Visas in Dubai
The residency visas in Dubai vary in type, validity period, requirements, as well as cost, as some can be valid for 2–3 years while others for 3–10 years, and can be renewed as many times as necessary. Once you obtain a visa, you will be able to avail the following benefits:
- Personal UAE bank account
- Tax-free status
- National healthcare
- UAE driver’s license
- Family sponsorship
- Work and invest
- Enrolling your children in government and private schools
Foreign nationals can be eligible for a residence visa in Dubai, providing they belong to one of the following categories:
- Foreign university students
- Retired residents
- Foreign nationals purchasing property in Dubai or the UAE
- Government employees
- Foreign nationals employed by a UAE company
Important: You can obtain a residence visa as a foreigner once you are granted entry to the UAE via a visit visa, a short/long-term tourist visa or an entry permit. Also, health insurance is a must when applying for any residence visa.
Generally, resident visa holders who live outside the UAE for over six months will have their visa nullified. There are a number of exceptions to this regulation, including foreign wives of Emirati citizens and expat students studying abroad, for instance. The detailed list of exceptions can be found on the UAE government website.
Types of Visas in Dubai
The residence visa types in Dubai are based on an applicant’s eligibility as we have reviewed above. These include, but are not limited to a golden visa, a student visa, a retirement visa and a work visa. Additionally, in September 2021, the UAE government announced two new visa regimes – a green visa and a federal freelance visa, in order to attract even more foreigners to relocate to the country.
Residency by Property Investment
According to Henley & Partners’ Best Residence-by-Investment Cities for Business Index, Dubai has been ranked 11th in a global index of 25 cities, where company owners, HNWIs and professionals can obtain residency through investment migration programmes. The emirate offers an opportunity to obtain a three and five-year visa via property investment. It is essential to know that property investors cannot work in the UAE.
Note: The validity period of any investor visa is maintained as long as an individual owns an investment in the UAE. The property also has to be retained for a minimum of 3 years.
The Dubai Land Department issues a three-year visa for those individuals who have invested in a property in Dubai valued at a minimum of AED 750K (USD 205K). The Taskeen Programme states that the property should be residential and 100% ready for occupancy. If you plan to acquire an off-plan property, then you will become eligible for a three-year visa, once the construction work is completed and the development is commissioned. If the property is mortgaged, then 50% of its value or at least AED 750K is to be paid to the bank at the time of application.
Additionally, you will have to provide an NOC letter in Arabic and a mortgage bank statement. Meanwhile, investors in joint ownership are eligible only if the share of each individual amounts to a minimum of AED750K. However, spouses can apply for the Taskeen Programme with a shared property worth AED750K, providing they have an attested marriage certificate. If a third party is applying on behalf of an investor, then a power of attorney is required.
The following documents are to be presented:
- Electronic copy of the title deed
- Police clearance (issued by Dubai Police)
- Copy of latest visa in the UAE
It is possible to submit the above-mentioned documents through the DLD Vault website or the Dubai REST app. After your request is approved, you will need to visit the Main Office of the DLD to pay fees of approximately AED 15K (USD 4.1K). Additionally, you will be required to undergo a medical examination in the center as well. The service time for this process ranges from 3 to 5 business days.
According to the DLD website, if you have invested at least AED 2M (USD 545K) into real estate or own a share in one property or more, then you become eligible for a five-year investor visa. In case the property has been bought through a mortgage, then a minimum of AED 2M is to be paid to the bank, and you will need to provide an NOC letter and mortgage bank statement. Meanwhile, spouses can apply for this type of visa with one property, but they must have a marriage certificate.
The necessary documents to apply for this type of visa are to be found below:
Original Emirates ID
Valid health insurance
Electronic copy of the title deed certificate
Introduced in 2019, the golden visa system allows foreign citizens to live, work and study in the UAE with 100% business ownership. Moreover, visa holders are exempt from requiring a national sponsor. The golden visa scheme offers long-term residency (5 and 10 years) belonging to the below-mentioned groups:
Individuals with outstanding talents (such as specialists in the field of science, engineering, health, education, business management and technology, humanitarian workers, as well as creatives in the field of culture and art)
Leading students and graduates
The below-reviewed categories are eligible for a golden 5-year residence visa in the UAE:
Real Estate Investors in the UAE. Requirements are the same as the 5-year property investor visa mentioned earlier. However, the minimum gross value of a purchased property has to be AED 5M (USD 1.36M)
Entrepreneurs. In particular, those who have an existing project with a minimum capital of AED 500K (USD 136K) or those who have the approval of an accredited business incubator in the UAE. An applicant is allowed a multi-entry visa for six months, which can be renewed for another six months. Besides being able to sponsor a spouse and children, the visa includes sponsorship of three executives
Outstanding students. This category includes those with a minimum grade of 95% in public and private secondary schools, and university students both within and outside the country with a GPA of at least 3.75 upon graduation. Students can also apply as part of their parents’ visas
For this visa, investors who have a minimum of AED 10M (USD 2.7M) worth of public investment, either in the form of a company or an investment fund, can apply. However, at least 40% of the total investment must be invested in real estate, and as discussed above, the property can not be resold for at least three years and the funds to purchase the property must not be borrowed (e.g. from a loan/mortgage). In the case of assets, investors have to assume full ownership. This visa can be extended to include business partners, under the condition that each partner contributes AED 10M. Moreover, the holder’s spouse and children, as well as one advisor and one Executive Director can benefit from a ten-year visa as well.
If you hold a PhD or a patent, then you are eligible for this type of visa as well, however, there are other conditions to determine how the specialized talents are defined:
Executives are required to own a leading and internationally recognized company or hold a high academic achievement and position
Exceptional talents have to be documented by patents or scientific research published in a world-class journal
Scientists are to be accredited by Emirates Scientists Council or holders of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Medal for Scientific Excellence
Inventors are required to obtain a patent of value, which adds to the economy of the UAE. These patents are to be approved by the Ministry of Economy (MoE)
Creative individuals in art and culture must be accredited by the Ministry of Youth and Culture
At the same time doctors and specialists must meet at least two of the criteria below:
Membership in an organization related to the field
PhD degree from one of the top 500 universities in the world (check the ICA website for a full list)
Award or certificates of appreciation in the field of the applicant’s work
Specialization in areas of priority to the UAE
Published articles or scientific books in distinguished publications in their respective field of work
Contribution to major scientific research in their respective field of work
PhD degree, along with ten-years’ professional experience in their field
Note: All categories of applicants are also required to have a valid employment contract in a specialized field of priority in the UAE.
It is worth noting that in July 2021, the UAE government has invited resident doctors and their families to apply for the 10-year golden visa in recognition of their efforts and contributions to the country. This means that all Dubai-licensed doctors may apply for a 10-year golden visa via smart.gdrfad.gov.ae, while doctors licensed by the UAE health regulatory bodies can do so through smartservices.ica.gov.ae. This initiative is valid from July 2021 until September 2022.
In addition, the National Programme for Coders also launched in July 2021 and offers 100,000 foreign nationals of all ages in the field of engineering and computer science an opportunity to obtain a 10-year golden visa. To be more specific, the eligibility extends to:
Experts and talents who achieved access in various areas of coding
Those who work for pioneering international tech firms
Graduates of electrical engineering, big data, data science, AI, information technology, hardware engineering, computer sciences and software engineering
Individuals that meet the requirements can apply through the office of Artificial Intelligence in the UAE government or the ICA.
Ten-year golden visa holders can obtain a work permit in three cases:
Holders who were unemployed when they received the golden visa and are willing to start working for a specific employer
Individuals who plan to start a new job with a new employer
When a current employer wishes to renew the work permit of the golden visa permit
How to Apply for A Five & Ten-Year Visa
Firstly, applicants have to register their interest on the UAE’s Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) website. There is a special section for golden services. If you belong to one of the eligible categories, but you have not been nominated yet, then you have to apply via the box labeled ‘Visa – Golden Visa – Nomination Request For Golden Residence – New Request’. Next, you will need to fill out an online form with your personal details and the category under which you believe you should be nominated. In addition, the application will require your Unified Identification Number (UID), which is a six-digit number automatically assigned to anyone who enters the country.
Within 30 days you will receive an email with approval if you adhere to all the requirements. It is also possible to check your transaction via the ‘You Are Special’ service launched by GDRFA. After the approval, you will obtain a link to upload the required documents for the visa, depending on your category. Within a couple of weeks of submitting the documents, your application should be verified by the ICA, and you will receive your visa. If you are residing within the UAE, you will be given a temporary one-month visa. If you are applying from abroad, then you will be provided with a six-month visa for when you will eventually arrive in the country. The total cost for a five-year visa is AED 550 (USD 150), while a ten-year golden visa is priced at AED 1.1K (USD 300).
A business visa is also a part of the golden visa system, and provides permanent residency to the non-national entrepreneurs willing to set up business in the UAE while residing both in and outside the country. In order to be eligible for this type of visa, you must:
Have a business idea or business plan that you are willing to bring to life in the UAE
Have been a majority shareholder of a start-up or a member of its senior leadership team
Be able to substantiate your experience as an entrepreneur
Be willing to move to the UAE and legally set up a business in one of the seven emirates
Moreover, applicants will need to pass a background check and a health examination. It is worth noting that qualifying for the business visa does not ensure that the applicant will actually obtain the visa. The application and the submitted documents will be reviewed by AREA2071 in Abu Dhabi and HUB71 in Dubai, which is a business incubator.
Upon approval, the applicant will be sent a link to upload the necessary documents and complete the application through the ICA website. If the nomination is not approved, it is possible to re-apply after 90 days. In addition to family sponsorship, the applicant is allowed to nominate up to three of his business employees to obtain residency.
In order to obtain a freelance visa in Dubai, or in any other emirate, you have to be officially registered as a freelancer in one of the free zones and obtain a license for doing freelance work. You have to keep in mind that if you are already under a spouse or a parent visa you do not have to apply for a freelancer visa, but only to obtain a freelance license. In Dubai, the free zones that provide a freelance permit include:
Dubai Studio City
Dubai Production City
Dubai Knowledge Park
Dubai Media City
Dubai Design District
You can also apply for the permit through the GoFreelance website, where you will have to provide the following:
Scanned copy of your passport
Residency visa (if available)
Personal basic information
Portfolio/sample work (for media activities)
Credentials and certificates (for educational activities)
NOC certificate (for work visa holders or for those under a husband’s or parents’ sponsorship)
After submitting the documents and paying a total fee of AED 7.5K (USD 2K), you will be emailed a freelance permit within 10-15 business days. Next, you will be provided with access to the business service platform AXS, where you can apply for a 3-year freelancer visa. Please, note that before doing so you have to apply for an establishment card at a cost of AED 2K (USD 544), the issuance of which will take 8-12 days. After having obtained this, you have everything necessary to apply for a freelance visa. Besides an establishment card, the documents required to apply for a visa are to be found below:
Visa (if applicable)
NOC from a sponsor
Valid medical insurance
You may also be asked to present a reference letter from the bank. After providing the full list of documents, it will take two-three weeks to obtain a freelance visa. The perks of this visa is that you are not obliged to rent or buy a physical office and you can legally work with both private and public companies in the UAE. It is worth noting that a freelancer in Dubai can be hired by a company with a commercial trade only but not by an individual.
Federal Freelance Visa
A federal freelance visa is a part of the ’Projects of the 50’, which is a series of developmental and economic projects which were introduced in September 2021. The newly announced visa is targeted at self-employed and independent workers, both overseas and in the UAE, which are specialized in AI, blockchain and digital currencies. Applicants will not require obtaining work permits and employment contracts, as opposed to the existing freelancer visa. More information on the requirements and fees of a federal freelance visa is yet to be announced.
Foreigners willing to work in the UAE have to know that they cannot be employed on a visit or tourist visa. They require legitimate work or a residency visa and permit in order to live and work legally in the UAE. Working without first obtaining the proper visa status is illegal and can lead to major legal issues. Work visas are issued for one-three years, depending on your purpose of travel.
To begin with, you need an employer willing to hire you and start the procedure of obtaining your UAE work permit and employment visa.
To be allowed to work in the UAE, you and the company hiring you must fulfil the conditions below:
You must be at least 18 years old
The work you do must correspond to the nature of the company hiring you
The license of the company hiring you has to be valid
The company must not have any violations
Meanwhile, there is no maximum age set for those who can be employed in the UAE, but for workers over the age of 65, a fee of AED 5K (USD 1.4K) has to be paid every two years by the employer. It is worth mentioning that foreign workers are divided into three categories:
Category 1: If an employee has at least a bachelor’s degree
Category 2: If an employee has a post-secondary diploma in any field
Category 3: If an employee has a high school diploma
All in all, there are three stages in the procedure of obtaining a work permit:
Getting an employment entry visa
Obtaining an Emirates ID
Acquiring a work permit and a residence visa
Firstly, the employer has to apply for a visa quota approval on behalf of the employee through the Ministry of Labour (MOL). Next, the employer is required to submit a work contract to the MOL, which must be also signed by the prospective employee. Once the Ministry approves the work permit application, the employee will have an employment entry visa, which is valid for a maximum of 60 days.
This visa gives enough time to procure an Emirates ID, a work visa and a Labour Card. Therefore, after the applicant enters the UAE with the approval received from the MoHRE, the employer must apply for a residence visa for you through the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) of the according Emirate. The following documents are required to do this:
Valid passport and a copy
Copies of the employee’s academic qualifications
Copy of a company card or a commercial license
Once the application is approved, the employee will have an employment visa and an Emirates ID, valid for the same duration as the visa. In addition, you will obtain a Labour Card, which informs the UAE government that you are authorized to work in the country. As a rule, the hiring company is responsible for paying all the visa fees and work permit costs, not the employee. In addition, the employer has to renew the work visa within 30 days before it is set to expire.
In September 2021, Dr. Thani Al Zeyodi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, announced that the UAE government is planning to allow children from the ages of 15 to 18 to work for the first time. A temporary one-year work permit would allow them to get a part-time job without interrupting their studies.
A student visa is targeted at university or college students studying in the UAE, with the minimum required age of the applicant set at 18. In order to procure a freshman student visa, the applicant has to obtain an official admission letter from the university they are studying at. Meanwhile, older students are to provide a certificate of continuation of study.
Other requirements needed for this type of visa are as follows:
Visa sponsor (university/parent)
Passing medical fitness test
Approval of the relevant GDRFA
This visa is valid for one year and can be renewed upon official proof of continuation of study. Moreover, accredited colleges and universities in the UAE can secure a visa for their students whether they are already residing in the UAE or if they are international students. Each academic institution has its own requirements for admission and visa process, thus, it is recommended to check with them in advance. The full list of these universities and colleges can be found on the official website of the UAE government. It is worth noting that admission in one of the UAE universities does not guarantee that a student visa will be issued. Other factors also influence the final decision, including the above-mentioned medical test and the approval, along with a security check.
In addition, from 2018, students who graduate from their universities/secondary schools or are 18 years old, will be granted a one-year residency visa, renewable for one more year from the graduation date or on turning 18. This costs just AED 100 (USD 27.2) for the first issue and renewal. Parents must provide duly attested graduation certificates from schools or universities, whether inside the UAE or overseas, and no fixed bank deposits are required in this case.
For a student visa, one can apply through online and offline channels such as:
GDRFA – Dubai website
Mobile apps: GDRFA Dubai, ICA eChannels and Dubai Now
Remote Work Visa
Approved in March 2021, the Remote Work Visas scheme allows you to reside in the UAE while you continue to work for your current employer, outside the UAE. The visa is valid for one year and it allows foreigners to enter the country under self-sponsorship and work in line with conditions and terms issued with the visa. Those applying for visas from Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah and Abu Dhabi can do so through the ICA website, providing the name of the applicant, passport number, Emirates ID and so on. Meanwhile, Dubai applicants can apply on the website of visitdubai.com and will need to fill out their full name, email address, country and mobile phone number.
As well as an average monthly income of AED 18.4K (USD 5K), further requirements for this type of visa are to be found below:
Health insurance with UAE coverage
Passport with a minimum of six months validity
Business owners: proof of company ownership for one year or more and three preceding months’ bank statements
Employees: proof of employment with a one-year contract validity, last month’s payslip and three preceding months’ bank statements
The remote work visa costs AED 1.05K (USD 287) per person and applicants are also required to pay the premium for medical insurance valid in the UAE and the processing fees. It is worth mentioning that paying the fees does not guarantee approval of the application.
Along with a federal freelance visa, the UAE announced the launch of a green visa in September 2021 which is aimed at business owners, investors, entrepreneurs, SME owners and high-performing students. Green visa holders will be able to work without any sponsorship and they can also sponsor their children up to 25 years of age (instead of the current 18) and their parents. More information on the newly announced visa is yet to be released.
Regardless of the job titles, both employers and employees with a valid UAE residence visa can sponsor their families. In this case, a minimum monthly salary of AED 4K (USD 1.1K) or AED 3K (USD 817) plus accommodation is required. Moreover, if the father of the family is residing in the country and meets the requirements for sponsoring his children, the mother is not allowed to sponsor them. A resident sponsor has to apply for his dependents’ residence visas within 60 days after they enter the UAE. Depending on the nature of the work and the labour contract of the sponsoring member and whether they are an employee or an employer, the visa is issued for one-three years. Sponsored residents, except for adult males who are continuing their education, and sponsored parents, can benefit from the same visa duration as their sponsors. Meanwhile, the parents and adult males are granted a visa on an annual basis regardless of the sponsor’s visa duration. As of January 2021, expatriate students studying in UAE universities are allowed to sponsor their families as long as they can afford affordable housing.
A UAE resident can sponsor their daughter/s providing she/they is/are unmarried. Meanwhile, sons can be sponsored only up to the age of 18. If after 18 he is studying abroad or in the UAE, then he may be subject to sponsorship until the age of 21 providing he has proof of study. In order to keep the visa valid, the son is to enter the UAE at least once every 6 months. The visa is issued on an annual basis until graduation. Sponsoring step children is also possible with a deposit provided for each child and an NOC certificate from the biological parent. Their visas are valid for one year as well.
To sponsor parents, an expat employee is required to pay a deposit as a guarantee for each parent as stipulated by the immigration department. It is a must to sponsor both parents together and to provide proof that the applying sponsor is their sole support. If one of the parents is deceased, the sponsor has to provide official documents confirming this fact. Furthermore, according to the Amer website, the employed expatriate in Dubai has to earn at least AED 20K (USD 5.4K) a month and to cover yearly medical insurance for the parents.
Moreover, a woman can also sponsor her husband and children in the UAE. In Dubai, if a woman holds a residence permit stating that she is a teacher, an engineer, a nurse, a doctor or any other profession related to the medical sector, and if her monthly salary is no less than AED 10K (USD 2.7K) or AED 8K (USD 2.2K) plus accommodation, then she can become a sponsor. Otherwise, if a woman is not employed in one of these categories, then she can only sponsor her family providing her salary exceeds AED 10K. She will also be required to obtain special permission from the DNRD.
There is a 30-day grace period from the date of expiry or cancellation of the family visa to acquire a new residence permit. The entire procedure takes about 22 business days, while the cost is AED 2K (USD 545) on average. It is worth noting that the entry permit for family members outside the UAE costs AED 490 (USD 135), but if a dependent is inside the country, then this rises up to AED 1.1 (USD 310) plus the ‘change of status’ fee of AED 640 (USD 175).
What Visas Are Issued When Buying Property in Dubai?
When buying a property worth at least AED 750K (USD 205K) in Dubai, you will be issued a 3-year residence visa. For a five-year investor visa, you have to purchase a AED 2M property, while to become eligible for a five-year golden visa, the property is to be priced at a minimum of AED 5M. Finally a ten-year golden visa is provided to those who invest over AED 10M, 40% out of which should be in real estate.
With Which Visa Can You Take Out a Mortgage on A Property?
You have to remember that in order to obtain a mortgage in the UAE you have to be employed or self-employed, so you would need to provide a salary certificate or a trade license. In this case, the suitable types of visas from above include an employment visa, a golden visa, a freelancer visa and a family visa, among others. It is worth noting that a non-resident can also apply for a loan in the UAE, as all they need to provide is a passport and three months’ bank statements. However, non-residents have significantly fewer mortgage options to choose from.
Do You Need A Visa to Buy A Property?
A residency visa is not required when purchasing a property in the UAE. You will only have to provide a signed Memorandum of Understanding, provide an NOC certificate from the DLD and produce a valid passport.
How to Get A Visa in UAE
In short, in order to be eligible for obtaining a residence visa in the UAE, you have to be 18 and above to undergo a medical test, which will prove that you are medically fit to reside here. Furthermore, a security check is also required, along with an Emirates ID. Other required documents depend on the type of visa you are applying for. You can submit your documents online via the ICA UAE eChannels, the GDRFA Dubai app or the DLD Vault. The latter two channels are to be used if you apply in Dubai.
How to Renew A Visa
Your residence visa has to be renewed by your sponsor within 30 days before the expiry date. The relevant GDRFA allows residents a grace period of 30 days to stay in the country after their visa has expired. If you fail to renew a visa after the expiration of the grace period, you will have to pay the following fines:
During the first six months (180 days): AED 25 (USD 6.8)/day
During the second six months: AED 50 (USD 13.6)/day
After a year or more: AED 100 (USD 27.2)/day
If you want to renew your visa earlier due to traveling reasons, you will need to obtain special permission from the GDRFA.
Basic requirements for a visa renewal are as follows:
Sponsor with a valid residency permit
Medical test for those above 18
Renewed Emirates ID and an original receipt proving that you have registered with the ICA for a renewal
Application submitted online or through a registered typing office, signed by the sponsor
Original passport of the sponsor
Photo of the sponsored individual
How to Cancel A Visa
If you decide to leave the country, your residence visa must be cancelled. As a rule, only the sponsor can do this, so you cannot complete the procedure on your own. Cancellation must take place through the GDRFA that initially stamped the residence visa when it was issued. The visa can be cancelled via a registered typing center or online.
You can find the required documents below:
Original passport of the sponsored person
Cancellation form signed by the sponsor
ID card of the sponsored individual
If you are sponsored by a company/firm, the cancellation form has to be signed and issued with the company stamp and a clearance certificate from the MoHRE is required. In case the sponsored individual(s) are outside the UAE at the time of cancellation, the sponsor can provide the original passport/computerized extract of their residence visas.
Upcoming Regulatory Visa Changes
As part of the first set of the ‘Projects of the 50’, the following changes to visas are to be applied in the near future:
Business trip permits have been extended from three months to six months
Widows, divorced women and other humanitarian cases can obtain a one-year residency extension
Employees can leave the UAE after 90-180 days upon job loss or retirement
Children can be sponsored by their parents until the age of 25
Direct family members can sponsor their parents
A property can be mortgaged if applying for a three and five-year investor visa, as opposed to a golden visa or a retirement visa, where the real estate cannot be taken out on a loan
Holders of any residence visa are allowed to sponsor their family
Currently, all resident doctors in the UAE are eligible for a ten-year golden visa for a limited period of time, until September 2022
Even if you fulfil all the requirements and pay the fees, it is still not guaranteed that you will obtain a residence visa
The main difference between the upcoming federal freelance visa and the existing freelance visa is that the first one is targeted at self-employed individuals.
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