It's a new year and a new 365 days for the United Arab Emirates to amaze us. On Monday, the country announced a new tourist visa system that would allow travelers to apply for a five-year, multi-entry visa.
Dubai's Ruler and the UAE's Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum revealed the news through Twitter after the country's first Cabinet meeting of the year.
The visa, which will be introduced within four months, is meant to help further establish the UAE as a prime tourist destination.
"The year 2020 will be different because it is the year of preparation for the next 50, the year in which we design the future of the Emirates," said Sheikh Mohammed on Twitter.
One of the first major steps the Gulf nation has taken is to allow tourists the flexibility to visit the country as often as they'd like during the visa's five-year span.
This decision will not only boost tourism and business, but encourage residents to invite their families to visit.
According to Senior Economist at Standard Chartered Bank Bilal Khan, the UAE's economic activity has subsided in recent years, even with the its average 21 million visitors a year.
"Attracting a greater number of visitors could help revive demand over the medium-term," Khan told Bloomberg.
The target in Dubai alone was to reach 20 million tourists by 2020. However, the emirate only managed to reach around 16 million of the expected 20.
Tourism in the major cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi accumulated 15.88 million tourists in the first nine months of 2019. This was an increase from 15.26 million around the same time in 2018.
What is the current visa system like?
Depending on the passport owned, different lengths of visas can be acquired. For those holding British, Australian, and Chinese passports, for example, they are eligible for the free 30-day visa-on-arrival. All visas come with a 10-day grace period after which holders will be fined 100 dirhams ($27.23) for each extra day.
As for the 90-day visa-on-arrival, those carrying passports from the Schengen Area are fully eligible. People with South Korean, Argentinian, Russian, and Brazilian passports are also qualified for the visa.
However, visitors possessing passports from the Philippines, Pakistan, India, and other countries are permitted paid visas. The latter include a 48-hour ($10), 96-hour ($30), or 30-day entry ($90).
Almost all visits and tourist visas may be extended twice for 30 days without needing to exit the country. However, each renewal will cost the visa holder 600 dirhams ($163).
The UAE also provides 5-year and 10-year long-term residency visas for investors, entrepreneurs, people with specialized talents, as well as outstanding students.