Dubai: The winter holiday season is here and the UAE has become a hub for some of the biggest global events. From the Expo 2020 Dubai to the upcoming Dubai Shopping Festival, there are several things to do in the UAE. If you are planning to visit the UAE anytime soon and are unfamiliar with the visa requirements in the UAE and the processes that you need to follow, here is our detailed guide on all the visa options available to visitors if they wish to visit the UAE.
Do I need a visa to enter Dubai?
Whether you need a visa or not is dependent on your country of citizenship. While citizens of some countries have the option for a visa on arrival, you may need to apply for a visa before you enter the UAE in some other situations.
What is the validity period of my visa?
All visas are valid for 60 days from the date of issue until entry to the UAE, except the 48-hour and 96-hour Transit Visa, which is valid for 30 days.
What should I check before travelling to Dubai?
You would need to ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months at the time of entry. You may also require a prearranged visa depending on your nationality.
Can I get a visa on arrival?
Citizens of more than 50 countries do not require a pre-arranged visa to enter Dubai. As per the website of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, citizens of GCC countries and citizens of the following countries can get a visa on arrival:
10. Czech Republic
17. Hong Kong
31. New Zealand
37. San Marino
41. South Korea
45. The Vatican
46. United Kingdom
47. United States of America
Some Indian citizens may also be eligible for a visa on arrival. These include Indian citizens holding a normal passport and either:
• a visit visa issued by the USA or
• a green card issued by the USA or
• a residence visa issued by the UK or
• a residence visa issued by the EU
In such cases, you can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 14 days, provided that the visa or the green card is valid for at least six months from the date of arrival into the UAE.
If you are not eligible for a visa on arrival, here are all the other visa options you can avail of:
1. Tourist visa – 30-day or 90-day
Tourist visas can be obtained by tourists from around the world. Depending on your plan, tourist visas to the UAE can be issued for 30-days or 90-day durations, and allow single entry or multiple entries.
Who can apply for your tourist visa?
Each airline has some conditions, which must be met in order 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.
2. Tourist visas through agencies and hotels
Licensed travel agents and hotels in the UAE can arrange a tourist visa for you, provided you purchase the ticket through them and maintain a hotel reservation with the specific hotel.
You can also contact travel agencies in your country for any tourist packages available to the UAE in collaboration with a local tour operator.
3. Through UAE-based family and friends
As per the VisitDubai website, UAE residents (friends or relatives) can apply on your behalf subject to guidelines.
How can I extend the visa?
While the first time you apply for a visit visa you may not be inside the UAE, when extending the visa for another period of 30 or 90 days, you would need to apply for an ‘inside country visa change’, according to Sirajudeen Ummer, a Public Relations Officer with Dubai-based First Gate Business Services.
“The visa can be extended by providing the necessary documents and making the fee payment,” he said.
Documents required for processing inside the country visa change
• Passport copy (which should be valid for at least six months)
• Passport size photograph
• Old visa tourist/cancelled visa copy
• On arrival nationalities would only require Passport copy and photograph if they have entered UAE using on-arrival facility.
• If the visa was applied for by a relative or friend, they may need to submit a copy of their residence visa page and UID number.
Visas can cost approximately Dh320 for a one-month visa and Dh720 for a three month visa. However, as per Ummer, the cost may vary slightly based on the travel agency’s service charges.
You can apply for the second renewal before the expiry of the first one against Dh600 each time of renewal.
2. Transit visa – for 48 to 96 hours
This type of a visa, which is available for all passport holders, from 48 to 96 hours, is ideal for a short stopover in the UAE.
The General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) Dubai took to its social media channels recently to inform passengers of how they can apply for a 96-hour transit visa – or an entry permit – when they arrive in the UAE.
To be able to get a transit visa issued at the immigration counter, you would need to present the following:
• Original passport
• An airline ticket showing the continuation of your journey, where the connecting flight should not be less than eight hours after you land in the UAE and not exceeding 96 hours and the destination of arrival and departure are not similar.
• Present a valid hotel reservation in UAE.
To apply for a transit visa, follow these steps:
• Visiting the airline company.
• Submit a request to issue a 96-hour entry permit with the airline’s service officer.
• If the request is approved, you will receive an approval of the request.
• Approach the passport officer at the immigration counter and complete the procedure.
Who needs a transit visa?
As per the UAE government’s official website – u.ae – if you are not one of the nationalities that are eligible for visa on arrival or a visa-free entry to the UAE, then you need a transit visa.
Who can apply for your transit visa?
UAE based-airlines you are travelling with can arrange your transit visa prior to your journey. If your trip is through a travel agency, the agency can also help you get the visa, but all visas are routed through the airline.
"The Transit Visa is a non-extendable single entry visa, valid for 30 days from the date of issue and the duration of stay is up to 96 hours (four days) from the time of entry. Transit passengers stopping at Dubai International Airport for a minimum of eight hours are eligible for a 96-hour Transit Visa," Shafiq Muhammad, Public Relations Officer with Muhaisnah Documents Clearing Services in Dubai told Gulf News.
"Such a visa is preferred by passengers having business meetings or taking a stopover en route to their next destination," he added.
3. Long-term, multiple entry tourist visa for five years
In case you are looking to visit the UAE regularly over the next few years, a new visa option has opened up for tourists. The Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) has provided details of the five-year multiple entry tourist visa for all nationalities through the authority’s website.
Is a UAE-based sponsor required for the visa?
According to the details provided when the visa was announced, the visa does not require a UAE-based individual or organisation to sponsor the visa. Tourists can apply for the visa on self-sponsorship.
What is the maximum duration of stay on the visa?
As per the announcement, a tourist can stay for 90 days on each visit. This can be extended for another 90 days.
Up until now, tourists could only get visas for 30-day or 90-day durations.
How to apply for the five-year tourist visa
Step 1: Log on to the ICA website – www.ica.gov.ae
Step 2: Select ‘E-channel Services’ from the main module on the website.
Step 3: Select ‘Public services’.
Step 4: Select the service ‘Visa – multi-trip / tourist long-term (5 years) for all nationalities / visa issuance’
Step 5: Fill in the application form with your personal details as well as your passport details.
Step 6: Attach the following documents:
• Coloured photograph
• Passport Copy
• Medical Insurance copy
• Bank statement for the last six months with a balance of at least $4,000 or its equivalent in foreign currencies in the last six months.
Step 7: Review your application.
Step 8: Make the payment for the fees. The application fee is Dh650.
Note: It is also important to check the PCR test and vaccination requirements before you book a ticket, after you have received a visa to travel to the UAE.