Ireland must secure bi-lateral agreement with Saudi Arabia on Visa costings to compete for business – Hayes
Ireland is the only EU country that must pay a high cost for a Visa to enter Saudi Arabia, Brian Hayes MEP stated, which is posing a huge disadvantage for business.
“It’s imperative that we negotiate a better deal,” he said. “In October of last year, Saudi Arabia increased its visa fees from $100 to $500 for an annual multi entry visa. A number of countries received concessions or reduced visa fees, including the UK and USA. The entire Schengen zone, which comprises 26 countries in the EU also received reduced fees of just $50. This arrangement means Ireland is one of the few EU countries paying these extremely expensive fees.
“The UK has secured a bi-lateral agreement with Saudi Arabia on the cost of visas and as Brexit talks progress, I do not want to see Ireland in any way exposed when it comes to competing for foreign trade.
“Saudi Arabia is a priority market under the Government’s Trade, Tourism and Investment Strategy. Ireland and Saudi Arabia have a strong trading relationship, and many Irish companies do business with the Kingdom, as well as with other countries in the region. Any barriers to travel, financial or otherwise, must not compromise the continued advancement of Ireland’s business interests in Saudi Arabia.
“Similarly, there are large numbers of Irish citizens working and living in Saudi who are also unhappy with these high visa costs. They feel they are being penalised unnecessarily when they compare themselves to other ex-pats.
“It is my understanding that Irish Ambassador to Saudi Arabia has been making positive strides to secure a meeting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Riyadh, with view to progressing talks to secure a bi-lateral agreement. The Minister for Foreign Affairs here recognises that this agreement must be reciprocal and must benefit Saudi Arabian citizens and businesses.
“It is hoped that this bi-lateral agreement will be in place before the end of the year, with newer reduced visa costings set for January 2018. It is imperative that an agreement is reached without undue delay if Ireland is to retain its competitiveness across foreign markets.”