Visas-on-arrival to boost UAE ties with China, India, Russia

Short-term gain, long-term growth

DUBAI 9 July 2017: Chinese, Russian and Indian nationals visiting the UAE are now eligible for visas-on-arrival. Immigration specialist Fragomen, explains the key drivers behind the government’s decision and the positive impact it will have on the UAE economy.

Visa on-arrival is one of the most popular visa options among travellers. Currently, citizens of 49 countries are eligible for entry visas on arrival in the UAE, including the United Kingdom, United States and the European Union.

Policymakers have extended visas-on-arrival to Chinese and Russian nationals and most recently, Indian citizens with a U.S. visa or green card. This move highlights the UAE’s commitment to attracting more visitors to the emirates, all part of the government’s vision to diversify the nation’s economy and move away from its dependence on oil.

Building economic and strategic partnerships

The decision to offer visas-on-arrival to Chinese, Indian and Russian nationals is indicative of the ongoing cooperation between the aforementioned countries and the UAE Government.

China has long-standing relationship with the UAE and over the years, the two have become economic allies. China has progressed to becoming one of the UAE’s biggest trading partners, and with over 4,200 Chinese companies operational in the UAE , their contribution to trade volumes across the country is significant.

Russia and the UAE have also celebrated closer trade ties in recent years, seen in a number of high-profile state visits and bilateral agreements. According to the Under-Secretary of the UAE’s Ministry of Economy for Foreign Trade and Industry, the UAE’s economic relationship with Russia reached $2 billion in 2016 and more recently, the two countries have discussed ways in which they can work together to address geo-political issues affecting them.

India – a country with deep historical ties to the UAE – is the second largest trading partner to the emirates and remains keen to strengthen its ties with the UAE to utilise the country’s position as global gateway to investments in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Tapping into Emerging Markets

In addition to having a mutually beneficial relationship with the UAE, China, India and Russia, all have one thing in common; they are all emerging markets with an increasingly mobile and affluent middle class – a key market for international travel.

Austerity measures in the West, largely due to the economic climate, have seen the UAE look to countries like China and Russia. While markets such as the UK remain a key source of income for the UAE – the UK was Dubai’s third largest source market last year with 350,000 visitors in the first quarter of this year alone – socio-political events including the UK referendum and the falling pound mean the UAE is an expensive travel destination for British tourists. The impact on tourism, however, remains to be seen.

In contrast, the number of Chinese tourists travelling to Dubai has increased by 85 per cent year-on-year according to official figures, while the number of Russian visitors has more than doubled.

The introduction of visas on-arrival is a clear move by the Government to attract tourists from new markets in a bid to combat global challenges influenced by a number of macroeconomic and geopolitical factors.

As the UAE continues to diversify its economy away from oil, inbound tourism and bilateral trade remains top priority. While the current geopolitical and economic climate has resulted in austerity measures in Europe; Russia, China and India remain a prosperous market and a key driver of growth.

Short-term gain, long-term growth

Visas-on-arrival, while a seemingly small step, is a clear indication of the government’s plan to strengthen its relationships with key markets that far exceeds tourism alone. China’s relationship with the UAE, for example, is changing. No longer is the UAE seen solely as an end market for goods, but also as a hub for finance and technology investments.

Visa policies highlight a country’s long-term strategic aims with a focus on shared political, economic and trade interests. In the same way entry regulations are relaxed to selected countries, they can also be toughened, a clear sign of a strained relationship between two nations – just look to the recent developments in relationships with Qatar for reference.

While the recent extension to visa laws in the short-term is a bid to increase the number of tourists from countries with growing economies, it also highlights the UAE’s long-term aims. It is no accident China, Russia and India are three of the UAE’s biggest trading partners and it is likely trade between the UAE and these countries will grow significantly in the coming years.


Murtaza Khan, Partner, Fragomen
Murtaza Khan, Partner, Fragomen

Marcin Kubarek, Knowledge and Content Manager, Fragomen

Marcin Kubarek, Knowledge and Content Manager, Fragomen