The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a country in Western Asia. It is a sovereign constitutional monarchy, consisting of seven Emirates: Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah, Umm Al Quwain, and Abu Dhabi, the largest Emirate as well as the capital.
With the mix of modern architecture right next to the historical and cultural landmarks, UAE attracts millions of tourists every year.
If you are planning a trip to the UAE, you may find that you need to apply for a UAE visa (or not, depending on your country). The UAE government allows nationals of several countries to enter without a visa for short stays.
This article will try to answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding UAE visas.
Who Needs a UAE Visa?
Whether you need a UAE visa or not depends on your nationality. Citizens of some countries are allowed to enter the Emirates without a visa or obtain one upon arrival, while others have to get it before they travel.
See the lists of who needs a UAE visa and who is exempt below:
UAE visa exemptions
Enter the UAE with an ID or passport
Nationals of the following countries (other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council) have freedom of movement and may enter the UAE with simply their passport or ID:
- Saudi Arabia
Non-native residents of GCC countries are not exempt from UAE visas, but they can apply through a facilitated online process if they’re traveling with a GCC national (see below).
Visa free for up to 180 days
Nationals of Mexico may enter the UEA without a visa for up to 180 days.
Visa free for up to 90 days in any 180 day period
Nationals of the following countries may enter the UAE without a visa for up to 90 days within any 180 day period:
- EU member states (excluding the UK and Ireland)
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Visa free for up to 90 days
Nationals of the following countries may enter the UAE without a visa for up to 90 days.
- Solomon Islands
Visa free for up to 30 days
Nationals of the following countries may enter the UAE without a visa for up to 30 days:
Eligible for UAE Visa On Arrival
Citizens of the countries listed below may obtain a UAE Visa On Arrival. The Visa On Arrival is valid for up to 30 days for most countries, except the ones otherwise specified:
|El Salvador*||Hong Kong||Ireland|
|New Zealand||San Marino||Singapore|
|South Korea*||United Kingdom||United States|
*valid for 90 days
UAE Visa exemptions for holders of diplomatic and service passports
Nationals of the following countries who have a diplomatic or service passport are also exempt from a UAE tourist visa or eligible for a UAE Visa On Arrival:
*Diplomatic passport only
Citizens of all countries not mentioned above have to get a UAE visa before they travel.
What are the Types of UAE visas?
The four main types of visas that the UAE offer are:
- UAE Tourist Visas, which, as the name suggests are issued for tourism purposes or any other purpose which is shorter than 30 days and does not require you to take up employment and long-term residence in the UAE.
- UAE Residence Visas are for foreigners who wish to relocate to the UAE. This includes:
- UEA Student Visa
- UAE Work Visa
- UAE Family Visa
- Long-Term Residence Visas (Investor Visa), which is issued for a period of 5-10 years and does not require a sponsor. However, you must invest a substantial amount of money in the UAE to qualify for this type of visa.
- UAE Transit Visas, which are issued to foreigners who have to transit through the UAE. These types of visas are issued for 48 or 96 hours.
UAE Visa Requirements
When applying for a UAE visa, you must have several documents to support your application, such as:
- Photocopies of your passport and the passport of your sponsor
- Passport-size pictures
- Confirmed flight ticket
- UAE visa application form
- Letter of invitation (if applicable)
See a more detailed list of UAE visa requirements here.
UAE Visa Application
Unlike most countries, the UAE does not issue visas through its embassies or consulates overseas. Additionally, you cannot submit a UAE Visa application yourself – you must have a sponsor in the UAE or apply through an authorized agency to submit it on your behalf.
Who can apply for a UAE Visa?
Since you cannot apply for a UAE Visa yourself, one of the following can apply on your behalf:
- A host or sponsor who is living in the UAE
- A licensed travel agency through which you purchase the travel ticket. Travel agencies in your country may also be collaborating with a local tour operator in the UAE and offer tourist packages. Make sure that the travel agency you hire is reputable and licensed before you pay them.
- The hotel in which you are staying in the UAE
- One of the following airlines provided that you’ll be flying with them:
Where to apply for a UAE Visa?
UAE visa applications can be submitted either online or in-person at one of the following agencies:
- The Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship – ICA (online only)
- The General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs – GDRFA (online and in-person)
Your sponsor can apply for a UAE visa online through one of the following portals:
- The ICA’s eChanel portal, through which hosts, travel agencies or other sponsors can apply for a UAE Visa on your behalf.
- The websites of the GDRFA in each emirate:
- Mobile apps:
Your sponsor or host can also apply through one of the licensed typing centres of the GDRFA in each Emirate or through one of the Amer centres in Dubai.
UAE eVisa Application for GCC Residents
Residents of any of the GCC countries are not exempt from visa requirements like GCC nationals are, but they are entitled to a facilitated online application process if they are travelling with GCC citizens.
If you are a GCC resident, you can apply for a UAE visa through one of the following websites:
Once you apply, you will receive your visa on the address which you provided. Your UAE visa is valid for 30 days, and may be extended once more for 30 additional days.
If you are a GCC resident who will be travelling alone (not with a GCC national) you cannot apply through the online portal.
What’s the difference between a UAE Entry Permit and a UAE Residence Visa?
Foreigners who want to move to the UAE need to have a Residence Visa. However, prior to that, they must also obtain an Entry Permit. The difference between an entry permit and a residence visa for the UAE is:
The UAE Entry Permit is the document you have to obtain if you need a visa to enter the country. It is valid for a certain number of days, depending on your purpose of travel.
Your sponsor has to get an entry permit for you before you travel from by General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA). The number of days you are allowed to stay in the UAE with an entry permit depends on the purpose of your travel:
- If you are transiting, you will receive an entry permit (transit visa) for up to 48 or 96 hours.
- If you’ll enter as a tourist, your entry permit is valid for up to 30 days (ie. tourist visa).
- If you’re entering for employment purposes, your entry permit is valid for up to 60 days etc.
As such, a tourist visa and an entry permit are more or less the same thing.
The UAE Residence Visa is the document you have to obtain after you are already in the UAE with an Entry Permit and want to stay longer than the number of days the permit allows. Your sponsor (who must meet GDRFA’s requirements) has to apply for your Residence Visa.
What is the duration of a UAE Visa?
When you receive a UAE visa, you will usually have about 60 days to use it to enter the country. Upon entry, the number of days you are allowed to stay in the UAE depends on the purpose of your travel.
As a tourist, you can stay for up to 30 days. If you are transiting, you are allowed to stay only for up to 4 days. UAE visas for employment are issued for a maximum of 2 months, during which time you have to convert it into a Residence Visa or leave the country.
Can you extend a UAE Visa?
Yes, you can. As of 2018, you can extend almost any UAE visa or entry permit two times, each for 30 additional days and for a fee of AED 600. You have to apply for a visa extension before your current visa expires, otherwise you’ll be fined for overstaying.
You may not apply for a UAE visa extension if you fall under one of the following categories:
- You are a visitor or tourist and you are a resident of a GCC country
- You are a GCC resident who is accompanying a GCC national
- You hold a special entry permit
- You have a 96-hour permit for special missions
UAE Residence Visa extension for widows or divorced women
The UAE government offers a Residence Visa extension for divorced women or widows which allows them to remain in the country for another year starting from the time of divorce or death of their husbands without the need for a sponsor. The visa also includes their children.
They must apply through the websites or typing centres of the relevant GDRFA in their Emirate of residence.
What happens if I overstay a UAE Visa?
If you overstay a UAE visa, you will have to pay a fine of AED 100 for every day that you have overstayed. If you know you need to stay longer, you should apply for a visa extension.
Can I work with a UAE Visa?
No, unless you have a UAE Work Visa as well as a work permit, you are not allowed to work in the UAE, with or without payment.
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