Dubai: Emiratis and UK expatriates living in the UAE are calling for equal visa approval rules between both countries following calls for strengthening ties by British Prime Minister David Cameron on a two-day UAE visit this week.
Currently, British nationals visiting the UAE get a visa upon arrival in the emirates but UAE residents must apply in advance for a visit visa to the UK, which may not be approved.
There has been no word as to whether the issue of easing visa restrictions is on the table for discussion between both countries.
An estimated 100,000 Britons live in the UAE.
Khalid Al Hammadi, 35, said he was planning to travel to UK this year but changed his mind because of the long procedures and documents, which he was required to submit in advance.
“I am preparing now to go to Asia, Turkey or any other European country, yet not UK,” Khalid, who works as an admin team leader in the capital, said.
“I think the UK should treat us as we are treating them here in the UAE. It is kind of a humiliation to apply such procedures on us to get a visa visit, whereas UAE as a country does not demand the same,” Al Hammadi, told Gulf News.
Ahmad Al Mazerooei, 25, said: “In the long-standing bonds of friendship and cooperation between UAE and UK, I believe that we as Emiratis need the British professionals to help in supporting our industry and education, whereas Britons doesn’t always look for Emirati employees or experiences.
Mutual benefits, political policies, and security regulations are what really matter in issuing visas to people from the two countries.”
Ahmad Al Reyami, a 27-year-old project engineer, said on equal visa treatment: “I believe that every country has the right to do whatever it wants. The two concerned countries have to decide whether to maintain their firm regulations regarding visa issue or to impose new requirements for applying.
“UAE today is developing as a hub for tourism, industry, investment and education, therefore there is no logic in imposing visa requirement on a country like UK, which will benefit and expand many sectors within the UAE,” Al Reyami added.
Mariam Mohammad, 23, a Dubai resident and government employee said, “We are suffering more when we want travel to UK from the time to issue visa which takes a long period to reach, up to one month to be issued. In addition, there are tough procedures including a personal interview. Really, I hope that the government considers the visa policy for UK citizens. I demand reciprocity.”
Graeme, a UK expat living in Dubai, said Cameron’s words of a partnership ring a bit hollow when there are two clearly different sets of rules for visitors.
“This strikes me as pretty hypocritical, really. If it’s all one happy family, it should be equal visa treatment shouldn’t it? I probably have it easier than a UAE resident going to the UK,” he said.
Jane, a UK expatriate living in the UAE, said she wasn’t aware of UK regulations prohibiting visa upon arrival for UAE residents.
“I didn’t realise that Emiratis couldn’t show up in London. When you go to Knightbridge or Kensington, you see a lot of Emiratis. I would suspect many UK residents aren’t aware of the UK rules asking for visas ahead of time,” she said.
Cameron, in a statement issued after his two-day swing through the UAE said that “our partnership is built on respect for each other’s sovereignty. Both countries have evolved their systems of government over time to reflect their respective traditions and aspirations for the future.”
By Derek Baldwin, Chief Reporter, Sara Sabry, Staff Reporter and Aghaddir Ali, Staff Reporter