UAE Schengen Reciprocal Visa Free Agreement


In May, we shared with you that United Arab Emirates (UAE) citizens are now entitled to visit numerous European countries that are a part of the Schengen Area without needing to obtain a visa prior to traveling. Below, we bring you an overview of full details.

The exemption means UAE nationals can visit a Schengen country visa free for up to 90 days in a 180 day period. For the purposes of tourism, transit, family visits or certain types of business activity, citizens of Schengen countries also have reciprocal rights when travelling to the UAE, effectively putting in place a UAE Schengen reciprocal agreement.

The decision for the UAE to become a part of the agreement came in to force mid-2014 when the European Parliament voted in favour of it by a majority (523 of 577 votes). The agreement is the first of its kind in an Arab country and the second for the Middle East with Israel already benefiting from such a scheme.

The Schengen Visa waiver agreement creates numerous opportunities for UAE citizens as they are now able to travel through twenty-six Schengen zone countries without applying for visas, as well as eight non-Schengen states. The UAE Foreign Office expects diplomatic, political and economic benefits stemming from the agreement. Additionally, UAE students wishing to study in Europe will have a better opportunity to learn more about European universities before choosing one as their place of study.

The expectation of an increase in economic gain comes from data collected when the UK opened its doors to Emirati citizens in 2014 as part of a visa waiver scheme for travel to the UK (Electronic Visa Waiver Scheme). The data stated that 50,000 UAE citizens visited the UK in 2014; it is expected that this figure could rise by 40% in the next five years. As the Schengen Visa allows certain business activities, the new visa platform for UAE citizens is likely to lead to increased UAE investment.

With the new agreement, the UAE now ranks as the most powerful passport in the region and is ranked 47th in the world, as per annual rankings by financial advisory firm Arton Capitol. The rankings are based on whether a citizen can enter a country without the need of a visa or if they required a visa beforehand or on-arrival. The UK and U.S passports were jointly ranked top as the most powerful passport in the world with the ability to travel visa free to 147 countries. France, Germany and South Korea were jointly ranked second with visa-free access to 145 countries.

Travellers on a Schengen Visa can now expect to save a lot of time and money, as well as be able to travel anytime without the hassle of going to an embassy to secure a visa for the relevant country. The Schengen agreement is unique as there are no preconditions whereas the UK form (Electronic Visa Waiver Scheme) is required to be filled in 48 hours beforehand, with a single error resulting in a rejected application.

The UAE Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has expressed great praise for the recent agreement as he expects the UAE to benefit largely from increased business opportunities from exporting and importing goods and services.

With numerous international conferences soon to be delivered in the UAE, such as the International Energy Conference in 2019 and the 2020 World Expo, the United Arab Emirates is a nation with a large global influence.

Schengen Visa

Under the Schengen agreement, individuals can travel from one Schengen country to another with as little as their passport. It should be noted that the Schengen Area and the European Union are not the same and include a different list of members.

The Schengen visa permits entry to Schengen countries (below) for the purposes of tourism, family or business visits. By holding a Schengen Visa citizens can travel freely throughout the Schengen countries, but are not permitted to stay in the Schengen area for more than 90 days within a 180-day period (each day of the stay is taken into account for the 180-day period calculation).

Permitted business activity whilst travelling on a Schengen Visa tends to vary depending on individual country requirements. However, generally permitted business activities tend to include the following:

• Business meetings/ discussions
• Attending seminars/ conferences

Types of Schengen Visas

The Schengen Visa permits travel to a Schengen Area Member Country either to transit or reside for a maximum period of 90 days every six months starting from the date of first entry.

The Schengen Visa applies to all of the three categories, “A”, “B” and “C”:

• Category A – Airport Transit Visa, which allows holders to travel through the international zone of the Schengen Country Airport without entering the Schengen Country Area. An Airport transit visa is a mandatory requirement for citizens travelling from a non-Schengen state to another non-Schengen state via a change of flights in the airport of a Schengen country.

• Category B – Transit Visa, allows holders to transit for a maximum of 5 days through more than one Schengen country to a non-Schengen country by car, coach or plane.

• Category C – Short-Term Visa, allows holder to reside in a Schengen Country for a certain period of time depending on the validity of the visa. Category C can be obtained in the following forms:

• Single-entry visa – Permits holders to enter a Schengen country only once for a certain period of time. When the holder leaves the Schengen country the visa expires, even if the time period allowed to stay in the country is not over.

• Double-entry visa – Allows the holder to enter the issuing Schengen country twice meaning that for a certain period of permitted time holders can enter the Schengen country, leave and re-enter without any problems. Once the holder leaves the country for the second time the visa expires, even if the time period allowed to stay in the country is not over.

• Multiple-entry visa – Permits a holder to go in and out of the Schengen country without a limit on the number of entries. However, this visa allows its holder to stay in the Schengen Zone for a maximum of 90 days within a 180 day period, starting from the first day of crossing a border between a Schengen member country and a non-Schengen member country.

Schengen Countries

Austria Lithuania
Belgium Luxembourg
Czech republic Malta
Denmark Netherlands
Estonia Norway*
Finland Poland
France Portugal
Germany Slovakia
Greece Slovenia
Hungary Spain
Iceland Sweden
Italy Switzerland*
Latvia Liechtenstein

*Non- EU Schengen States

If you would like to know more about Schengen visas or require assistance in obtaining one, please feel free to contact the DavidsonMorris Global Immigration Team on 020 7494 0118 or at


Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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