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UAE passports gain most visa-free access since 2013

UAE passports
The UAE's passport now grants visa-free access to 179 countries, up from 80 in 2013
  • UAE up 44 places in Henley Passport Index since 2013
  • Emirati passport now allows visa-free access to 179 countries
  • Oman permits visitors from 106 countries without a visa

The UAE’s passport has recorded the biggest improvement over the last decade in access to global markets, as the Gulf state develops international tourism and trade.

Figures from the Henley Passport Index show that Emirati passport holders enjoy access to 179 out of 226 countries and territories without requiring a visa in advance.

This places the UAE at 12th on the latest list issued this week. It has risen 44 spaces on the annual list, from 56th in 2013, the biggest jump of any country over the last decade.

“The UAE has added an impressive 107 destinations to its visa-free score since 2013, resulting in a massive leap,” said Juerg Steffen, CEO of Henley & Partners.

Qatar was the next best performing Gulf state in 2023, coming 52nd on the list with access to 103 overseas countries.

The Henley Openness Index also looks at the number of nationalities each country allows to cross its borders without a prior visa.

Oman was the most open Gulf state, offering access to 106 nationalities. Qatar, which last year hosted the FIFA World Cup, is open to 94 nations.

The UAE is pushing ahead with plans to become an international trade and commerce hub.

Trade minister Thani Al Zeyoudi said the bilateral free trade agreements signed by the UAE in the past two years will boost its GDP by 2.8 percent by the end of the decade.

He added that financial trade agreements, designed to reduce or eliminate barriers to trade and investment between two or more nations, would play a crucial role in helping the UAE to reach its “ultimate” goal of accessing 90 percent of global trade flows. 

Easier visa access is also helping the UAE to develop its ambitions as a global tourist location.

Dubai welcomed more than 8.5 million visitors in the first six months of 2023, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, said in a tweet earlier this month.

The emirate recorded 7.12 million overnight visitors over the same period last year. It is already well above its pre-pandemic levels when 8.36 million visitors arrived in Dubai during the first half of 2019.