Does the UAE require a visa? All you need to know for traveling to the UAE

A visa by definition is otherwise known as “a permit”. It is a document issued by the authorities of the country to be visited as a certification of granted access into its country for specified purposes and a specified number of days. It is no news that a visa is different from a passport. A passport on the other hand is an official document that primarily proves the identity and nationality of a person; it is normally used for international journeys.

Having known the difference between a visa and a passport, you should know there are countries that you can easily have free access to with just your passport, and some other countries you need a visa to have access to. It all comes to the collaboration between your country of nationality and the country you plan on paying a visit to. Thanks to the internet, information on such is just at your fingertips. This specific piece is focused on the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

As to the question if traveling to the UAE requires a visa. The UAE is not an exemption to what we said earlier in the introduction. The straightforward answer to your question is “it all depends on your nationality”. Some countries do not need a visa to access the UAE (you are good to go with just your passport), some countries have the privilege to apply for it on their arrival at the country’s airport, while other countries must have applied for a visa before their visit before allowing access into the country. Each of these categories will be treated in detail.

Countries that do not require a visa to visit the UAE (Visa-free entry)

This group is made up of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Citizens from these countries do not need a visa prior to entering the UAE (excluding Qatar in which since 2017, its citizens no longer enjoy free access unless they have a family member who is a resident in the country). The countries include;

  • Bahrain
  • Kuwait
  • Oman &
  • Saudi Arabiya.

These 4 countries only need to present their GCC passport or their government-issued national Identity card at the entry and they are granted visa-free access.

Countries that are eligible for a visa upon arrival in the UAE (Visa upon arrival)

The second category here cannot have access to the UAE by merely presenting their nationality passport. They are required to apply for a visa to be able to explore the country. Meanwhile, they are given the grace to apply to, on their arrival in the UAE. All they have to do is visit the immigration service of the UAE at the airport. This category is further subdivided into three groups based on the number of days eligible for a visit; a 30-day eligible visa, a 90-day eligible visa, and a 180-day eligible visa. Just as the names suggest, those are the number of days the visa is to last before expiry. However, the decision as to which of the three eligibility visas upon arrival to request is not based on individual decision, rather it depends on your nationality (according to the UAE’s decision). Below is a highlighted list of the countries that are eligible for each of them.

 Countries that are eligible for a 30 days visa upon arrival to the UAE

Citizens from the below-mentioned countries are eligible for a visa that is to last for 30 days.

  • Andorra
  • Australia
  • Brunei
  • Canada
  • China
  • Hong Kong,
  • China
  • Japan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Macau, China
  • Malaysia
  • Mauritius
  • Monaco
  • New Zealand
  • Republic of Ireland
  • San Marino
  • Singapore
  • Ukraine
  • The United Kingdom and Northern Ireland
  • United States of America &
  • Vatican City

 Countries that are eligible for a 90 days visa upon arrival to the UAE

Citizens from the below-mentioned countries have the opportunity to have a visa that permits them a visit spanning through 90 days.

  • Argentina
  • Austria
  • Bahamas Islands
  • Barbados
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Bulgaria
  • Chile
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • El Salvador
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Honduras
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Kiribati
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Maldives
  • Malta
  • Montenegro
  • Nauru
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Paraguay
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Russian Federation
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • San Marino
  • Serbia
  • Seychelles
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Solomon Islands
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Uruguay

 Countries that are eligible for a 180 days visa upon arrival to the UAE

Only one country is listed here which is Mexico. Mexicans have the opportunity to a visa in the UAE which will last for 180 days.

Meanwhile, you should know that to apply for any of the UAE visas, the passport with which you are applying must have a validity period of at least 6 months from the date of arrival into the UAE. Each of the eligibility periods can be extended, if you are unable to complete your mission as to the purpose of your visit, you have the grace to re-visit the immigration and request for additional days that would be sufficient to complete your task. Also, note that the list of countries that have the immunity to request for a visa on arrival is updated from time to time, so please make sure to double-check with the UAE Embassy located in your country of nationality before traveling to the UAE to avoid disappointments.

Countries that need a visa in advance before visiting the UAE (Pre-arranged visa).

This includes every other country in the world which is neither part of the GCC countries nor part of the countries that have the immunity of applying for a visa upon arrival. Citizens of these countries must apply in advance for a visa at the UAE Embassy located in their country of residence (or online) to be liable to visit the UAE. 

Meanwhile, there is an exemption in the case of the citizens of India.

Indian Citizens 

In the case of citizens of India that are planning a visit to the UAE, they have somewhat different treatment as to their requirements for visiting the country and requesting a visa.

An Indian citizen that possesses a normal passport which is valid for a minimum of 6 months from the arrival date and also has either of;

  • a visit visa or a green card issued by the United States of America (USA)
  • a residence visa issued by the United Kingdom (UK) or the European Union (EU)

Can obtain a visa upon arrival in the UAE for a one time stay spanning to a maximum of 14 days on the provision that the green card or visit visa from the USA is valid for a minimum of six months from the day of arrival into the UAE. Meanwhile, they have the opportunity to extend their stay by another 14days.

Pre-arranged entry visa

A prearranged visa is a compulsion on anyone whose country of nationality does not enjoy the immunity of a visa-free entry or a visa on arrival. They are required to apply in advance for an entry visa and would be needing someone to sponsor the visa. What is meant by a sponsor will also be highlighted. 

An entry visa type you will be applying for is dependent on your reason of visit which could be for purposes like;

  • Tourism purposes
  • A visit to a relative or friend
  • Transit purposes
  • Work purposes

Requirements to be met for an entry visa to the UAE

Basic criteria that are required to be met by an applicant before an entry visa will be considered and approved are;

  • A sponsor: 
    • an Emirati (UAE citizen)
    • a resident foreigner who has a valid residency permit in the UAE
    • a UAE-based airline
    • a UAE-based hotel or a tour agent
    • a government body
    • a company in the private sector or free zones.
  • A valid Passport:
    • Applicants must have a passport whose validity is at least six months.
  • Clean record:
    • Applicants must not have a previous case of Deportation or a ban from entering into the country. These are situations that require special permission from the government to re-enter. 

The visa policies are regulated by the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) alongside its affiliated Directorates of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in the UAE.You should note clearly that, these rules can be changed at any time. The details above just propel an overview of the general requirements for applying for a visa. It is necessary to have a re-check with the right authorities (UAE Embassy and Consulate in your country)

The validity of the entry visa

The number of days in which a prearranged visa is valid for is dependent on the visa type. For a Visit visa, Tourism visa, and Work visa; the validity period spans for 60 days from the date it is issued. While for a Transit visa, it is valid for 14 days from the day it is issued.

Working during a visit or as a tourist

Being a visitor or a tourist in the UAE, know that it illegal to seek a job (either paid or not). It is clearly stated in the UAE’s labor and residency laws that, a person does not have the opportunity to work unless he/she has a work permit issued at the immigration service. Anybody found guilty of violating the rule is liable to be punished. Punishment might be as minor as paying a token as fine and might be as grievous as being deported.

Documents needed for applying for a UAE visa

As a 21st century advantage, applying for a UAE visa is now possible online without having to go through the physical stress. There are a few online sites that offer the mandate to the application process. You can check them up online to get the best. Meanwhile, the basic documents usually needed for the process is highlighted below;

Mandatory Requirements: 

These are must-haves for a successful process

  • Copy of Passport
    • You need to make a copy of the Bio page and the Last page of your passport. Information needed to reflect are; Full name, Nationality, Date/Place of birth, Passport number, Date of issue/Expiry date, Father/Guardian name, and Mother’s name.
    • Do not forget it must be valid for at least 6 months
  • Photograph
    • The standard acceptable size is 4.3 x 5.5 cm
    • Should be taken with a white background
    • Should portray 80% of your face
  • Application Form
    • Can be downloaded online
    • Must be duly completed for a smooth process.

Additional Documents

Additional documents in your application can be an added advantage to speeding up the visa process, some of these documents are:

  •  An Invite from immediate family members
    • This may be an invitation letter, a copy of your host’s passport, or even a copy of your host’s residence visa (Remember, it must be a valid one)
  •  Proof of an earlier visit
    • If you have traveled to UAE in the last one year, you should include the Entry/exit stamp pages of your Passport
  •  Previous Travel history
    • If you have traveled to one of the other countries which include the USA, UK, European Union in the last five years, you should include a copy of your visa in your application.

Children traveling with parents

Children traveling with their parents can either have their own passport or the children’s details included in the parent’s passport. Either way, documents needed for processing their visa are;

  • Completed Application form
  • Photograph
  • Copy of passport (either their own personal passport or the parent’s passport where the children’s details are included)
  • Birth certificates (should be in English or Arabic)

Note: Each applicant is required to file separate applications, but if the child’s details are endorsed in the parent’s passport, then they are required to make use of the “Accompanied applicant” option to enter the child’s details. If you have a family member or near relative who is a UAE resident, they can apply for a visa on your behalf at any of the ticketing offices in the UAE. Please note that this service is only available to residents of the UAE.

Having gotten an overview of how to apply for a UAE visa, the next question that might come up as an individual wanting to explore the UAE is; what should I keep in mind before visiting the great Arab country full of touristic wonders? That is why I decided to include a few things to know about the UAE before booking that your next flight to the country.

Special Cases

In addition to nations whose all citizens are visa-exempt, holders of diplomatic or service category passports of;

  • Albania
  • Algeria
  • Azerbaijan
  • Belarus
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Colombia
  • Congo
  • Cuba
  • Egypt
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Georgia
  • Grenada
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Liberia
  • Morocco
  • Rwanda
  • Saint Lucia
  • Serbia
  • Tonga
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Turkmenistan
  • Vanuatu and
  • Vietnam

Also, holders of diplomatic passports of;

  • Armenia
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Chad
  • Congo DR
  • Ethiopia
  • Guinea
  • Jordan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Mali
  • Niger
  • Senegal
  • Uzbekistan

also do not require a visa or can obtain a free visa on arrival.

Conclusively

Traveling to the UAE is such a wonderful experience which is worth the time and resources. But Before you book a flight, please check your visa requirements and make sure you have a valid visa if you will be needing one, also make sure your passport is valid for the minimum required period. Holders of non-standard passports and travel documents may also have different entry requirements: find out if you need to apply for a visa and other passport requirements.

Either for Business or Tourism visit purposes, travelers holding a passport from their country of nationality fall under the three categories of entry into the UAE that is; Visa-free, visa on arrival, and Prearranged Visa. To receive a visa on arrival you must hold these documents:

  • a passport whose validity must be at least six months on entry with one blank visa page
  • proof of sufficient funds
  • proof of onward/return flights
  • a Confirmation with their airline that boarding will be permitted without a visa

If your intended stay is longer than the days allocated to you, then you may request more time from the immigration officer at the airport or contact the local immigration office in the UAE to request an extension.

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