GCC citizens a one-month visa for business visitor purposes if valid proof of identity is provided). 
  • Access to citizen labor cards rather than work and residence permits (The application process for a citizen labor card is often less complicated than the work and residence permit application process). 

Some long-term residents of GCC member states can enter another GCC state under simplified entry and visa procedures. For instance, they may only be required to obtain a visa on arrival (VoA) or an eVisa, which is the case for GCC residents visiting the UAE 

In other member states, such as Saudi Arabia, long-term GCC residents may be required to meet certain eligibility requirements. These can include holding a specific job title, possessing a valid GCC resident permit and presenting a valid passport.  

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Mapping the Future of the GCC 

Within the next year, citizens of many GCC member states, including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, will be permitted to travel visa-free to the UK for a limited duration. The European Union (EU) has also discussed introducing visa-free travel options for some GCC member state foreign nationals and citizens 

How to Capitalize on the Benefits of the GCC Charter

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Envoy’s Global Immigration Team is worldwide, and we service all countries and jurisdictions where our clients require support.


Envoy Global assists in navigating the GCC immigration process by advising on any specific considerations throughout the region.  

For example, in some GCC member states, such as Bahrain, certain occupations are reserved specifically for GCC member state nationals. Other member states, such as Kuwait and Oman, maintain quotas that require a certain percentage of a company’s workforce to be GCC member state citizens if the company intends to hire foreign national employees.  

Envoy’s Global Immigration team assists employers in meeting quota requirements and can advise on alternative immigration pathways when available.  

The team provides client-specific guidance on the requirements and benefits of the GCC charter and will assist in assessing all employee eligibility. Envoy’s Global Account Managers will also be your go-to resource for proactively tracking GCC policy changes and potential travel expansions under the GCC.  

Meanwhile, our platform will help your company and employees maintain accurate tracking timelines throughout the application process. The platform also securely stores documents so your team can remain informed and ahead of the curve. 

Contact our team today to learn more about our immigration services and how Envoy can help you manage talent throughout the Middle East. 

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Content in this publication is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an attorney at Corporate Immigration Partners, P.C., or another qualified professional of your choosing. On non-U.S. immigration issues, consult your Envoy representative, or another qualified representative of your choosing.