ABU DHABI // Travel to most countries in the European Union could soon become less of a hassle for Emiratis.
Discussions are under way to exempt UAE nationals from the need to obtain advance visas to enter Schengen Area countries and the UK, an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.
"We are still in the discussion process; we don't know how soon it will be implemented, because it takes a long time with all the Schengen countries," said Ambassador Ahmed Aldhaheri, the director of consular services department at the ministry.
He said a number of nationalities were already exempt from applying for advance visas for these countries, and that UAE nationals should share this privilege.
"We've received positive feedback," he added.
Emiratis are allowed into 26 countries without an advance visa, most of which are Arab nations. The non-Arab countries include Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand and Panama.
The Schengen Area comprises 22 European Union countries, plus three others. The UK is not one of these, but is included in current discussions.
A European diplomat in the UAE said that his country was discussing the proposal. If agreed to, he said it would be simple to implement.
"We are not far from there. It is very easy for Emiratis. They can get the visa on the same day. We have no problem with them like other nationalities, so there is no reason not to maintain that."
There were, however, concerns that other GCC nations would complain of unfair treatment. "They will say, 'Why only the UAE? We want to be exempt as well', so we need to consider that because it might be an issue," the diplomat said.
He added that some European countries might then demand a similar exemption for their nationals visiting the UAE.
Fatima Abdullah, 26, a financial analyst for the Government who travels to Europe four times a year, welcomed the news.
"Most of my trips to Europe are business trips in Vienna. They already provide the visa promptly, but sometimes it gets delayed," she said.
She said if a meeting were scheduled without notice, she might not have time to apply for a visa.
"Also, if I want to go only for three days it will be much easier than having to apply for a visa every time - it is not worth it," Ms Abdullah said.
Hyam Al Mureikhi, 24, a graphic designer and artist who travels to the UK, Germany and France twice a year, said a visa exemption would prompt her to visit more often. "Many Emiratis have businesses and assets in Europe, so it is very inconvenient for us to have to apply for a visa every time we want to travel there," Ms Al Mureikhi said.