Cost-free visa for Canadians visiting the UAE

Ensuring Socio-economic Justice

Crescent International

Rajab 18, 1434 2013-05-28

Daily News Analysis

by Crescent International

Starting June 1 Canadian citizens visiting the UAE will be able to obtain a visa without charge upon arrival in the Persian Gulf shaikhdom.


May 28, 2013, 19:35 EDT

Effective June 1, Canadians visiting the UAE will be eligible for free visas upon arrival at the airport. The agreement was reached between Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and his UAE counterpart Shaykh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan during the former’s visit to the Persian Gulf shaikhdom at the beginning of April. It was announced at the time that visa requirements would be lifted in a month’s time.

It took two months to materialize but it will be welcome news for the tens of thousands of Canadians that visit the UAE (including Dubai) annually. The agreement restores the arrangement that had existed before the January 1, 2012 imposition of fee for a visa that had to be obtained before traveling to the UAE. This made Canada among the few western countries whose citizens were required to obtain a visa in advance and pay for it.

The disagreement emerged when in 2011 Canada refused to allow additional flights for the two carriers from the UAE—Emirates and Etihad Airways—to Canada. Currently each carrier has three flights a week. The UAE wanted to increase these to six flights for each airline as well as landing rights to such destinations as Calgary and Vancouver. The government of Stephen Harper stubbornly refused saying quite erroneously that it would adversely affect Air Canada. Notwithstanding Air Canada’s poor service and performance, the airline does not fly to the UAE even though the Persian Gulf state offered such rights. Aware that few passengers would want to fly on Air Canada and put up with third rate service when they can get top class service on Emirates and Etihad.

Emirates flies the double-decker Air Bus A380 while Etihad uses Boeing 777 planes. Both are very comfortable and there are convenient connections to onward destinations in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and beyond. Both airlines have cornered much business and have eclipsed other airlines that fly the same routes. It is not clear whether Canada has agreed to any additional flights from the two airlines or that they would get permission to fly to Calgary and Vancouver.

When relations between the two countries first soured in 2011, the UAE abruptly cancelled the free use of one of its air bases in Dubai that Canada had used for transporting troops and material in and out of Afghanistan. The base saved Canada $300 million annually totaling $3 billion over a 10-year period. In fact the announcement of cancellation was made when Canadian defence minister Peter MacKay and Canadian chief of defence staff had passed through the base on their way to Afghanistan. They were supposed to return the same way but were prevented from doing so. Additionally, Emirates used to fly wounded Canadian soldiers back to Canada in business class free of cost. Despite these favours, Canada showed little appreciation.

Relations have now been repaired and it is great relief to the tens of thousands of Canadians that travel to the UAE annually, sometimes two or three times a year, to be able to obtain a visa upon arrival and free of cost. It was not merely the cost of the visa but the hassle of obtaining it in advance. Additionally, the UAE government stipulated that it could only be obtained 12 days in advance of arriving in the shaikhdom. Visitors were required to have confirmed hotel bookings, a return air ticket as well as pay the required visa fees in advance.

Travel to the UAE will become a lot easier and in line with what other western countries’ citizens go through. One hopes the rightwing ideologically driven Conservative government in Canada would not throw some other spanner in relations making life miserable for ordinary Canadians. Alreaady, its pro-zionist policies have tarnished Canada’s image worldwide.


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