There's a checklist of documents you need to live in the UAE, including your residence visa and Resident ID, which need to be renewed regularly for as long as you live here.
Everyone entering the UAE, except for citizens of GCC countries, needs a visa whether that is a visit visa (also known as an entry permit) or a residence visa, which allows you to live and work here. As part of any residence visa process you will need to take a medical test and apply for your Resident ID (formerly known as the Emirates ID).
After two or three years, your residence visa will expire and have to be renewed. You will also have to renew it if you are outside of the UAE for six months or more, which will render it void. Either way, you will need to take another medical test and apply for a new Resident ID before renewing your visa.
If you are living and working with a valid residence visa you can then sponsor family members (wife, husband, children) to live with you in the UAE, as well as a live-in or out nanny/maid and driver. If the family member is already in the country on a visit visa you can apply to have the visa swapped.
Expats living in the UAE can expect frequent visits from envious family and friends throughout the year, particularly during the winter months and holiday periods. For a hassle-free arrival into the country, make sure that your guests have organised their visit visa.
Getting a visit visa is a straightforward process, and many nationalities can get one on arrival. GCC citizens do not require a visa, while nationalities from 46 other countries can obtain a 30 day visa on arrival at no cost. The 30 day visa can be renewed for a further 30 days at a cost of Dhs.625, but it works out a lot cheaper to do a ‘visa run’ to the border of Oman, where you leave the country and re-enter on a new visit visa. All other nationalities can apply for a visit visa in advance, sponsored by a hotel, tour operator, or a UAE resident. The fee is Dhs.620 for a 30 day visa, and Dhs.1,120 for 90 days. Also, a Dhs.1,000 deposit should be paid by a local sponsor and can be reimbursed after the visitor has left the country.
Expats resident in other GCC countries, who do not belong to one of the 46 visa-on-arrival nationalities, but who do meet certain criteria (professions such as managers, doctors and engineers), can get a non-renewable 30 day visa on arrival – check with your airline before flying. All visitors to the UAE must have an eye scan upon arrival at immigration, except citizens of the GCC and anyone from the countries listed below.
Business travellers can get multiple entry visas, which are issued by the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA), the UAE’s Consular offices abroad, or applied for after arrival on a visit visa. The visa is valid for 14 days, for six months from the date of issue and costs Dhs.2,100. For an additional Dhs.200, a multiple-entry visa holder is eligible to use the airport e-Gates. Cruise tourists and property investors can also apply for a multi-entry permit.
Citizens of these countries receive can obtain a 30-day UAE visa on arrival (renewable once): Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, Poland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America and Vatican City.
There is no charge, no need to apply in advance, and your passport is simply stamped at passport control in the airport. This visa is valid for tourists, jobseekers, and anyone moving to the UAE and waiting for their residence visa to be processed.
For further visa information, see the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs' website,dnrd.ae , for details.
The GDRFA has also launched technology that enables visitors to apply for, cancel and renew tourist visas through smartphones. See UAE Government Apps in Useful links / Apps
For anyone living in the UAE, life gets a whole lot easier once you have your residence visa. This visa, which permits you to live and work in any of the emirates, is a requirement for everything you need to lay down roots – from applying for your Resident ID and updating your driver's licence to signing a rental contract and registering for a school place.
There are three main types: employment, family and domestic worker. You either need to have a job in the UAE and be sponsored by an employer, or be married to, or the child of, someone who has a job here and they will sponsor you. As part of any residence visa process you will need to take a medical test and apply for your Resident ID (formerly known as the Emirates ID). Once you have your visa – and this process can be completed in less than a month if your employer is on the ball – you can legally live in the UAE.
While your residence visa is being processed you should be able to leave the country as long as you have the visit visa that was stamped in your passport when you first entered. Citizens of the visa on arrival countries may need to do a ‘visa run’ to get a new visit visa after 30 days.
The visa is valid for two or three years (depending on where you work), after which you’ll need to re-apply. To renew your visa you’ll need another medical, and if you’re out of the country for over six months, your residence visa will be cancelled. Smart kiosks located in the UAE's malls, public areas and government buildings can be used to renew and amend visas, and access immigration services.
See the How To's section for a step by step guide to apply for and renew residence visas.
If you're working in the UAE then the chances are that your company or their Public Relations Officer (PRO) will have organised your residence visa for you.
In most cases, all you'll need to do is turn up for the medical test. Your company's PRO will submit your medical certificate, passport, Resident ID application form, and attested education certificates to the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA), and pay the required fees. They will also be responsible for renewing the card when needed.
If you are an employee of a company in a free zone, the free zone authority will process your residence visa directly through the GDRFA without having to get employment approval from the Ministry of Labour. This speeds up the process significantly, and visas can sometimes be granted in a matter of hours.
If you are on a family sponsorship and decide to work, your employer and not your visa sponsor, has to apply for a labour card. You’ll need to give your employer a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from your sponsor, your passport with residence visa, attested education certificates, passport photos, and a copy of your sponsor’s passport.
See the How To's section for a step by step guide to apply for an employment visa.
Whether you move to the UAE with your wife or husband and children, or you welcome a new addition to the family while you are here, it is your responsibility to sponsor them all for a residence visa.
Sponsoring your family
Once you have your UAE residence visa (employment) you should be able to sponsor your family members, allowing them to stay in the country as long as you are here. You will need a minimum monthly salary of Dhs.3,000 plus accommodation, or a minimum all-inclusive salary of Dhs.4,000. If the family member is already in the country on a visit visa you can still apply for their residency, and you’ll need to pay Dhs.680 to have the visa swapped. If the family member ends up getting a job, they don’t need to change to employer sponsorship, but the company will need to apply for a labour card for them.
A working woman can sponsor her husband if she meets the minimum salary requirements; in this scenario, the spouse’s visa must be renewed annually. If a husband sponsors his wife, the visa need only be renewed every two or three years, depending on whether he works in the private or public sector.
For parents sponsoring children, difficulties arise when sons (not daughters) turn 18. Unless they are enrolled in full-time education at a recognised institution in the UAE, they must transfer their visa to an employer. Or, the parents can pay a one-off Dhs.5,000 deposit and apply for an annual visa, which must be renewed yearly and is valid until the son turns 21. Daughters can stay on their father’s sponsorship until they marry.
Individuals must earn a minimum monthly salary of Dhs.20,000 or Dhs.19,000 and live in a two-bedroom accommodation before they can sponsor their parents. Upon applying to sponsor a parent, a Dhs.2,000 deposit per parent is charged. In addition, you also need a letter stating that your parents are dependent on you and have no one at home to look after them, and this letter must be verified by the embassy in your home country.
Property owners and investors can apply for a six-month multiple-entry permit if the value of their property is Dhs.1 million or more.
For just about every visa application, you’ll need plenty of colour passport-sized photos and many processes involve going to a typing centre. These are found all over the UAE, and are within or close to many of the GDRFA branches.
Once you are settled and have your residence visa, it may be time to think about hiring some help with the housework or children. It’s not unusual in the UAE to have a live-in maid or nanny and, if you have one, you will need to organise and pay for her immigration, labour and health documents.
Your domestic worker must be a national of Bangladesh, Ethiopia India, Nepal or Sri Lanka, and be under 58 years. Bachelors are not eligible to sponsor a maid, and married couples may need to provide a marriage certificate.
The Philippines stopped sending domestic workers to work in the UAE in 2014 after the UAE government introduced its unified contract for domestic workers. While the contract standardised rights, such as working hours and minimum wage, it suspended the Philippine consulate’s role in verifying and attesting contracts, and the Philippine government continues to negotiate this right before it lifts the ban. Indonesian women were officially banned from working as domestic workers and drivers in the Middle East by the Indonesian government in June 2015, although about 4,700 relocations already under process were allowed. The country says it will send no more domestic worker from June 2017, although some workers who have legally secured their position before the ban may be able to renew their visa. Nepal also banned the travel of domestic workers for about a year until September 2015, but lifted it in recognition that people were still getting through illegally. Now Nepali citizens over the age of 20 can work as domestic workers and drivers.
To sponsor a domestic worker (maid/nanny) you must have a salary above Dhs.6,000 per month, and be able to provide the maid with housing and benefits, including an airfare home at least once every two years. The process is similar to sponsoring a family member, although you’ll also be asked to sign a contract stating the domestic worker’s salary (typically around Dhs.1,600-2,500 per month). You will need copies of your registered tenancy contract and a utilities bill. You will also need to apply for her entry permit, Resident ID card, labour card and government health card (unless you choose to pay for private healthcare); from 2016, all employers in Dubai have to provide private health insurance. The residence visa is then valid for one year.
There are additional costs involved – you have to pay a ‘maid tax’ of around Dhs.5,000 per year (to the GDRFA), as well as a refundable deposit of Dhs.3,000. There will also be a small typing fee and a Dhs.130 payment to have the employment contract attested if the maid is a private sector employee outside of a free zone.
Smart kiosks available in various public areas allow residents easily to attend to many bureaucratic procedures: fine payment, visas renewal, government's services.