With Dubai's escalating economy, exciting lifestyle and relaxed standard of living, the emirate is a popular destination for tourists as well as visitors looking to make Dubai their home. Visa requirements for visitors vary based on several factors including nationality, the intended period of stay and purpose of visit. Visa rules and regulations are subject to change without notice, so it is always prudent to check with a UAE embassy or consulate to establish whether you require a visa prior to travelling to the UAE.
Currently, all visitors to Dubai require a visa with the exception of nationals of the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (AGCC) countries. These include Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait nationals who should present their valid AGCC passport or ID card upon arrival at any entry point into the UAE. AGCC expats who meet certain conditions can obtain a visa upon arrival, non-extendable and valid for 30 days, at a UAE port of entry. Other nationalities of Western Europe and the Pacific Rim (currently includes 32 countries) who hold regular passports with valid visas or entry stamps from their respective countries do not require a pre-arranged visa and can secure a visa on arrival at any authorised port of entry into the country. The visa is free of charge and allows the traveler to stay for a period of 60 days and can be renewed for 30 extra days for a fee. A complete list of these nationalities can be found at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
If you do not fall into any of the above mentioned categories, you will be required to present a valid visa upon arrival at Dubai International Airport to secure entry into the emirate. It is important to note visa validity and to make sure to exit the country on or before the last day as unauthorised stay incurs a daily fine and an out pass charge when you do exit the country.
Types of UAE Visas
Entry Service Permit
This type of permit is valid for 14 days from the date of issue and allows visitors to stay in the country for a period of 14 days, not including arrival and departure days. Hotels and tourist companies or other organisations may apply on the individual's behalf for this type of visa; a security deposit is required per person and this is refunded when you leave. An entry service permit may be issued to delegations from companies or establishments required to carry out commercial activity within the UAE on an urgent basis. It applies to the following individuals and their family members: account auditors, company manager's representatives and sales managers. This type of entry permit is usually only issued when it is required urgently, a fee is charged and is non-renewable. Required documents include a copy of the applicant's passport and flight arrival and departure dates. Passports should be valid for at least six months to be eligible for application of an entry service permit. Visa costs are non-refundable even in the event of a cancellation, rejection of visa or expiration of issued visa.
Visit visas are issued to those who intend staying in the UAE for more than 14 days, either as a tourist, to visit friends and family or for long-term business visits. Visit visas require an eligible sponsor which can be either a hotel or a company with a valid license to operate within the UAE or a UAE resident with a valid visa. The visit visa is valid for two months from the date of issue and allows visitors to stay in the country for a period of 60 days and can be extended for up to 90 days for an additional fee. Documentation that is required includes a copy of the applicant's passport, flight arrival and departure dates and may also include sponsor's passport and visa details. Passports must be valid for at least six months to be eligible for application of a visit visa
This is a special category of visit visa that requires the sponsorship of the tour agency or hotel that is bringing in tourists. It is issuable only to certain nationalities (list can be found here), is non-renewable and allows the tourist to stay in the country for 30 days.
These visas are issued mainly to business travelers who have a relationship with reputable local businesses and are frequent travelers into and out of the UAE. Entry is required within 60 days from issuance of the visa and the visa is valid for 30 days without any extension. Visitors enter the country on a visit visa and obtain a multiple-entry visa (which will be stamped in their passport) once they are in the country.
Those wishing to pursue education in the UAE can apply for a student visa through an approved sponsor which is normally an educational institution or a university licensed under the Ministry of Higher Education.
Visas for medical treatment
Public or private sector medical establishments can apply for special visas for those seeking medical treatment in the UAE. These establishments must be approved by the Ministry of Health. Medical treatment visas are valid for 60 days from the date of arrival into the country and can be renewed twice for a further sixty days.
All documents required for visa issuance should be scanned, clear, colour copies of the originals to avoid any risks of rejection by Dubai Immigration. Staying beyond the validity of the visa will incur a hefty daily fine, which will have to be paid when exiting the country.