The UAE has climbed to 32nd place on the 2018 Henley Passport Index, after signing a visa-waiver agreement with China, going up by an impressive six places year-on-year and by 29 places over the past decade — the biggest historical climb of any passport in the world.
The UAE passport now offers holders visa-free travel to 134 countries, up from 121 countries in 2017. As of last Tuesday, UAE nationals can travel to China without a visa, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by the two governments exempting UAE nationals from obtaining pre-entry visas for stays of up to 30 days. The agreement came into effect one week after the launch of the 2018 Henley Passport Index.
Performance of countries in the Mena region remains highly varied
The UAE’s success is linked to the fact that, between 1999 and 2018, visa restrictions on Emirati citizens have been lifted by countries such as New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Ukraine, and now China, as well as by those in Europe’s Schengen Area.
Within the wider GCC region, all member countries significantly improved their positions in 2018. Kuwait moved up to 58th position, with visa-free access to 83 countries, and Bahrain climbed to 63rd place, offering its citizens access to 75 countries. Oman (65th) and Saudi Arabia (67th) followed closely behind, with visa-free access to 71 and 69 countries, respectively.
Commenting on the UAE’s latest climb on the index, Marco Gantenbein, managing partner of Henley & Partners Dubai and Head of Middle East, said: “This development re-affirms the UAE and China’s thriving partnership. Emiratis’ exemption from pre-entry visa to China will reflect positively on tourism, trade and investment and further augment the economic and commercial relations between the two countries. The UAE’s continued efforts to nurture its cooperation and engagement with its international counterparts, particularly with strong emerging markets such as China, will positively impact the nation’s economic development as well as ensure sustained growth in the region.”
With the exception of GCC countries, countries in the region have mostly lost ground on the index over time. The Palestinian Territory, meanwhile, has remained stable, ranking 97th since 2008. The UAE’s exceptional performance has been instrumental in improving the Mena region’s overall standing on the index.
At the launch of the 2018 Henley Passport Index on January 9, Gantenbein provided insight into the current investment migration landscape in Mena. “In the region, we continue to witness a growth in demand for investment migration programs. This demand is driven by a number of key factors, including the need for improved global mobility, better security, enhanced quality of life, and most often also generational wealth planning and portfolio diversification. Against this backdrop, the Mena region is an increasingly important market for investment migration.” - TradeArabia News Service
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