If you come to Abu Dhabi as a tourist, e.g. on a fact-finding trip prior to your expat assignment, you need to enter the country with a valid passport and a tourist visa or visitor visa. Either of the above visa types needs to be applied for at the nearest UAE Embassy or Consulate well in advance of your trip. However, nationals of the following countries, among a few others, can get their tourist or visitor visa upon arrival in the UAE, provided they have a valid passport:
Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Vatican, UK, US.
This list may vary so be sure to check with your nearest embassy or consulate if you are eligible for such a visa.
A tourist visa is valid for up to 30 days and can be renewed for another 30 days. It only applies to individual tourists from selected countries sponsored by hotels, commercial tour operators, etc. in the UAE.
Visitor visas are for tourists or non-touristic visitors (e.g. for visiting a relative or attending a trade fair). They are valid for 30 days and can be renewed for a total stay of up to 60 days. Usually, your relative in the UAE, your tour operator, the business organization that invited you, etc. will act as your sponsor for the application process.
Neither a tourist visa nor a visitor visa allows you to take up gainful employment or any kind of work in Abu Dhabi. Moreover, a tourist visa can never be transferred into a work entry permit. Temporary work visas are valid for 90 days and can be extended for an equal amount of time. During this time, expats have to make sure that their residence permit is processed. In order to obtain a work visa and, later on, a residence permit, you usually need a sponsor in Abu Dhabi (e.g. your future employer) who is going to take care of the process for you.
There are different types of work visas for private companies, depending on the applicant’s position. Employees of governmental institutions and ministries receive their visa directly from the GDRFA (General Directorate of Residence and Foreigners Affairs) and are not allowed to accept work in the private sector.
The type of visa and work permit you need always depends on your nationality and on your individual situation. It is therefore hard to provide specific information. For all questions relating to work visas (also known as work entry permits or labor entry permits), please ask the Embassy staff or the GDRFA.
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