x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Australia eases visa rules for Emiratis just passing through

Emiratis transiting through Australian airports will no longer require a visa from Monday.

ABU DHABI // Emiratis transiting through Australian airports will no longer require a visa from Monday. To date, UAE citizens have needed a transit visa to pass through Australia on their way to another country. Under the new arrangement, they will be able to remain in airports for up to eight hours without a visa, as long as they hold confirmed onward bookings and the necessary documentation to enter their destination country.

Janet Mackin, the regional director of Australian immigration operations for the Middle East and North Africa, said the arrangement would make travel to New Zealand in particular more convenient. "This is a recognition of a sustained history of high-level compliance with our visa requirements," she said. However, the new regulations were not a step towards a "visa-free arrangement", she added. With the exception of New Zealanders, all foreigners who enter Australia must secure a visa before arriving.

Salem Baobaid, a 26-year-old Emirati who spent three years studying in Australia, called the new arrangement a step in the right direction. "But personally," he said, "if Australians can enter the UAE without a visa, then we shouldn't need a visa for Australia." Citizens of 59 other countries are entitled to the "transit without visa" arrangement, including nationals of Britain, Canada and Malaysia. The UAE will be the only Middle East country to be included.

Ms Mackin said there had been cases in which travellers were unaware of the need for a transit visa for Australia, resulting in them being unable to travel. She said the new arrangement was formalised during the recent visit to Australia by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Foreign Minister. The Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship said the arrangement would "facilitate and strengthen the growing people-to-people links between Australia and the UAE".

zconstantine@thenational.ae