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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Emiratis get visa free travel to Ireland 

The move is effective from January 31 and is a sign of the growing ties between the two countries

Activity just off Dublin's Grafton Street
Activity just off Dublin's Grafton Street

Emiratis can now enjoy visa-free travel to another country – Ireland.

The move was announced on Monday and will be effective from January 31.

Ireland’s minister for justice and equality, Charlie Flanagan, said the removal of visa requirements is a very significant step in boosting ties between the two countries.

“As minister for foreign affairs and trade, I led a trade mission to UAE, made an official visit there and welcomed [Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation] Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Dublin,” he said.

“I am very pleased we have been able to lift the visa requirement for citizens of the UAE who wish to travel to Ireland and we look forward to welcoming increased numbers of Emirati business people, students and tourists who will travel to Ireland following the lifting of the visa requirement.” 

The move comes amid a flowering of relations between the UAE and Ireland. There are 10,000 Irish expatriates in the country, 26 direct flights a week and two-way trade stood at at 1.6 billion euro (Dh6.95bn) in 2015.

It is estimated that between 65,000 to 75,000 travellers from the GCC visited the island of Ireland in 2016 – an increase of 8 per cent on the previous year.

It’s believed that growth in GCC visitors last year was stronger with about 65 per cent of total GCC visitors originating from the UAE.

Ireland is a member of the EU but outside the Schengen visa area which Emiratis received visa free travel to in 2015.

Both Ireland and the UK are part of the Common Travel Area. The future of this area is under discussion in the Brexit talks following the UK’s decision in 2016 to leave the EU. Last October, the UK pledged the keep the common travel area once it formally leaves but protracted Brexit negotiations are continuing. Emiratis currently need to apply for an electronic visa waiver to visit the UK.

In an interview with The National in October, Irish ambassador to the UAE, Paul Kavanagh said he hoped for early progress on the issue and now that’s been borne out. The visa requirement for UAE diplomatic and special passport holders was previously lifted in 2015.

"It's very important because Emirati citizens can now simply decide that they are going to Ireland. Before you had to apply for a visa and get the forms. There is none of that any more," Mr Kavanagh said on Tuesday.

"Relations are growing more strongly all the time and trade continues to grow."

The news is also another boost for the Emirati passport. This year’s Henley Passport Index reported the document is now ranked the 32nd most powerful in the world, up six places on last year with visa free access to 134 countries. Now another country can be added to the list.

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