By TBY | UAE | Aug 19, 2014
At the time of writing, the citizens of less than 30 countries outside of Europe are able to travel to the Schengen Zone without obtaining a visa in advance, and […]
At the time of writing, the citizens of less than 30 countries outside of Europe are able to travel to the Schengen Zone without obtaining a visa in advance, and are instead able to stay in any country for up to 90 days on arrival. After several years of steady lobbying and negotiations by its Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the UAE is set to join this exclusive group.
A clear program of working toward securing the visa waiver, including public diplomacy and lobbying by the UAE government, paid off through major developments in 2013. This was primarily led by the country’s key foreign policy figures, including HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, HE Anwar Mohammed Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, and the UAE Ambassador to the EU, HE Sulaiman Al Mazrouei.
The first major hurdle was securing a critical vote from the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs (LIBE) in October 2013. Through a clear majority, the UAE was added by this important committee to a select group (mainly Pacific and Caribbean nations) recommended for the visa on arrival.
In December 2013, a second important development took place when the UAE was voted a place on the visa-free list by the high level Council of the EU and the European Commission. Final ratification of the visa agreement is anticipated to take place in the first half of 2014. If successful, as is anticipated, the UAE will become the second country to receive such a visa agreement in the Middle East.
RESULTS BEYOND SCHENGEN
It is easy to understand the ramifications of this deal for business and tourism. Given the abundant travel connections available from the UAE to Europe, and both the popularity of travel and stable income of Emirati nationals, a boom in visits related to this seems only around the corner. Consequently, European countries beyond the Schengen Area have been quick to implement similar visa waivers in order to ensure they do not lose their share of Emirati travelers and business.
From January 1, 2014, UAE passport holders have been able to travel to the UK through the Electronic Visa Waiver system. This allows UAE citizens to apply for the waiver online no less than 48 hours before departure without visiting any kind of British embassy or consulate. Unlike the pending Schengen visa waiver, the UK allows UAE visitors to stay for up to six months, rather than three months, at a time. The Irish instigated a similar visa exemption scheme even earlier by first piloting, and then extending, the Short-stay Visa Waiver Program for UAE nationals in October 2012.
Following the removal of these former impediments not only for 26 Schengen countries, but also the British Isles, UAE passport holders now enjoy unrestricted travel across most of the Europe. It is expected that other European states beyond the Schengen Zone will also lift visa requirements for the UAE in the near future.