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Picture used for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Dubai Media Office

Dubai: As of February 26, 2022, UAE residents can travel to the UAE without approval from the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA) or Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship, Customs and Ports Security (ICP), after UAE-based airlines updated their requirements for inbound passengers.

Also, the requirement for pre-departure PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests for vaccinated passengers coming into the UAE has been scrapped, following an announcement by the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) on February 25. Earlier, the UAE had also ended the Rapid PCR test requirement for some countries, which passengers had to take at the airport before departure, before coming into the UAE.

So, if you are a resident or tourist travelling to the UAE, here is all you need to know about the new relaxed COVID-19 travel protocol for the UAE.

ICP and GDRFA approval not needed

While earlier, UAE residents had to apply for an approval with ICP or GDRFA if they were travelling from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the requirement has been removed, as per the updates posted on the websites of Emirates airlines and Etihad Airways, as well as Air India.

The Emirates airlines’ website states: “All UAE residents can now travel to Dubai without GDRFA or ICP approval.”

Etihad Airways also updated its travel requirements for UAE residents, which does not mention any approval required to travel to the UAE. Instead, the website states: “UAE residents with a valid visa who have been fully vaccinated with an approved vaccine will be permitted to fly to the UAE. This applies to guests who have been out of the country for more than six months.”

Along with the official announcement by Etihad and Emirates, India's official airline carrier – Air India – also confirmed that UAE residents no longer require a GDRFA or ICP approval.

No PCR tests for fully vaccinated passengers

If you are travelling to the UAE and are fully vaccinated, you no longer need a negative PCR test result. However, unvaccinated passengers would need to present a negative PCR test result, with the test conducted within 48 hours of their flight’s departure time. This announcement was made by NCEMA on February 25.

Which vaccine certificates are accepted?

It is important to note that vaccinated individuals must have a vaccine certificate with a readable QR code and received a COVID-19 vaccine approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UAE. To find out which vaccines are approved in the UAE, read here.

Emirates airlines and Etihad Airways have also updated the travel requirements for passengers coming to the UAE, in line with the announcement by NCEMA.

According to the website of Emirates airlines, if you are travelling to Dubai, you need to fulfil any one of the following requirements:

• Present a valid vaccination certificate reflecting that you are fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the WHO or the UAE. The vaccine must include a QR code.
• Present a valid, negative COVID 19 PCR test certificate issued within 48 hours of your flight’s departure time. The certificate must be issued by an approved health service provider and include a QR code.
• Present a valid medical certificate with a QR code issued by the relevant authorities you have recovered from COVID 19 within one month from the recovery date to the date of arrival.

On their official website, Etihad Airways, too, has stated that you do not need a negative PCR test result to fly to Abu Dhabi if you are fully vaccinated or:

• You hold a COVID-19 recovery certificate with a QR code dated within 30 days of departure.
• You are less than 16 years old.

When do I need a PCR test?

As per the Etihad Airways website, you need to take a PCR test 48 hours before travel if you are:

• Not fully vaccinated and do not hold a COVID-19 recovery certificate.
• Transiting in Abu Dhabi and a test is required at your final destination. The website also advises passengers to take their PCR test at an accredited facility and ensure that it has a QR code.

Note: These rules are only for passengers flying into the UAE. For outbound passengers travelling to other destinations from the UAE, the COVID-19 health protocol for each country is different. Therefore, before you plan to travel, it is essential to check the PCR test and vaccination requirements for your final destination.

UAE ends rapid PCR tests for vaccinated passengers from some countries

Apart from scrapping the need for an ICP and GDRFA approval as well as the 48-hour PCR test requirement, earlier, Dubai and Sharjah airport had announced that passengers from the following countries were no longer required to take a rapid PCR test at the airport six hours before departure:

1. India
2. Pakistan
3. Kenya
4. Nepal
5. Sri Lanka
6. Bangladesh
7. Egypt
8. Uganda