DUBAI 14 August 2017: Not many people know that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has opened up many new types of visas – apart from the traditional residence and entry visas, according to a leading immigration specialist.
The UAE has also liberalised ‘Visa-on-Arrival’ regime that is substantially going to impact on the arrival of foreigners – for business and tourism both, said Murtaza Ali Khan, partner with global immigration specialist firm, Fragomen Worldwide.
For example, the UAE announced that it wants its passport to be among the top-five in the world. In this context, the UAE has or is busy signing bilateral visa-free or visa-on-arrival agreements with countries and blocs such as the European Union.
Recently, it allowed Chinese and Russian visitors to get visas on arrival. It has also allowed Indian passport holders with US Green Card or long-term visit visas, to obtain visa on arrival at UAE’s ports of entry.
The UAE – and Dubai in particular – has set itself ambitious targets to boost tourism and business – sectors that are dependent to a high degree on ease of access. Dubai had a target of 20 million visitors by 2020, but with the Dubai World Expo 2020 to be held in the city, organisers expect 25 million to visit the UAE during the 6-month Expo itself – with an overwhelming 70 per cent of visitors from overseas.
Smart gates, biometric face recognition technologies etc. are being experimented with and used at country’s airports to speed up the flow of passengers. Dubai is already ranked the world’s busiest airport. It is aiming at 90 million passengers this year.
In 2014, the UAE Ministry of Interior issued several amendments to the regulations of entry and exit into the country, which both introduced new categories of entry permits and modified existing ones.
The decision codified the long term multiple entry visit visa for employment and for property owners and introduced a new multiple entry visit visa category for tourists travelling on board ships or coming to the UAE for festivals, exhibitions, conferences, and seminars.
There are also new visa categories for medical treatment and study, Khan told Emirates News 24|7.
The decision also made changes to naming conventions. The ‘service visa’ became short term visit single entry visa for business/work, while the ‘mission visa’ became the long term visit single entry visa for business/work.
The ministry also clarified provisions of some visit visas in terms of duration, the number of entries, permissible stay, and allowable activities while inside the country.
So, what next for the UAE?
“The main challenge is to stay on top of change. Today, technology is driving change. There is need to ensure fair and ethical practices as well as flexibility to adapt to the often-unannounced geo-political situational changes,” said Fragomen’s regional immigration specialist.
Khan said Fragomen started in the US in 1951 and in 1980s started overseas placements. In 1991, the first overseas office was opened in Brussels. Now Fragomen is in 25 countries but with a footprint of 170 nations.
By Eudore R Chand