In October 2022, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) imposed a visa ban on Nigerians. The UAE authorities issued a notice to trade partners and travel agents, instructing them to reject all applications from Nigeria. While the UAE cited increased criminal activity as a reason, some speculated it stemmed from ongoing diplomatic disputes. Notably, Emirates Airlines suspended flights to Nigeria around the same period. his came amidst a dispute concerning $85 million in revenue allegedly trapped in Nigeria due to currency transfer restrictions.

This incident wasn’t isolated. The UAE’s visa policy towards several African nations changed in 2022. Citizens from approximately 20 African countries, including Ghana, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Cameroon, Liberia, and others, faced similar visa restrictions. While the specific reasons for each restriction were unclear, a correlation between these actions and diplomatic relations was plausible. According to the Fragile States Index, most of the affected countries score high on fragility indicators, which could influence visa policies focused on security concerns.

The pattern from these other African countries contrasts with Mauritius and Seychelles, the only two African countries that are allowed visa-on-arrival access in the UAE’s recently updated list. Both Mauritius and Seychelles are renowned for their pristine beaches, luxurious resorts, and political stability. Both Mauritius and Seychelles boasted over 300,000 tourist arrivals in 2022, according to the World Tourism Organization. This aligns with the UAE’s goal of attracting high-spending visitors, evident from their tourism industry surpassing 16 million visitors in the same year

Both island nations also boast a reputation for good governance and low crime rates. The Ibrahim Index of African Governance ranks Mauritius and Seychelles in the top 10 for Safety & Security and Rule of Law. This addresses potential security concerns the UAE might have with other African nations. Moreover, strong economic ties between the two countries can potentially influence visa policies. Mauritius, for example, is the UAE’s 18th largest trading partner in Africa. Strong economic ties can incentivize the UAE to maintain a smooth flow of visitors for business and investment purposes. These distinctions highlight the UAE’s focus on security and economic benefits when tailoring its visa policies. 

Why is the UAE visa so notable?

The UAE visa system has garnered significant global attention, making it a notable exception in visa policies for some African nations. The UAE’s strategic location positions it as a vital hub for trade, tourism, and investment, connecting the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. This geographical advantage translates to a visa system designed to attract talent and business from across the globe. Dubai International Airport consistently ranks among the busiest airports globally in terms of international passenger traffic. The airport serves over 90 million passengers annually. 

A specific aspect that adds to the UAE visa’s notoriety is the Golden Visa program. This program offers 10 years of residency to investors, entrepreneurs, and individuals with specialized skills and qualifications. According to a report by an investment monitor, this program has been particularly successful in attracting foreign direct investment. A World Bank report ranked the UAE 11th globally in terms of ease of doing business, partly due to its streamlined visa application procedures.

The UAE has made significant efforts to simplify its visa application process in recent years. The most recent is the UAE’s updated regulations that grant visa-on-arrival eligibility to citizens of 87 countries. The adjustment grants a 30-day visa on arrival, with a 10-day grace period to extend their stay. Also, visitors from certain countries can obtain a 90-day visa at their entry point. While the UAE has implemented stricter visa requirements for some African nations due to security concerns, they are also engaged in dialogue to address these issues. Positive developments have emerged from countries like Rwanda, a nation recognized for its commitment to sustainable development and technological advancements. This suggests that African nations demonstrating strong governance, economic growth, and a focus on tourism may see future improvements in their visa access to the UAE.

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