Dubai’s Emirates Airline Introduces Pre-Approved Visa on Arrival for Select Indian Travelers
Emirates Airline, in collaboration with VFS Global, has introduced a new visa tailored for travelers from India, offering greater flexibility and cost efficiency for last-minute and short-term journeys to the region. We discuss the possible impact on the UAE tourism sector and the visa eligibility criteria.
By Lucia Brancaccio
On February 1, 2024, Emirates (Airline) partnered with VFS Global to introduce a pre-approved 14-day single-entry visa on arrival tailored specifically for Indian travelers who have booked their flights with the airline.
This service aims to enhance the arrival experience for passengers, eliminating bothersome queues and expediting the customs procedures upon their arrival in Dubai.
Furthermore, the introduction of this visa holds the potential to positively impact the broader tourism sector in the UAE, solidifying its position as the primary destination for Indian travelers.
Impact on the tourism sector
Stephanie Neuer, head travel tailor at SCN Travel & More in Dubai, anticipates a significant impact on the local tourism sector following the introduction of this new visa, as this initiative has the potential to reshape the Indian travel culture.
Central to this expectation is the prospect of attracting a new sector of Indian visitors seeking last-minute and short-term stays abroad. By eliminating the perceived restrictions of a month-long visa and associated expenses to which Indian travelers were bound until now, the new visa is expected to make the transfer more convenient and cost-manageable.
With enhanced flexibility for short-term travel, Dubai is poised to emerge as the top destination choice for Indian travelers who are seeking a brief gateway, potentially breaking the stagnation trend in tourism numbers from India, which, while not experiencing a decrease, also failed to demonstrate significant growth. Despite this, it is still worth noting that India, as of 2023, still retains its title as Dubai’s number-one source market for tourist arrival. According to Dubai Tourism statistics, the city welcomed 2 million overnight visitors from India between January and October alone.
Finally, Emirates itself would also take great advantage of this new visa as it is poised to enhance its competitiveness as a commercial airline vis-à-vis the more economical Indian carriers. Recently, the latter has been preferred by travelers on international routes due to their lower business-class fares and more appealing deals.
Who is eligible?
Currently, the eligibility for this visa is limited to travelers holding an Indian passport with a valid six-month visa for the US, US Green Card, and EU or UK resident card. Furthermore, the realization of the new visa comes as an exclusive offer to Emirates passengers.
Outlook for future development of the new visa
Contrasting opinions have been expressed on the expansion possibilities of the new visa. While Neuer forecasts the visa to ultimately be extended to all eligible travelers, regardless of their airline, others expressed the unlikeliness of this to happen as they see the implementation of such a visa as Emirates’ strategy to “hold on to market share” rather than a broader move for the benefit of all travelers.
It seemed more likely for the airline to potentially extend the visa offering also to passengers not holding UK or US stamps.
The actual implementation of such a scenario would positively impact multiple sectors of Dubai’s economy:
> The hospitality, entertainment, and retail industries would benefit the most from it. With the prospect of attracting a greater number of tourists, these sectors could anticipate an increase in business activities.
> Opportunities for insurers would also grow. By collaborating with travel agencies, insurers could introduce “bundle packages” that already include the new visa. This would not only simplify the travel process for customers, but it would hold the potential to drive business growth also in this sector.
Traditionally, the relationship between India and the UAE has been primarily defined by strong trade, energy partnerships, and long-standing diaspora connections. However, in recent years, tourism cooperation has also emerged as a significant contributor to the development of bilateral relations between the two nations.
The introduction of this simplified visa process builds on other previously implemented systems, such as the Golden visa and the UAE-India CEPA trade agreement, which have collectively fostered a more welcoming environment for Indians in the UAE.
By simplifying the visa process, albeit for a segment of Indian travelers, the UAE not only intensifies the ease of travel from India to Dubai but also enhances the people-to-people transfer, facilitating greater interaction and exchange.