x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Canadians count cost of UAE visa rules

Canadians who want to travel to the UAE from Sunday will no longer get free visas.

ABU DHABI // Canadians who want to travel to the UAE from Sunday will no longer get free visas.

They must now pay 250 Canadian dollars (Dh1,000) for a non-renewable 30-day visitor's visa, $500 for a three-month stay or $1,000 for a multiple-entry six-month visa.

Canada had been one of 33 nations whose residents could obtain a free visa on arrival in the UAE.

The new regulations follow a diplomatic disagreement between the two countries over airline landing rights in Canada and the closure of Canada's military base in Dubai.

According to the UAE Embassy in Ottawa, Canadian citizens who plan to travel to the UAE for tourism or business should arrange their visas through an airline, travel agency or hotel in the UAE.

Emirates and Etihad Airways, the only two airlines authorised to issue visas to Canadians, are offering the application process online.

The foreign affairs office in Ottawa said those flying with other airlines who are not staying in a hotel must have a sponsor - friend, family or business contact - obtain a visa for them from the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Yesterday, Canadian Embassy officials in Abu Dhabi were directing queries to the website www.travel.gc.ca and their Emirati counterparts in the Canadian capital.

"We recommend for Canadians to contact the UAE embassy in Ottawa, as they are the ones in charge of this process," said Isabel Mainville, the second secretary (political) at the embassy.

Emiratis who wished to go to Canada for business or pleasure already had to apply for a visa before travelling, at a cost of $75 for a single entry and $150 for multiple entries.

There are 25,000 Canadians who live in the UAE, which is Canada's largest trade partner in the Middle East. Two hundred Canadian companies operate in the Emirates and bilateral trade is valued at $1.5 billion.

Dina Tariq's plans to visit the UAE in March changed when she realised how much it would cost for her, her husband and their two sons to apply for visas.

"I called the UAE Embassy in Ottawa last week because I wanted a visa and I changed my mind when I realised it will be $1,000 for the four of us," said the 37-year-old Iraqi, who lives in Toronto.

"That's disgusting, I would rather go somewhere else."

The policy change will complicate matters for Cheryl Haines, a 29-year-old Ottawa resident, who plans to move to Dubai in February for a job in communications.

"My plan was just to fly to Dubai, as I have done so many times before, and start working while my residency visa comes through," she said.

"But now, I have to apply and pay for a visa beforehand, and hope that the residency visa comes through before the visit visa expires in 30 days."

Ali Hussein, 34, a pharmaceutical representative who lives in Dubai, said his Canadian-citizen parents in Jordan and his Canadian-born sister in Toronto were appalled to hear that they would now need visas to visit him.

"My parents come often because Amman is quite close and they like spending the weekend in Dubai," Mr Hussein said.

"That will definitely change now with these visa rules, since they can't just drop by for a visit without first applying for a visa and paying a pretty expensive processing fee each time."

Other nationalities, such as Azmi Bangash, a 37-year-old Pakistani Canadian in Abu Dhabi who must sponsor his in-laws, are used to visa restrictions.

"They have Pakistani passports, so I apply for visas for them, and just count that as part of the planning I have to do when I have them visit," the electrical engineer said.