Foreigners who want to live and work in the United Arab Emirates long-term need a UAE Residence Visa. A residence visa for the UAE offers the holder a lot of benefits, including:
- You can open a bank account
- You can get a bank loan (personal or car loan)
- You have visa-free access to several countries
- Your children can attend government or private schools
- You can get a driver’s license
- You have access to government health services and health insurance
However, to be able to get a Residence Visa for the UAE, you must meet certain eligibility criteria, such as finding a job or investing in one of the emirates.
Who is eligible for a UAE Residence Visa?
To qualify for a UAE Residence Visa, you have to fall under one of the following categories:
- You will work in the UAE, under a governmental office or in a private company.
- You will study in a UAE educational institution
- You are the dependent of a UAE citizen or foreign resident (child, parent, maid, or a close relative)
- You have made an investment in the UAE
- You have purchased property in the UAE
- You will retire in the UAE
Types of UAE Residence Visas
The types of UAE Residence Visas are divided depending on the purpose of your travel. As such, there is the:
- UAE Work Visa, which is issued to foreigners who have found employment in the UAE and obtained a Work Permit.
- UAE Student Visa, which is issued for foreign nationals who have been accepted into a UAE educational institution
- UAE Family Visa, which is issued to the close family members of UAE citizens or foreign residents
- UAE Investment Visa (long-term residence), which is issued to foreign nationals who make a substantial investment in the UAE. This type of visa is issued for a longer duration than other types of residence visas (up to ten years)
- UAE Retirement Visa, which is issued to elderly foreigners who want to retire in the UAE and have the necessary financial means to do so.
What are the requirements for a UAE Residence Visa?
When applying for a UAE Residence Visa, you must have several supporting documents, such as:
- The UAE Visa Application Form, obtained online or through the relevant typing center
- Your original passport
- Two passport-size pictures, in line with UAE visa photo requirements
- Your entry visa
- Proof of your sponsor’s legal residency / UAE citizenship
- Proof you have passed a medical fitness test*
- Proof of UAE health insurance plan
- For family visas, include proof of family ties, such as birth/marriage certificates
- For a work visa, your sponsor must include the work contract and copies of the company’s valid trade licence and valid firm card
- Any additional documents related to your purpose of travel. For more, see:
- UAE Work Visa
- UAE Family Visa
- UAE Student Visa
- UAE Investment Visa
- UAE Retirement Visa
*All foreign nationals who want to live in the UAE on a Residence Visa have to pass a medical exam proving their fitness.
UAE Residence Visa application
You have to apply for a Residence Visa once you’re already in the UAE, meaning you have to enter with an entry permit first. Additionally, just as with the entry permit, in most cases, you cannot apply for your own residence visa: you need a sponsor to apply on your behalf, such as your employer, spouse, etc.
Who can apply for my UAE Residence Visa?
You can only apply for a Residence Visa through a sponsor. However, in certain cases, you may be your own sponsor.
- For a UAE Work Visa, your employer is your sponsor
- For a UAE Student Visa, your school is your sponsor
- For a UAE Family Visa, your family member is your sponsor
- If you are an investor or buy property in the UAE, you can apply yourself and your company/property serves as sponsorship
How to apply for a UAE Residence Visa?
First, your sponsor has to get an Entry Permit for you at one of the following:
- The Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship
- The General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs – GDRFA either online (see the websites below) or in-person. If your host applies in-person they must do so through one of the licensed typing centres of the GDRFA in each Emirate or through one of the Amer centres in Dubai.
- GDRFA Dubai mobile apps for Apple and Android
Once you are in the country, your sponsor has to apply for your Residence Visa at the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) of the relevant emirate in which you will live.
At the time of application, they will also pay a UAE Residence Visa fee, depending on the validity of your visa.
Once your application is approved, the GDRFA will affix a Residence Visa on your passport, and you will receive an Emirates ID, valid for the same duration as the visa.
The websites of the GDRFA in each emirate:
- Abu Dhabi
- Dubai (see also Amer, a website which Dubai citizens and residents can use to apply for family reunion and visitors can use to extend their Visa On Arrival)
- Ras Al Khaimah
UAE Residence Visa fees
The fees for a UAE Residence Visa change depending on what duration your visa is issued for. For one year, the UAE Residence Visa fee is AED100.
Additionally, you will also have to pay a processing fee which also changes depending on where you apply, which can range from AED70 if applying in person or AED40 if applying online.
Please keep in mind that the visa fees are subject to change and that you will have to pay additional fees for medical exams and health insurance as well.
The difference between the UAE Entry Permit and Residence Visa
The difference between the Entry Permit and Residence Visa for the UAE is just as the name suggests:
The Entry Permit allows the holder to enter the UAE and it is valid for only a certain amount of time (usually up to three months). Entry permits are issued based on the purpose of your travel. For example, an entry permit for tourism purposes is a UAE Tourist Visa.
Your sponsor has to apply for your entry permit before you enter the UAE. Once you are in the country on an entry permit, your sponsor can then apply for your residence visa.
Additionally, some nationalities don’t even need an entry permit or can get one on arrival. Basically, if you are exempt from a UAE Tourist Visa, you don’t need to get an entry permit because the two are more or less the same thing.
See how to apply for a UAE Entry Permit (UAE Visa) and who is exempt.
The Residence Visa allows the holder to reside in the UAE long-term. After you enter the country, your sponsor has to apply for your residence visa from the relevant visa-issuing authorities as described above.
How long can I stay with a UAE Residence Visa?
The duration of UAE Residence Visas depends on the purpose of your travel: they are issued for 1, 2 or 3 years and can be renewed.
However, Investment Visas or Retirement Visas are also issued for 5-10 years and are renewable.
Getting a UAE Residence Visa renewal before expiry
Your sponsor has to renew your Residence Visa within the 30 days before it is set to expire.
However, your sponsor may also renew your visa after it expires if it is within the UAE residence visa expiry grace period.
The UAE residence visa renewal procedure is similar to when you first obtained your visa: your sponsor has to apply at the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in the relevant emirate.
What’s the UAE Residence Visa expiry grace period?
The UAE authorities offer expatriates a 30-day grace period starting from the time their visa expires. This means that even if your visa has expired, you can stay for an additional 30 days, but if you do not have a visa renewal by then, you must leave the country and re-enter using an entry permit.
If you overstay, you will be fined for each day you have overstayed.
UAE Residence Visa overstay fee
The fees for overstaying your UAE Residence Visa are as follows:
- For the first 6 months (180 days) – AED 25 per day
- For the second 6 months (180 days) – AED 50 per day
- For every day after 1 year has passed – AED 100 per day
UAE Visa renewal for divorced women and widows
As of October 2018, the UAE government has issued a new immigration rule, allowing the widows and divorced women of UAE residents to remain in the country without a sponsor for a year, starting from the passing of their husbands or their divorce. The new rule also includes the children of said women, if any.
To qualify, the women and/or children must have been under the husband’s visa at the time of his death or the divorce and their visas must be valid at the time of application. They can apply at the GDRFA by submitting the following:
- Proof of death or divorce (as applicable)
- Proof of accommodation
- Proof the woman is able to financially support herself
- The Emirates ID Card
- Medical fitness certificates
This type of visa can only be extended once.
How can I get a Dubai Residence Visa?
Dubai is one of the seven emirates that make up the country of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). As such, the process for getting a Dubai Residence Visa is the same as for any other emirate in the UAE (as explained above).
You must have a sponsor in Dubai (or invest/buy property there). Then, your sponsor has to apply for your entry permit and residence visa at one of the licensed typing centers of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) in Dubai or an Amer center.