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Thu 5 Jun 2014 09:50 AM

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Saudi plans expat-only airport immigration queues

The kingdom could become the first GCC country to give foreign residence faster immigration processing at airports.

Saudi plans expat-only airport immigration queues
Photo for illustrative purpose only (AFP/Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia is planning to open expat-only immigration counters to help speed up the arrivals process for an estimated 10 million residents, a Passport Department official has reportedly said.

The kingdom’s aviation sector is undergoing a massive expansion and upgrade program, with about 25 airports either under construction or being expanded.

Its General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) expects annual passenger traffic to soar from 65m in 2012 to 100m by 2020, including almost a doubling of domestic traffic to 28.5m.

That will put enormous strain on immigration control at international airports.

Presently, only citizens of the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries are eligible for expedited immigration processing, as is the case at all GCC international airports.

Residents of some of the GCC countries can apply for e-gate cards that allow them to skip the immigration queue, however, they can only be used in their country of residence.

Spokesman for Saudi’s Makkah Passport Department office, Mohammed Al Hussain, said the department planned to open counters for expatriates only.

“This is part of our expansion plan,” he was quoted by Arab News as saying.

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saif bin ahmed 6 years ago

An excellent idea. Residents stuck in line with visitors is causing too many delays at airports in the Arabian Gulf. Well Done !

saif bin ahmed 6 years ago

An excellent idea. Residents stuck in line with visitors is causing to many delays at airports in the Arabian Gulf. Well Done !

Ali 6 years ago

Bahrain already offers residents-only immigration queues. They have done for years.

Bill 6 years ago

For many years Oman has separate counters for resident visa holders, in addition to the e-gate. Oman also has a separate counter for GCC nationals and visitors.

However, the resident visa counters are over-crowded when new employment visa holders arrive and have to go through the same counters, particularly when the new employment visa holders come in large groups from certain countries. This causes a lot of delays.

Recardo 6 years ago

I think this is a very good move which expat in Saudi Arabia waited since 3-4 decades.
The most important issue is to train the immigration staff about how to treat passengers in a civilized manner regardless for their gender, age and nationality.
Also could benefit from the lessons of Dubai Airports/ Immigration Department by adopting the electronic / eye print passport which could speed up traffic in the airports and facilitate the movement of the passengers, and at the same time maintaining the same high security requirements .
Excellent Job

imran aziz 6 years ago

i think its a good idea to learn from Dubai and have eye scan,e gates etc so that expats are saved from getting in contact with illiterate and arrogant Saudis sitting on the immigration desks and May Allah also teach them some manners. Ameen

Sadie 6 years ago

There already are queues for GCC/Saudi nationals, so by default, all the other queues are for foreigners. There are also queues for expat resident permit holders. However, staff on the ground can move you to whatever queue they like, so it doesn't always follow that you will be in the right, or shortest queue. Introducing expat-only queues probably won't make any difference.

tfg 6 years ago

I've seen the immigration desks at multiple airports, for the most part they act professionally, but loose their tempers when your countrymen and other country men from your region skip queue, use GCC only queue, or try to sneak in into other queues.

Waqas Javed 6 years ago

Respected Imran, I have never seen any illiterate and arrogant Saudi in immigration department. They are friendly also. But problem is that here in the kingdom majority people who comes to work as a laborer job are not that much educated so they can talk in english or arabic. I also have seen some on duty immigration officers are helping to fill up their forms when they arrive. Its good thing that literacy rate in the Kingdom is increasing day by day.

Lets focus the topic. Its good idea if they make expats queue separate and expand. BE POSITIVE ....

mansoor qadri 6 years ago

Absolutely correct,
The condition won't improve until following:
1. Immigration officer behavior & feeling Responsibility, Not leaving the counter.
2. Single line to be arranged, & not separate line for each counter. Hence No chances of shifting people from one line to another.
3. increase number of counters/ personnel's.