UAE nationals may no longer require Schengen visas to visit the European Union (EU). The EU Council of Ministers unanimously voted to add the UAE to a list of nations whose citizens are exempted from visas for the 25 member countries in the Schengen area.
“The Presidency strongly believes in the benefits of the visa-free travels and is very glad to have achieved the agreement among the Member States,” Raimundas Karoblis, chair of the EU Permanent Representatives Committee, said in a statement.
The decision still requires final approval from the European Parliament, and if passed, is expected to be adopted in January next year.
The UAE is the only Arab nation on the list of the 19 new nations that are being considered for an exemption from Schengen visas. To benefit from the visa-free travels, each of the 19 countries will also have to conclude a bilateral visa waiver agreement with the EU.
The decision follows an announcement by the UK (not in the Schengen area) last week, waiving traditional visas for UAE, Qatari and Omani passport holders.
Residents of the three Gulf countries can travel to the UK with an Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) document from January 1, allowing them to visit the country for up to six months without a visa.
An EVW is free and quicker than applying for a traditional visa – there is no need to provide biometrics, attend a visa application centre or hand in passports prior to travel.
The UAE has been steadily improving ties with the EU, with trade between the two regions rising 9.7 per cent year-on-year in 2012 to reach 45.4 billion euros ($62.4 billion), according to EU data.