Generally, short-term visas are issued for specific purposes, such as tourism, general visits, business visits, seminars, exhibitions and conferences. Each type of short-term visa is issued for a different purpose with the expectation that the short-term visitor will comply with the regulations governing these visas. Travellers who require a visa require a local sponsor (usually a company or a family member) to initiate the process within the UAE. For certain visa types, sponsors could also be hotels or travel or tourism companies. In recent months, ‘transit’ visa facilities have also been made more flexible. Transit visas are generally valid for 48 hours, but new rules announced in 2018 are being put into place to permit extensions to up to 96 hours.
GCC nationals are visa-exempt for an indefinite period of stay, while numerous nationalities (including the US and all EU member states) are currently eligible for a visit visa on arrival, obtained at the airport of entry. Historically, GCC residents holding managerial and professional job titles were also eligible for a visa on arrival, but since 1 September 2015, are required to obtain a pre-approved e-visa from the GDRFA prior to entry. As of 5 June 2017, Qatari nationals are prohibited from entering the UAE owing to the political situation between the UAE and the State of Qatar and the existing embargo in place.
Tourist entry permit
Tourist visas can be issued through hotels, tourism companies or national airline carriers, and are valid for 30 or 90 days’ stay from the date of entry. If the tourist visa holder overstays, he or she may be subject to a daily fine as well as an exit fee. Since tourist visas are generally issued by hotels and airlines, the documentation requirements vary from company to company - most companies would require the applicant to book a hotel room or purchase travel tickets (if applicable). In most instances, the applicant is required to provide a copy of his or her passport, a passport-sized photograph and the reasons for the visit. A copy of the visa, once it is issued, is sent to the applicant. Most tourist visas are valid for entry into the UAE for a period of 60 days.
All types of visit and tourist visas can be extended for 30 days twice, without the need to leave the country.
Visitors and tourists can apply for the second renewal before the expiry of the first one and simply have to pay a fee each time of renewal. Visa over-stayers who do not renew, as above, will have to pay a fine for each day of overstaying, which is to be calculated from 10 days after the visa expiry.
However, the new rule for extension does not apply to the following categories:
- visitors and tourists who are residents of GCC countries;
- residents accompanying GCC nationals;
- those on special entry permits; and
- those on a 96-hour permit for special missions.
According to a Cabinet resolution passed in July 2018, children under the age of 18 who are accompanied by an adult can obtain a free visa for any visit taking place between 15 July and 15 September each year.
Short-term and long-term visit entry permits
Unlike the tourist visa, a visit visa (short-term or long-term) is issued at the request of a corporate sponsor or legal resident in the UAE. Visit visas sponsored by individuals (ie, family members) are usually meant to facilitate general visits, while those sponsored by corporates tend to facilitate business travel.
Although the UAE authorities do not maintain an exhaustive list of activities that may be conducted on a business visit visa, activities such as attending meetings, conducting research, negotiating contracts or attending training, are permissible in practice. Hands-on or technical work or other activities that may be construed as generating profit are not permissible. Business visit visas are generally valid for a period of 30 or 90 days and can be obtained for both single or multiple entries - the type of visa granted would depend on the privileges granted to the sponsoring entity and the quota available to it. Sponsored visit visas for business cannot be extended in-country, but are no longer subject to a cooling-off period - previously a 30-day cooling-off period during which the applicant could not re-enter on the basis of another short-term visa was enforced throughout the country.
The requirements for obtaining visit visas vary from location to location, with certain areas such as free zones implementing their own list of documentation requirements, which are known to change without prior notice. As such, it is always advisable to check regulations in advance and immediately before travelling. At the time of writing, nationals from the following GCC countries are visa-exempt for an indefinite period of stay: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
Individuals from the following countries can currently receive a visa on arrival, which is valid for up to 90 days (in a 180-day period): Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Uruguay.
Citizens of the following countries are eligible for a 30-day visa on arrival (extendable in-country for an additional 30 days): Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Brunei, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Monaco, New Zealand, Russia, San Marino, Singapore, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vatican City. Indian passport holders who hold a valid US green card (or visa) or valid EU residence permit or visa are eligible for a 14-day visa on arrival, which is extendable once, in-country, for an additional 14 days.
Although the UAE authorities do not maintain an explicit list of nationalities that are restricted from entering the country, certain Middle Eastern, eastern European, South Asian and African nationalities may undergo extensive security screening, experience longer processing times and, in some cases, have their applications rejected. Individuals with prior Israeli travel stamps may also be denied a visa or be denied entry at the time of arrival. Individuals of Arab origin, even if they hold a different, non-Arab passport, may be required to provide additional supporting documentation, such as copies of birth certificates, home-country identification or family books, when obtaining visit visas.
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