UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Government plans to charge Canadians up to $1,000 for visas
Don't expect a lot of Canadians at the annual landmark Dubai Shopping Festival next year unless they're willing to plunk down serious cash to enter the country.
The United Arab Emirates is set to begin charging Canadian travelers up to $1,000 for entry visas starting Jan. 2.
They would need to pay a $250 fee for a one-month visa, a $500 fee for a three-month visa and $1,000 for a visa valid for up to two weeks at a time over a six-month period, according to the website of the UAE Embassy in Ottawa.
Canada was previously among 30 countries whose citizens could obtain entry visas upon arrival at UAE airports. The new guidelines come amid a growing battle between the UAE and Canada over landing rights for commercial flights.
UAE airlines, including Emirates, have been lobbying to get more landing slots in Canada, but the Canadian Transport Agency and Air Canada have opposed that demand, fearing that Air Canada will lose traffic to UAE carriers on key travel routes, media reports say.
The UAE countered by evicting Canadian troops from Camp Mirage, a military base near Dubai that the Canadian military used for free to move its troops into and out of Afghanistan.
The cost of moving the military mission from Camp Mirage has been estimated at $300 million, Canadian media reports say.
According to the new guidelines, Canadians can obtain visas through travel agencies and hotels in the UAE. But here's the twist: If they arrange their visa applications through either the UAE's Etihad Airways or Emirates airline, the cost reportedly will be about half that of visas bought through the embassy.
Some media outlets, quoting the Canadian foreign office in Ottawa, said any Canadian flying to the UAE on an airline other than Etihad or Emirates and not staying at a hotel must get a sponsor, such as a friend or business contact in the UAE, to obtain a visa for the traveler at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
About 25,000 Canadians live in the UAE and about 200 Canadian companies do business in the Persian Gulf country, which is Canada's biggest trade partner in the Middle East with bilateral trade valued at $1.5 billion.
-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut
Photo: Tourists visit a shopping mall in Dubai in November 2010. Credit: Kamran Jebreili /Associated Press