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 needs a visit visa (also known as an entry permit) except for citizens of GCC countries. The procedures for obtaining a visit visa vary depending on your nationality, so check the regulations before travelling as details can change.
To work or live in the UAE you need a residence visa, and 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).
It's unlikely that you will initially enter the UAE with a residence visa, and you'll more than likely be entering with a 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.
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 an automatic visa on arrival: 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.
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.
To live in the UAE, you need a residence visa, which permits you to live and work in any of the emirates. It is valid for two or three years (depending on where you work), after which you’ll need to re-apply. Once you initially enter the UAE on a visit visa, you have 60 days to complete the visa application process – but it’s unlikely to take that long.
If you are working in the UAE, you will be sponsored by an employer for your residence visa, and the majority of the legwork will be done by the company or their Public Relations Officer (PRO). Your company 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. At the same time, they will also apply for your labour card (which is now electronic and will eventually be replaced by the Resident ID) or free zone ID. Your employer will typically start the visa application process during your probation period. 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.
Once you have your UAE residence visa (employment) you should be able to sponsor your family members (wife, husband, children), 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. All family members over the age of 18 must take a medical test, and you will need to submit copies of your labour contract, tenancy contract and utilities bill as part of the application. 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.
Domestic worker visa
It’s not unusual in the UAE to have a live-in maid or nanny. If you have one, you will need to organise and pay for her immigration, labour and health documents. She must be a national of Bangladesh, India, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Philippines 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.
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. The maid/nanny will need to pass a medical test, as well be tested for pregnancy. Additionally, there’s a one-off Dhs.50 fee for a compulsory Hepatitis B vaccination. 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.