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UAE passport power is a critical tool on the road to success

Emiratis have few travel restrictions but it's not all rainbows and sunshine

UAEICP
The UAE passport has been ranked the world’s best in terms of mobility

In 2017 the UAE government launched the UAE Passport Force initiative, with the goal to place the country’s passport in the top five most important passports in the world by 2021.

Its efforts have paid off: the UAE passport has been ranked the world’s best in terms of mobility and freedom from travel restrictions, according to Arton’s Passport Index, which ranks the passports of 193 UN member countries. 

The UAE was awarded a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 181, reflecting the fact that today, Emirati passport holders can enter 121 countries without a visa, and get a visa on arrival in a further 59 states.

They need a visa for just 19 countries, meaning they’re able to access 91 percent of the world’s countries without having to apply for a visa before travelling.

This makes Emiratis something of an anomaly among other Arabs. 

The EU’s decision to exempt the UAE from short-stay visas back in 2015 was certainly a key highlight in this journey.  

The fact that China also introduced visa-free access for UAE passport holders in 2018, with both Russia and Cuba following suit a year later, reflected the growing consensus among even the most historically closed-off countries that it is in their interest to open their borders to Emiratis. 

Dubai, in turn, has become one of the most sought-after locations for tourism and long-term settlement alike, owing to its safety, pro-business environment and abundant recreational amenities among other considerations.

Hence, more and more counterpart governments are receptive to waive visas for UAE nationals on a reciprocal basis.

Improving the lives of its people and instilling a greater sense of patriotism lies at the heart of every diplomatic endeavour undertaken by the UAE. 

In today’s interconnected world, passports are not just a travel document but also a status symbol that can enable citizenry head starts from an early age.

Today, UAE citizens no longer experience the hassle of their passports being held up at embassies or consulates for months on end while they wait for their visa application to be approved.

Enhanced mobility has been conducive to the UAE making its presence felt globally.

The ability to embark on exploratory trips to up-and-coming markets and scope out investment opportunities is part of the Emirates’ diversification strategy as the world looks to wean itself off dependence on hydrocarbons.  

The country’s sovereign wealth fund, which seems to take a Western-centric position vis-à-vis overseas holdings, now has greater exposure to the CIS, the Balkans, the subcontinent and Southeast Asia. 

The UAE’s “zero problems” policy paved the way for the US-brokered Abraham Accords.

But it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. The UAE passport’s validity period is only five years as opposed to the traditional ten-year period of most OECD countries.

Mandatory military conscription remains in force for male youth, while women require the consent of their male guardian to apply for a passport and travel abroad. 

The US still requires Emiratis to be in possession of a visa, as do Turkey and India – both popular destinations for Emiratis seeking affordable medical treatment.

These limitations aside, the prestige of the Emirati passport today warrants praise. Its outward-looking and enterprising holders derive value from simply being able to board a flight to almost any destination. 

How long the UAE can hold onto the top spot in the ranking will likely be conditional on its delicate balancing act between East and West, as well as insulating its economy from looming external threats in a region that is no stranger to political instability. 

Saahil Menon is a Dubai-based independent wealth advisor. He was formerly an associate director of wealth advisory at RIF Trust

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