Dubai: The UAE passport has another feather in its cap as one of the world’s most powerful passports following a Monday decision by the Canadian government to lift pre-entry visa restrictions on Emiratis travelling to that country.
Now ranked as the 23rd most powerful passport, visa-free access to Canada now enables UAE citizens to travel to 155 countries around the world without obtaining pre-entry visas.
Canada is the ninth country this year to lift visa restrictions for UAE nationals following countries such as China, Ireland, Burkina Faso, Uruguay, Guinea, Tonga and Honduras.
Citizens of the UAE can now obtain a visa upon arrival when visiting Canada, said officials following a high-level meeting on Monday between Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmad Hussen.
The new travel rules take effect on June 5.
Emiratis who study or temporarily work in Canada will still need to apply for a study or work permit as the new rules apply only to visitors and those transiting through the country on international flights.
“United Arab Emirates is a key strategic partner and lifting the visa requirement will help reaffirm the strong relationship between our two countries. It will also promote increased tourism, cultural, academic and study exchanges, as well as foster new business, trade, and investment opportunities,” said Hussen in a statement.
Canada enjoys a growing relationship with the UAE where 40,000 Canadians live and work.
As many as 150 Canadian companies do business in the UAE as well.
The new visa announcement follows Hussen’s first visit in May 2017 to the UAE on a formal mission to boost Canada’s destination profile abroad and introduce a fast-track strategy to attract educated, skilled workers to Canada.
At the time, Hussen met with high-level UAE government and education officials in Abu Dhabi and was front and centre at a low-key, meet-and-greet gathering alongside Masud Hussain, Ambassador of Canada to the UAE
“The UAE is a very important country for Canada and I am here to reinforce that message,” Hussen told Gulf News during his visit. “In that capacity, I am here to encourage more tourism from the UAE, more international students from the UAE and more business travellers from this country.”
The ministry said on Monday that the travel visa exemption was reached after extensive review and was based on “a comprehensive and rigorous evaluation of the UAE against Canada’s visa policy criteria. The evaluation found that the UAE meets Canada’s criteria for a visa exemption”.
(With Reports from Abdulla Rasheed, Abu Dhabi Editor)
How to apply
To apply for electronic travel authorisation in Canada, UAE citizens can log on to www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/visit-canada/eta/apply.html to allow Canadian Customs officials to screen travellers.
Once approved, UAE citizens can board flights to Canada and obtain a travel visa upon arrival in Canada.
However, similar to visa-exempt programmes by countries such as the United Kingdom which also lifted visa restrictions on UAE citizens in recent years, Emiratis must file an electronic travel authorisation (eTA) which enables Canadian Customs officials to screen passengers before they fly.
Unless approved through the electronic system, Emiratis will not be permitted to board flights to Canada.
The ministry said UAE citizens can avail the new eTA system effective 1.30pm Gulf standard time on June 5 for electronic authorisation.
According to Statistics Canada, “by 2011, the National Household Survey estimated the foreign-born population at 6,775,700, representing 20.6 per cent of the total population. This was the largest proportion since the 1931 census”.
In 2016, Canada recorded its highest infusion of refugees in four decades, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
As many as 46,700 refugees were taken in by Canada in 2016.
Passport power: UAE races up the global index
After an announcement made by the Canadian government on Monday night, the total number of countries that offer visa-free entry to UAE nationals has gone up to 155. Last month, the 2018 Henley Passport Index ranked the UAE passport as the 23rd most powerful in the world in all categories. According to the index, the global ranking of the UAE passport is 17 in terms of travel access and only 50 countries require a visa or pre-approved before arrival for UAE nationals.
Over a 10-year period, the UAE passport has jumped by 38 places, the biggest historical climb of any passport in the world, according to the creators of the Henley Passport Index.
The UAE passport also remains the most powerful in the Gulf region.
“The UAE’s success is linked to the fact that, between 1999 and 2018, visa restrictions on Emirati citizens have been lifted by countries such as New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Ukraine and China, as well as by those in Europe’s Schengen area,” Henley & Partners said at the time of releasing its annual report in January.
Below is a list of countries that allow visa-free access to travellers with a UAE passport, though some countries require a pre-approval or electronic authorisation prior to travel.
— By Dona Cherian/Guides Writer
|Indonesia||Bosnia and Herzegovina|
|NORTH AMERICA AND CARRIBEAN||Georgia|
|St Vincent and the Grenadines||Kosovo|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||Macedonia|
|New Zealand||United Kingdom|
|Solomon Islands||Vatican City|
|Morocco||Sao Tome and Principe|