20200817 al twar centre
Visitors at Amer Al Twar Centre. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Are you planning to visit the UAE on a tourist visa or are an expat trying to sponsor your family in the UAE but don't know where to start or apply? The UAE’s immigration authorities offer multiple options to applicants to make it easy to start the application process for a visa, both online and offline.

So, if you don’t know where to start, here’s everything you need to know.

Online channels to apply for a visa

1. Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Ports Security (ICP)

Visas that are issued in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain or Fujairah are managed by the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Ports Security (ICP). You can apply for the visa online, through the ICP website, icp.gov.ae or the smartphone application ‘UAEICP’, available for both Apple and Android devices.

When applying for a visa online, you always need to keep your documents, as well as the documents of the individual you want to sponsor, readily available, in digital format.

For a detailed guide on how you can apply for a residence visa online, click here

ICP also issues tourist visas from the Emirates mentioned above. You can apply for a five-year tourist visa or a regular 30-day or 90-day tourist visa online.


Applying for a visa online – the documents you need
Regardless of which platform you are using (website or app), you would need to keep certain digital copies of certain documents readily available with you to complete the application process easily. These include:
1. Passport copy of the sponsor and the sponsored
2. Photograph of the sponsored
3. Emirates ID of the sponsor
4. Ejari of the sponsor (might be needed for a tourist visa)
5. Documents like birth certificate or marriage certificate, duly attested. You may need to provide your labour contract or salary certificate in applications like a Golden Visa application or a family visa.

2. General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) Dubai

If you are applying for a tourist, residence or employment visa in Dubai, you can apply for it through the website of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) Dubai - gdrfad.gov.ae. Once again, you would need to ensure that you have all the documents easily accessible to you, when you apply for a visa online.

3. DubaiNow app

GDRFA Dubai also allows people to apply for a visa through the DubaiNow, which is the official app for all Dubai government-related services.

4. Airline websites

If you are planning to visit the UAE and are booking a ticket through a UAE airline like Emirates and Etihad, you can also use their website to apply for a tourist visa. However, each airline has some conditions, which must be met for your visa to be arranged by them. One of the conditions is flying with them. When booking your ticket, you can also enquire about applying for a visit visa.

Applying for the visa offline

If applying for a visa online is not something you are able to do or comfortable with doing, there are also offline options which allow individuals to visit certain centres that can process their visa application. These include:

1. Typing centres

Immigration authorities in the UAE have authorised several typing centres to process visa applications from individuals and establishments. All you need to do is visit a typing centre with the required documents, make the payment for the visa you are applying for and the typing centre will manage the entire application process. However, going through a typing centre, you will have to pay additional service charges.

2. Amer centre

Amer centres processes immigration applications on behalf of Dubai's GDRFA. If you have a visa issued in Dubai and wish to sponsor your family, or if you are a Dubai-based establishment who needs to apply for their employee’s visa, you can visit an Amer centre near you with the required documents.

3. Travel agencies

Licenced travel agents in the UAE can arrange a tourist visa for you, provided you purchase the ticket through them.

If you are applying for a tourist visa from your home country, you can contact your local travel agency for any packages. Additionally, it is important to check the authenticity of travel agents before you start dealing with. If you want to know if the agency you are using is legitimate, you can seek the help of the UAE embassy in your country for verification.

4. Hotels

Hotels in the UAE can also apply for your tourist visa, provided that you have made a hotel reservation with them.