Travelers in the Middle East and Africa should prepare for long waits and visa delays, a leading travel and visa consultant said Wednesday.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Middle Eastern and African nations most populous, said it will issue new visas for all travelers starting Nov. 17, citing a “lack of understanding” among its governments about the measures.
The move is the latest move by the Emirates in a crackdown on the use of online travel booking platforms.
The UAE, which hosts more than a quarter of the world’s Muslim population, has a long history of cracking down on online travel, and it has tightened restrictions on some forms of online tourism.
The latest crackdown comes as travel and tourism firms across the Middle and West face a slew of new visa requirements and restrictions.
The UAE is among a growing number of countries that are trying to reduce the use and number of visitors to their countries, said Paul Henningsen, managing director of the Travel Research Institute, which tracks the use, number and cost of travel.
He said that Emirates is making the decision to restrict access to its citizens because the government has not adequately explained the changes in its visa requirements.
Henningsens said the UAE’s decision to issue new visa applications, which will allow citizens to enter and leave the country for two weeks from Nov. 15, is a major change.
He said he was concerned about how the restrictions will affect people who have already arrived in the UAE and who would like to stay longer.
Emirates will also issue a number of new travel advisories, and a new online portal will also be introduced, he said.
Emirats travel advice, which includes travel advisions for certain destinations, is aimed at preventing people from arriving to the UAE in the first place.
It’s an area that has become more complicated because of the restrictions, Henninsen said.
“I think that the government should have made some clear decisions about what they were going to do with these new visas,” he said, noting that some of the visa applications were issued because they did not fit within the existing regulations.
Travel experts say the new rules could be a major boon for business travelers who plan to travel the Middle West and Africa.
In its travel advisement, the UAE said it would start issuing visas for foreign nationals on Nov. 1.
The travel advisory states that UAE citizens can now enter and depart the country on any date of the year.
For those who do not plan to make the trip to the country in the near future, the visa will still be valid for one year, the travel advisory said.
But that visa will be issued on a case-by-case basis, according to the travel guide.
UAE citizens who want to stay in the country longer can apply for a special visa that will allow them to stay for up to a year.
But visa holders must apply for their visa online, and the new visa will not be valid if they are not registered on the website.
A similar visa would be issued for the first time for tourists from other countries, but the travel advisory warns that a visa application from an overseas country could take longer than one week to process.
The United Arab Emirate said it is taking measures to ensure the integrity of its national identity.
In a statement issued late Tuesday, the government said it “cannot accept the UAE becoming a state of the West,” adding that the UAE is “one of the biggest violators” of the law against the use or threat of violence against the national security of other countries.