UAE, Canada formally end visa row

The United Arab Emirates will nix costly visa requirements imposed on Canadian travelers as of June 1, officials said Tuesday, ending a row between the two countries that started in 2010 over aviation rights.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and his UAE counterpart, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, had agreed last month to restoring the previous visa regime.

The agreement has now been formalized, Baird told reporters, calling it "a tremendously important signal to the world that bilateral relations between our two countries are strong and getting stronger each and every day."

"We are on an upward trajectory," he said.

The UAE in January 2011 started charging Canadians $1,000 for a six-month multiple entrance visa, while three-month and one-month visas cost 500 dollars and 250 dollars respectively.

The steep hikes in obtaining a visa for the UAE came as the two countries had been at odds over landing rights in Canada for UAE-based carriers and the closure of a UAE military base to Canadian use.

Canada was forced a few months earlier to close a military base in Dubai that was part of a key supply route to Afghanistan after refusing to grant the UAE's two national carriers more landing rights.

Baird was transport minister at the time, when more than 25,000 Canadians were living in the UAE and bilateral trade was valued at $1.5 billion annually, according to the UAE.

The number of Canadians in the UAE has since risen to more than 40,000 Canadians, along with 150 Canadian companies.