Any foreign national (excluding those from the GCC) who wants to study in the UAE must obtain a UAE Student Visa. However, prior to that, they must get accepted into an institution of higher education in the UAE since it is the school that handles the visa application process.
What documents do I need for a Student Visa for the UAE?
When you apply for a Student Visa or the UAE, you must fulfill several requirements and have documents supporting your application. This includes:
- Your passport, along with several copies of your passport
- Several passport-sized pictures. You may need up to 12, so be prepared.
- The letter of acceptance into the UAE university or college.
- Proof of financial solvency to cover your tuition fees and living expenses
- A medical certificate, issued by a government-approved health center in the UAE. All applicants over the age of 18 have to undergo medical examinations for HIV, TB, Hepatitis B and C, Leprosy, and Syphilis.
- Proof of accommodation, such as student accommodation or proof of tenancy
- If you are applying for a post-graduate program, also include proof of certification from your previous university/college
Keep in mind: The requirements for visa applications differ from one emirate to the next, as well as from one university to the next. This is just the most commonly required documents. It is ultimately your school which provides you with the full list of all the documents you will need.
How can I get a Student Visa for the UAE?
If you have been accepted into a UAE higher education institution, your school arranges to get your UAE Student Visa from the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs – GDRFA. To be able to obtain the visa on your behalf, the college or university has to be accredited.
Because the UAE Student Visa is a type of residence visa, your school can only get it for you once you are in the country. This means you first need an entry permit for studying purposes.
Applying for the Entry Permit
Depending on your country, you may have to get an entry permit before you can enter the UAE. Your school also sponsors your entry permit. They can apply through one of the following portals:
- 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 centers of the GDRFA in each Emirate or through one of the Amer centers in Dubai.
- GDRFA Dubai mobile apps for Apple and Android
See a more detailed explanation of the UAE visa application process and whether you need an entry permit here.
Once you enter the country, your school has to arrange for you to get a Student Visa, also known as a Student Residence Visa.
Applying for the Student Visa
Your college or university applies for your UAE Student Visa at the GDRFA office of the relevant emirate in which you will live. If 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.
Here are 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
Keep in mind: Just because you have been accepted in a higher education institution in the UAE, it does not necessarily mean that you will receive the visa. The decision does not depend on your school, but on the UAE immigration authorities.
How Long is a UAE Student Visa Valid?
In most cases, a student visa is issued for one year, and it can be renewed annually for the entire duration of your studies. To renew a Student Visa, you need confirmation from your school that you are still a student.
However, in 2018, the UAE government introduced a new type of Long-Term Residence Visa which is issued to outstanding or exceptional students. This type of visa is valid for five years.
Who is Eligible for a 5-year UAE Student Visa?
If you are a good student, with a high GPA, then you are eligible to receive a UAE Student Visa with a validity of 5 years. The eligibility criteria is:
- For secondary education graduates: You must have a minimum grade of 95% in a public or private secondary school
- For university graduates: You must have a GPA of at least 3.75 from a university in or outside the UAE
This type of UAE visa also allows the holder to bring dependents.
Can I Work in the UAE With a Student Visa?
You can work in the UAE with a Student Visa only if you also obtain a UAE Work Permit. In addition, you cannot work full-time: you may only work up to four consecutive hours.
This is a relatively new decision as previously, foreign students were not allowed to work at all, except in internship programs authorized from their school.
Do I Need a Student Visa if I’m already in the UAE with a Family Visa?
Yes, you do. If you are a male who is over the age of 18, and you want to continue your higher education in a UAE college or university, you need a Student Visa. That’s because if you have reached the age of 18, as a male, you cannot continue to be under your parents’ visa.
However, in 2018, the UAE government implemented a new rule for the dependent sons of UAE visa holders. Under the new rule, upon completion of secondary education or after reaching the age of 18, whichever comes first, you are eligible for a 1-year UAE Residence Visa, which can be renewed for another year.
Daughters of any age can continue to be sponsored by their father, as long as they are unmarried.