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Visas & Work Permits in the UAE
How to Apply for a UAE Visa for a Fact-Finding Visit or Business Trip
If you plan to visit the UAE on a fact-finding trip before your actual relocation, or will be in the UAE frequently for business, you’re probably wondering if you need a visa and how you can obtain one. In this article, we cover who needs a visa, how to apply, and what documents you’ll need.
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- GCC nationals don’t require a visa to enter the UAE.
- A visa on arrival is available to citizens of 47 countries, including Australia, the USA, and the entire EU.
- Citizens of other countries need to apply for a visa beforehand, which requires a sponsor.
- People doing business in the UAE can apply for multiple-entry visas, with special conditions available for citizens of the USA and Germany.
Who Needs a Visa to Enter the UAE?
Before we get to who needs a visa to enter the UAE, we’ll first start with who doesn’t need one. Nationals of other GCC countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia) do not require a visa to enter the UAE and only need to show their passport/ID at their port of entry.
Please note that the visas discussed in this article do not make you eligible to work in the UAE. Please consult our article on residence visas for more information on the administrative steps you need to take to be able to legally take up employment in the UAE.
No Advance Planning Necessary: Visas on Arrival
Citizens of 47 other countries can apply for a visa on arrival. This means that no paperwork needs to be filled out in advance, and a visa will be granted upon arrival in the UAE by air, land, or sea. The list of these 47 countries includes all 28 member states of the European Union as well as the following other European countries:
- Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco
- Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, Vatican City
The list is rounded out by a smattering of other countries from around the world:
- Australia, Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong
- Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand
- Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, USA
If you are eligible, a visa on arrival will be issued to you free of charge at your port of entry. It is valid for 30 days and can be renewed for a further 30 days for a fee of 500 AED.
Please note that holders of a British Overseas citizens (BOC) passport are not eligible for a visa on arrival.
Also Included: Residents of GCC Countries
Some residents of GCC countries, such as professionals in certain fields and public sector employees, are also eligible to receive a visa on arrival. As of 24 May 2015, these GCC residents may also apply and pay for a visa online before their arrival. This e-visa, which you can obtain from the website of the Ministry of the Interior, will mean you don’t need to wait in line to enter the UAE. Make sure that your GCC residence permit is valid for at least another three months and that your current profession is the same as the one displayed on your residence permit.
Visa Required: Citizens of Other Countries
If you are a citizen of a country not listed above, you will need to apply for a visa before you may enter the UAE. Those in possession of a hand-written passport or travel document are not eligible to apply for a visit visa for the UAE.
Citizens of Israel are denied entry to the UAE, but may still transit through an Emirati airport.
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Making a Fact-Finding Trip: Visit Visas
If you need to apply for a visa before arriving in the UAE, you will need someone to sponsor your visa and apply for it on your behalf. Examples of people who can act as your sponsor are your future employer as well as a friend or family member you plan on staying with during your fact-finding trip.
If you have purchased a round-trip ticket, certain airlines will also act as your sponsor. Visit the website of your airline to see if you can apply and pay for your visa yourself online before your departure.
What You Need to Know to Apply
Next, you need to decide how long you will be staying. You can either apply for a 30-day or a 90-day visit visa. You may apply for your visa yourself using the online form on the website of the Ministry of the Interior or through its smartphone app.
You will require the following items for your application:
- a completed, typed visa application form
- a copy of your passport and those of anyone accompanying you, with at least six months validity remaining after the planned date of entry
- two passport-sized photos
- a letter stating who your sponsor is and a copy of your sponsor’s passport and employment contract
- proof of family relationship (if you and your sponsor are related)
- a 1,000 AED refundable fee per applicant, guaranteeing that you will leave the UAE when your visa expires — reimbursed after you leave the country
- proof of travel health insurance with a minimum coverage of 150,000 AED, covering emergencies, accidents, and repatriation of remains in case of death
Once your visa has been issued, it will be sent to your sponsor by certified mail.
Visa Approved? Use It or Lose It
You must use the visa to enter the UAE within 60 days of its issuance; else it loses its validity. Therefore, while it is a good idea to apply for your visa well in advance of your visit, you should also not apply more than two months prior to your planned date of arrival.
Your sponsor should drop off your visa at the visa delivery counter of the airport you will be arriving at between 48 hours and one hour before your flight arrives. There is a small fee for this service. At Abu Dhabi International Airport, for example, the fee is 35 AED. If the visa is dropped off after your flight lands, the fee is 45 AED.
Multiple-Entry Visas for Business Visitors
If you are doing regular business with a company in the UAE and will therefore need to visit the country frequently, you may apply for a six-month multiple-entry visa. The duration of each stay in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, or one of the other emirates may not exceed 30 days and the visa is non-renewable.
To obtain this visa, you must first enter the country on a visit visa (which you can either get at the airport upon arrival or must be applied for in advance depending on your nationality) and then apply for a multiple-entry visa from the local immigration office during your stay in the UAE. The cost of this type of visa is 1,000 AED and the visa will be stamped directly into your passport.
Special Conditions for German and US Citizens
German citizens may apply to the UAE Embassy in Germany for a one- or two-year multiple-entry visa. No sponsor is required for this visa. Your time spent in the UAE may not exceed three months per year. This visa costs 1,500 AED.
US citizens may apply to the UAE Embassy in the US for a one- to ten-year multiple-entry visa. In this case, a sponsor is required, but the visa is issued free of charge. Each visit to the UAE should not be longer than six months.
How to Speed Up the Entry Process
If you’ll be arriving at Terminal 3 of Dubai International Airport and have a modern passport with a barcode, you can pass through the smart gates at passport control. You just need to place your passport’s photo page on the scanner, step into the gate, complete the eye scan, and pass through the gates. If this is your first time using the smart gate, you must then register with an immigration officer after you’ve done the eye scan. If you don’t have a machine-readable passport or are traveling with children under seven years of age, you must proceed to a standard passport counter.
Another option if you’ll be traveling to and from the UAE quite often is to get an e-gate card, which can be used at Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah International Airports. The cards are available to both residents and visitors, and allow you to pass through passport control simply by scanning your card and fingerprints at the e-gates located in the arrivals hall. To apply for an e-card, you must present your passport, valid visa, photo, and 200 AED at the airport or your local General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA).
For any questions about visas for Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or the other emirates, you can call the 24-hour, toll-free AMER service at 800 5111 from within the UAE. If you haven’t arrived in the country yet, this service also offers email and live chat options. Alternatively, you can also get in touch with your nearest UAE embassy or consulate.