The visa system
In general, the visa system in the UAE works according to rules and regulations set by the UAE's Ministry of Interior and it is based on the principle of reciprocity.
Some nationalities are granted visa on arrival and others are required to apply before. Visitors who need to apply for a visa prior to arriving in the UAE, are first issued an entry permit. It is a document that allows the visitor to enter the country. On the basis of that document, at the airport, the immigration officers will stamp something similar to 'entry - tourist' or 'entry - visitor' on the passport. This is the visa.
Criteria for entry permit
In order for the UAE issuing authorities to grant an entry permit for those eligible, the visitor must meet these general criteria. They are:
- Visitor must hold a genuine passport, valid for at least six months
- He must have an Emirati or UAE resident sponsor or he must be eligible for visa on arrival
- He must not have been banned from entering the UAE, or previously deported unless he obtains special permission to re-enter
- He must be medically fit
- He must have the official approval of his entry for the purposes sought.
Important things to consider
Once issued, an entry permit is valid for use during 60 days from the issue date. If the visitor/tourist fails to enter the country within the prescribed period, his permit is deemed cancelled and he has to apply again for the entry permit.
Visitors and tourists should be aware that it is illegal to work in the UAE while being on a visit or tourist visa. According to the UAE's labour and residency laws, a person cannot work if he has not been issued a work permit and employment visa. Violators may be liable to fines and deportation.
Under the Ministerial Resolution No. 377 of 2014, holders of all types of visas can modify the status of their entry while staying in the country. Applicant must do this before the expiry of his current visa to avoid any penalties.
People will be able to amend the status of their entry permits electronically through a few quick steps.
For more information regarding work visa process, refer to the jobs section.
GCC nationals entry
If you are a national citizen of one of GCC countries, you neither require a visa, nor a sponsor to visit the UAE. You will simply need to produce your GCC country passport or ID card upon arrival at the point of entry into the UAE.
However, those accompanying the GCC nationals need to obtain an online visa upfront , which allows them to stay in the country for a period of 60 days renewable for the same period.
Foreigners residing in any of the other GCC countries need to apply for online visa upfront before arriving in the UAE.
For granting the visa, preference is given to GCC residents with a high professional status, such as businessmen, company managers, accountants, auditors, engineers, doctors, pharmacists, or employees working in the public sector along with their families, drivers and personal staff under their sponsorship.
Visitor needs to enter the UAE within 30 days of the issue of the visa and can stay in the UAE for up to 30 days. The visa can be renewed once for the same period, provided he maintains a valid passport having a valid GCC residence stamp, along with proof of employment in the country of residence.
Visa on arrival
As per the website of Emirates Airlines, Indian nationals holding a normal passport valid for a minimum of six months from the arrival date, and a visit visa or green card issued by the USA which is valid for a minimum of six months, can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 14 days. They can apply to extend their stay for an additional 14 days.
Citizens of the following countries can get 30-days visit visa on arrival, free of charge.
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- People's Republic of China
- Russian Federation
- San Marino
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
- United States of America
- Vatican City
Citizens of the following countries can get a 90-days multiple entry visit visa valid for 6 months from the date of issue for a stay of 90 days.
- Czech Republic
This list may vary from time to time; therefore, it is advisable to check with your airline or the local UAE embassy before entering the UAE.
Nationalities that need a prior entry permit
If you do not fall into any of the above categories, you will require an entry permit and a sponsor prior to arrival into the UAE.
Usually, the sponsor applies for the visa on your behalf; the type of visa depends on the permit requested for; such as: residency, work, visiting friends or relatives etc.
For more information, check the visa information page on the website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation.
Visa application facilities
Online visa portal for UAE (eChannels)
UAE nationals, residents,and firms can now apply for new visa or visa renewals through a dedicated online portal.
According to the Ministry of Interior, which oversees the General Directorate for Residency and Foreign Affairs, nationals ,residents and firms can apply by visiting the Ministry of Interior's eChannels website.
The portal aims to ease the application and renewal process and removes the need for customers to visit the main office or typing centres.
To submit an online application, customers need to scan the required documents and follow the steps. They only need to visit the main office to get a visa stamped on their passports once the application has been approved and all steps completed.
Mobile visa service
You can process your UAE visa through the mVisa service provided by General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) of Dubai, through your smart phone.
After filling in the sponsor's and visitor's details, the sponsor will be informed by an SMS immediately after the mVisa is issued. The sponsor will receive two different text messages. One of them will contain the visitor's name with a visa number; the second message will contain an image of the barcode that is compatible to the visa.
The same two messages will be sent to the visitor, regardless of the visitor's country of residence or mobile network used.
In this case, the sponsor is not required to provide the original visa at the Dubai International Airport.
Visitors of M-Visa holders coming through Dubai International Airport have to go directly to the offices that belong to M-Visa holders, as they have to bring copy of M-Visa document (PDF File), or provide the officer their mobile phone that contains encoded barcode that had been sent earlier by GDRFA.
Distinguished guest service
The Distinguished Guest Service is a special service for people, designated as 'Distinguished Guest'. This is for those high social or business profile or VIPs who frequently visit Dubai. 'Distinguished Guest' could be of any nationality except of those countries whose citizens get visas on arrival.
This service allows the 'Distinguished Guest' to enter the emirate several times in a limited period which will be specified by the sponsor. The transactions of the 'Distinguished Guest' will also be completed faster, by issuing the visa electronically through the system on each visit.
'UAE vision' system
In Dubai, GDRFA introduced the new 'UAE vision' system, under which, people can apply for all kinds of visas and conduct residency-related transactions through typing service centres. Typing centres that are authorised to carry out visa-related transactions under the 'UAE vision' system would carry the logo of Amer, which is the dedicated service centre of GDRFA.
The logo would be clearly visible on the counters and on the staff's uniform. The logo is a badge of approval from the GDRFA, indicating that the typing centre is qualified to carry out visa-related transactions through the UAE vision system.
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Visa service centres abroad
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has envisioned the implementation of a leading practice known as 'Exporting the Border', followed by various countries to validate the information of visa applicants ahead of visa issuance and their arrival to the UAE.
Dedicated centres will be established in phases and provide administrative services associated with the issuance of entry permits to the UAE, which include validating entry documents, medical examinations and fingerprinting.
Such centres will reduce fraud and identity theft cases by verifying the attendee via the passport. It will also reduce the spread of infectious diseases into the UAE, avoid deportation and cost of medical quarantine post the medical examinations, which could be done at these centres.
In addition, such practice will prevent the arrival of foreigners that had already been deported and finally confirm the identity of the person arriving to the UAE through a clear facial image and an eye-scan done at the centre.
Note that although you may have booked your air ticket and may have even obtained an entry permit/visa, you may not be allowed to board the flight unless you have the 'ok to board' approval from the airlines. You need to submit a request to the airlines for the 'ok to board' approval in the format prescribed by the airline.
The visa rules are subject to change. The details on this page are just an overview of the general requirements of visas. You are advised to check with the UAE embassies and consulates abroad.
Updated on 15 Nov 2017