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UK's Jordan visa waiver shows deepening ties between kingdoms

Skilled workforce and warm relations between royal families credited as Jordan nationals can now visit Britain for just $12
Jordan's King Abdullah II and Queen Rania arrive at Westminster Abbey ahead of the coronations of Britain's King Charles III, 6 May 2023 (AFP)
By Mustafa Abu Sneineh in London and Mohammad Ersan in Amman

Jordan and Britain have long had a close relationship, but now the UK is opening up to Jordanians in new ways after adding its nationals to the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme.

From February next year, Jordanians and citizens from Gulf countries will be exempt from having to obtain a UK visa, and can instead obtain an ETA permit for only £10 ($12.70) using an online application on their mobile phones. 

Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates will soon be able to use the scheme that American and Australian nationals currently use.

Jordanian and British officials told Middle East Eye that the decision would boost business, educational, and cultural ties.

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Jordan is not an oil-rich country such as Qatar, whose citizens will be the first of the new wave of countries to utilise the scheme in October. But lawmakers and officials believe its assets lie in human capital.

Mohammad al-Saudi, a Jordanian MP, told MEE: "Jordanians make promising businessmen, students, and tourists. The Jordanian passport is respected, and Jordanians in Britain do not cause any problems."

Skilled workers

The approximately three million Palestinians who hold permanent Jordanian citizenship will be included in the scheme.

However, Palestinians in the occupied Jerusalem and West Bank - territories that formed part of Jordan before the 1967 Middle East war - who carry the 'T series' of Jordanian passports will not be included, and will have to apply for a visa. 

The T passports, which denotes 'temporary', are issued in place of full citizenship in order to prevent Israel from pushing a policy to turn Jordan into an alternative homeland for Palestinians. Amman ceased to grant Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem citizenship after 1967.

Applicants will be asked to provide contact, passport, and biometric details, as well as a photo, and answers to basic questions. They should receive a decision swiftly, within three working days.

If successful, the ETA will be valid for two years and for multiple short visits.

Under the current system - which will change in February - a six-month-stay visa costs around £100 ($127), while a two-year visa costs £376 ($478).

"The UK truly values its relationship with Jordan, and we recognise the importance of easing travel to the UK to increase opportunities," the UK's embassy in Amman told MEE.

"This demonstrates our commitment to strengthen our relations and boost tourism. This can help to create jobs, spur economic growth, and increase revenue for the tourism industry."

'Offering this ETA scheme will allow professionals to visit, explore and see if the UK is a good choice for them and their families before deciding to move and work here'

- Ali al-Qaddoumi, legal advisor

Since leaving the European Union in January 2020, the UK government has sought to address worker shortages in the healthcare, aviation, and transport sectors. 

An estimated 18 percent of the employed workforce are migrants, according to the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.

Ali al-Qaddoumi, a London-based legal advisor, said that Jordanians are unlikely to attempt to seek asylum in the UK.

"The population of Jordan is relatively small, at 11 million people. The UK government has nothing to be concerned about from opening the door to Jordanians," he told MEE.

"On the contrary, offering this ETA scheme will allow professionals to visit, explore, and see if the UK is a good choice for them and their families before deciding to move and work here."

In April, the UK parliament passed the Illegal Migration Bill, preventing anyone arriving in the country via irregular routes from claiming asylum. 

Royal family ties

Qaddoumi said there were an estimated 22,000 to 25,000 members of the Jordanian community in the UK, with significant numbers in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Brighton, Sheffield, Southend, and Eastbourne.

He added that scores of Jordanian engineers, nurses, and entrepreneurs in the UAE, where almost 300,000 highly skilled Jordanians reside, relocated to the UK with their families in recent years.

"Another factor that prompted this decision, I believe, is the warm ties between the two royal families in Jordan and Britain. Jordan's security is stable in a region of turmoil," Qaddoumi said.

This year, the Hashmites and the House of Windsor have enjoyed several royal events.

King Abdullah II saw two of his children, Princess Iman and Crown Prince Hussien, getting married. The latter occasion was attended by the Prince and Princess of Wales.

While attending King Charles III's coronation in May, Jordan's Queen Rania said that the British sovereign "has always shown himself to be insightful, genuine, and empathetic, indispensable qualities to a monarch".

Of the 43 countries with a monarch as the head of state, eight are in the Middle East and North Africa, including Morocco, Jordan, and the Gulf states.

Following the fall of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War, Britain ruled Jordan, then known as Transjordan, as a protectorate between 1921 and 1946.

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Saudi, the Jordanian MP, told MEE the foundation of the current British-Jordanian relationship was laid by the late King Hussein bin Talal and Queen Elizabeth II.

“Britain stood by Jordan and supported it politically and economically. We did not witness any bad treatment of Jordanians in Britain. Also, the British are welcome in Jordan," he said.

Mohammad al-Momani, a Jordanian lawmaker and head of the Arab and Foreign Relations Committee, said that the visa waiver "confirms the British confidence in Jordan and its institutions, and reflects the history of the relationship between the two countries". 

Amman has received £650m ($825.71m) of foreign aid over the past five years, according to the Jordanian Ministry of Planning. Trade exchange between Jordan and the UK amounts to $812.7 million annually.

Currently, British nationals visiting Jordan must pay a visa upon arrival worth 40 Jordanian dinars ($56).

The Jordanian embassy said it "did not receive any official request" about that visa being waived, but would be willing to consider and discuss with relevant institutions if such a request was received. 

"Again, any effort that leads to a more substantial Jordan-UK relation will be an item on the bilateral agenda," it said.

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