Passengers wait to check in their luggage for Emirates Airlines flights at Dubai International Airport terminal 3. The airport handled 4.31 million passengers in July compared to 3.77 million in July 2009, a year on year increase of 14.3 per cent. Image Credit: Megan Hirons Mahon/Gulf News archive

Abu Dhabi: Starting January 2, Canadians will have to obtain a pre-arranged visa to enter the UAE, official sources said yesterday, amid souring ties between the two countries.

Visas will be required for tourism and business purposes but Canadians living in GCC countries can enter the UAE on their residence visa, an Interior Ministry official told Gulf News.

The new requirement announced by the UAE's embassy in Ottawa comes amid an increasingly bitter spat centred on landing rights for UAE airlines.

The dispute has already cost Canada access to a military air base that is a crucial link in the supply line for its mission in Afghanistan.

Previously Canadians, like travellers from 34 countries including the United States and much of Europe, were able to obtain a visa on arrival to the UAE under a visa waiver system. More than 25,000 Canadians are living in the UAE, an official estimated.

The visa waiver policy will no longer apply to Canada because relations had dipped to a point where they were "neither healthy nor hopeful", the Associated Press quoted an official source in Abu Dhabi as saying. "The visa waivers are granted to countries with a special relationship ... built on economic and other areas of close and growing cooperation," the source said.

"The current status of relations with the government in Canada compared with other countries on the visa waiver programme is at a much lower level. ... It isn't fair to include it with countries with which we have a healthy and productive relationship."

Another official told Gulf News that the decision is in response to the Canadian government's insistence on visas for Emiratis wanting to travel to Canada. The UAE embassy in Ottawa was instructed to announce the decision to Canadian officials, he said.

The official added that this decision has no negative impact on the bilateral relations between the two countries.

The UAE has ratcheted up the pressure on Ottawa after failing to secure additional landing rights for Emirates and Etihad airlines.

UN Council setback

The UAE last month also moved to bar Canada from using the Mirage air base that was expected to play an important role in the drawdown of Canadian troops and equipment from Afghanistan.

A UAE official told Gulf News earlier the UAE lobbied against Canada's bid for a non-permanent United Nations Security Council seat. Canada pulled out of the race after falling behind rivals in an early round of voting in what was seen as a significant setback for the G-7 economic power.

— With additional inputs from Abdullah Rasheed, Abu Dhabi Editor and AP

Aviation dispute

  • October 10: The UAE is disappointed that despite intensive negotiations over the last five years the UAE and Canada have been unable to arrive at an agreement on expanding the number of flights between the two countries.
  • October 11: Canadians barred from military base, a crucial link in the supply line for its mission in Afghanistan.
  • October 14: Official source announces UAE lobbied against Canada's bid to win a seat on the United Nations Security Council because of its anti-Arab policies.
  • November 9: UAE cancels visa waiver policy for Canadians, in a tit for tat move.