Types of Visa

What sort of visa do I need?

All nationals of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states (i.e. the six Gulf states) and British citizens (by birth) may enter Bahrain without a visa and receive an entry stamp in their passport.

British citizens can stay for a month and gain a short extension by applying to the Directorate of Immigration and Passports, Bahrain International Airport, PO Box 331, Manama (Tel. 973-528 883).

All other visitors require one of the following visas. Note that, although certain visas are theoretically obtainable on arrival in Bahrain, young single women should be sure to arrange them in advance, as they will come under scrutiny at the point of entry owing to the recent increase in the number of prostitutes attempting to enter Bahrain.

Note also that the immigration authorities are very strict with those whose passport states their occupation as journalist, writer or editor, unless their visit has prior permission from the Ministry of Information (PO Box 253, Bahrain,  Tel. 973-781 888). Even if your visit to Bahrain is unconnected with your work as a writer, you’re likely to be refused entry or at best will be allowed to approach the Ministry of Information, under supervision, for permission to enter the country. Journalists on official visits are sponsored by the Ministry and are accompanied by an official during their visit, with transport supplied.

Tourist Visa

Bahrain has a burgeoning tourist industry and is keen to promote this further, as it’s a valuable source of income. Tourist visas are issued for stays of two weeks to citizens of the European Union (EU), Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand and the USA. Applicants must possess valid, up-to-date passports and a return or onward ticket. A small charge is made – around BD5 ($12) – and hotels can arrange visas if given advance notice. Tourist visas don’t allow you to engage in any employment.

Visitor Visa

These visas are for other foreign nationals and require the sponsorship of a Bahraini, who has to apply to the Directorate of Immigration and Passports on the visitor’s behalf. They’re valid for a month and cost BD22 (around $54). They don’t allow employment.

72-hour & Seven-day Visas

These are obtainable at the point of entry for short stay business visitors and cost around BD10 ($24) and BD15 ($36) respectively. You need a return or onward ticket and a valid passport.

Business Visa

Those intending to stay longer than a week on business must obtain a business visa through the Bahrain embassy in their own country. Business visas are valid for up to four weeks. You must complete an application form and present your passport, photographs, an employer’s letter indicating the purpose of the trip and a ‘letter of no objection’ or a ‘ no objection certificate’ (NOC) from your Bahraini sponsor, although this last is rarely asked for. There’s a fee (e.g. £20 in the UK). The duration of the visa varies according to the nature of the trip.

Work Visa

If you’re taking up employment in Bahrain, you require a work visa, which is normally valid for one or two years. This also entitles you to reside in the country. A medical examination is required and fees are applicable. Your sponsor normally arranges most of the necessary paperwork.

Family Visa

The immediate family of those working in Bahrain can obtain a family visa (sometimes also called a residence permit) for around BD22 ($54), which entitles them to residence status for the period of employment. Members of the family aren’t allowed to work, unless separate arrangements are made and the appropriate work visas obtained.

This article is an extract from Living and Working in the Gulf States & Saudi Arabia. Click here to get a copy now.

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