Visa requirements for Dubai change frequently. Sometimes government websites are not even up to date. The safest thing to do is to check with the UAE embassy in your home country before leaving.
If you are taking up work in Dubai your sponsor, which is normally your employer, will arrange the necessary visas and permits for you and can help you with the required documents.
Most visas and permits consist of passport stamps, so that immigration authorities can easily check that you have the necessary authorisation when you enter or leave the country. There are costs associated with the various visas and permits, but in the case of foreign workers these are normally met by your employer. Note that the prices quoted below should be taken as a guide only, as they are subject to change, as are the conditions and requirements; the relevant state’s embassy or consulate can provide you with the current information.
The Visit Visa applies to everyone staying longer than 14 days. All visitors will need to show evidence of medical insurance. Specific visa requirements vary for different nationalities:
GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) nationals may enter Dubai without a visa.
Citizens of specific countries can obtain their visa upon arrival at the airport: France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Finland, Malta, Spain, Monaco, Vatican, Iceland, Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. It is valid for 30 days, costs AED100 ($30). It is payable on entry and non-renewable. UK citizens do not need a visa in advance, do not have to pay on entry and the visa is valid for a visit for up to 60 days; this visa can be renewed for a further 30 days for a AED500 ($130) fee.
Citizens of other countries staying longer than 14 days can obtain a non-renewable visit visa through a sponsor for either 30 or 90 days. The sponsor can be, amongst others, your company, your travel agency or an individual. In case of an individual sponsor a valid residence visa and an income of over AED4000 per month are required. Since August 2008 expatriate workers can no longer act as sponsors for visiting family members.
Valid for 96 hours, transit visas are intended for those travelling within the Emirates who are stopping at Dubai International Airport for a minimum of 8 hours, and for short-stay business trips. A valid onward ticket is required. Transit visas can be arranged by a sponsor or hotel. Citizens from Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Niger and Yemen are ineligible.
Multiple Entry Visas
This visa is valid for 6 months for stays of up to 30 days at a time. They are issued to business visitors who enter the UAE frequently due to ties with a reputable local or multinational company. The individual must first enter on a Visit Visa, upon which a Multiple Entry Visa may be granted, which is non-renewable.
Labour Card & Residence Visa
All foreign workers require a residence visa and ‘labour card’. To obtain these, you must first undergo a medical examination. Non-westerners generally require a more extensive examination than westerners. In due course, a residence visa is issued and eventually a labour card, which is a kind of identity card to be carried at all times, your passport having been surrendered to your employer.
Residence visas are valid for three years and are easy to renew. There’s an age limit of 50 years, but this can occasionally be overcome, if appropriate reasons are presented. New residents should remain in the Emirates for the first six months of their stay.
This article is an extract from Living and Working in Gulf States & Saudi Arabia. Click here to get a copy now.
*As of March 2019, the UAE has introduced a new long-term visa system:
- Investors, entrepreneurs and specialists/researchers in science, medicine and other fields can apply for a ten-year residency visa. You need to meet certain financial requirements in order to be eligible. Children and partners can be included on the visas. The visas for investors and entrepreneurs can also be extended to include business partners and advisers.
- Gifted students (those who achieved at least 95% in secondary school and a 3.75 GPA at university - or your country's equivalent) can now apply for a five-year visa. This visa can also include family members.