In an effort to boost tourist traffic, the United Arab Emirates has decided to revamp its visa policy. A recently issued decree, made public Wednesday, March 21, orders the lifting of entry visa requirements on visitors from 33 Western and Asian countries.
A press release, published by the UAE interior ministry, stated that the move was aimed at boosting friendly relations with countries that have common interests with the Emirates. Nonetheless, this relaxing of visa restrictions is also part of the Emirates’ efforts to boost non-oil revenues, the mainstay of their economy.
The measures, effective immediately, apply to EU citizens, Americans, Australians, Canadians, Malaysians, Japanese, New Zealanders, and citizens of Brunei, Hong Kong and Singapore. Until now, only citizens of Gulf Cooperation Council members — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman — as well as British nationals were the could enter the Emirates freely.
All other nationalities had to apply for a visa before the entering the country, either through their respective embassy, a local UAE sponsor or a local hotel. Such measures were taken by Emirati authorities in order to deal with the problem of people overstaying to find work in the oil-rich country, after having entered it as tourists.
The UAE may therefore seem not as hospitable towards foreigners originating from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Yemen, to whom visas are no longer issued in general. A Gulf Air source was quoted in the Gulf Today newspaper in July, as saying that out of every 2,000 visitors, some 200 abscond after arriving in the country.
Earlier this year, local press also reported another move in this direction, as Emirati authorities had decided not to issue tourist and visit visas to women under the age of 40, unless accompanied by their husbands or close relatives. Such tourists are also be required to give a visit program during their stay in the country. — (Albawaba-MEBG)
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