Seychellois passport holders will no longer need to apply for a visa when travelling to the UAE after a new visa waiver agreement between the two countries comes into force.

The 90-day visit visa waiver for all Seychellois nationals travelling to the UAE comes two years after an agreement waiving visa requirements for Seychellois diplomats and officials.

Seychelles has a population of just 90,000 people spread across its archipelago of 115 islands, but its passport holders have access to 126 countries, ranking 28th worldwide and boasting the greatest scope of access of any African citizens.

UAE visas for Seychellois travellers have until now been predominantly handled by travel agents in Dubai through Seychelles agencies like BDA Overseas, and though the travel documents only took three days to process, they were valid for only 14 days and cost $120.

Jean-Paul Adam, the Seychellois Minister for Foreign Affairs, who signed the agreement on behalf of the Seychelles government, described it as a, “fulfilment of a pledge made to the people of Seychelles facilitating unrestricted access and greater connectivity to the world.

He added that, “it has always been a matter of policy, and the unrelenting mission of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to remove restrictive visa barriers for Seychellois wishing to travel. Visa free entry for all Seychellois to the UAE heralds a new period in travel for our people.”

The UAE is the primary destination for Seychellois citizens, who made 8,981 trips to the Gulf country in 2013, flown by direct flights on the Seychellois national carrier Air Seychelles, and the two UAE carriers, Etihad Airways and Emirates airline.

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The UAE was also Seychelles’ top trading partner in 2013, accounting for $191m of imports, or 43.4% of all imports ($440m), with a focus on oil and fuel oil at a combined value of $133.5m.

Seychellois President James Michel, who was recently in attendance at the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix, described the signing as being testament to the close relationship and strength of partnership between Seychelles and the United Arab Emirates.

“Seychelles is the first African country to not need a visa when entering the UAE, which is symbolic of the longstanding relationship which will further bolster our two countries bilateral ties,” he said.

“The signing of this agreement greatly advances cooperation conducive to both sides. We count on reinforcing this common success by the signing of this document. We always consider the UAE a great friend and always well disposed towards Seychelles.”

Seychelles joins a list of over 40 nations whose people are exempted from visa requirements when entering the UAE. Separately, the country is also the first African nation to have visa free travel with China after a waiver agreement to that effect was signed in May last year.

After the UAE, the most popular destinations for Seychellois travellers, out of a total of 32,774 trips in 2013, were Mauritius with 6,472 trips and South Africa with 4,441 trips.