New visa regulations worry for Canadians

New law requiring visas for Canadian nationals to visit the UAE coincide with an ongoing diplomatic spat between the two countries over airline landing rights in Canada.

ABU DHABI // Canadians travelling to the UAE will be required from January to obtain a visa before entering the country.

The new regulations coincide with an ongoing diplomatic spat between the two countries over airline landing rights in Canada.

This month the UAE did not renew the Canadian military's lease on a base in Dubai, a few days after the Canadian government refused to grant UAE national airlines more access to Canadian airports.

Camp Mirage, a logistics base in Dubai used by the Canadian military as part of a supply route for troops in Afghanistan, was closed last week.

The decision to introduce the visa requirements was made by the UAE Cabinet. The Canadian Embassy and Canadian Consulate General declined to comment yesterday.

In Ottawa, the foreign affairs minister Lawrence Cannon's office downplayed the importance of the move, saying it had nothing to do with negotiations over landing rights. "All sovereign states have the right to decide the entry requirements for visitors to their countries," said Melissa Lantsman, a spokeswoman for Mr Cannon.

"In 2009 the UAE made a decision to pursue visa reciprocity with us," she said, pointing out that UAE citizens need a visa to enter Canada. "The UAE government is now implementing its 2009 decision."

Canada charges UAE citizens Dh220 for a single entry visa and Dh440 for a multiple entry visa. The maximum charge for a family applying together is Dh1,170.

Shane Phillips, the president of the Club for Canadians in Dubai and the membership director for the Canadian Business Council of Dubai, said the announcement took him by surprise.

"Throughout the Canadian community, we knew things were becoming strained," Mr Phillips said. "Now, there's definitely a worry about how far things will go."

The new requirement appears on the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada website, where Canadians who plan to travel to the UAE are instructed to "contact an embassy of the UAE for details on how to obtain a visa".

The UAE Embassy website, however, still lists Canada as one of the countries where tourists can receive a visa when they arrive in the country.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries soured in October when the Canadian government refused to allow Emirates and Etihad daily service to Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. At the time, the UAE's ambassador to Canada said the failure of the negotiations would "undoubtedly" impact bilateral relations between the two countries.

"The UAE is disappointed that despite intensive negotiations over the last five years the UAE and Canada have been unable to arrive at an agreement on expanding the number of flights between the two countries," Mohammed Abdullah al Ghafli said at the time. "It is unfortunate that this process has been so protracted and frustrating."