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Updated 29 November 2021

After enduring months of doubt and uncertainty, thousands of UAE residents stranded in their home countries due to the current travel suspension can now finally breathe a sigh of relief as the government announced a special category of residents now permitted to re-enter the country.

Entry is subject to the appropriate return permit based on their issued visa and destination. For non-UAE residents travelling from certain countries, approval from the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) must first be obtained, and, if they’re residing in Dubai, approval from the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) is also required.

The following is the breakdown of the return permits for residents outside of the UAE.

GDRFA approval required for UAE residents from specified countries

First and foremost, if you’re a holder of a Dubai residence visa travelling from one of the specified countries, GDRFA approval is required for your return to Dubai apart from the ICA approval. All other residence visa holders need not apply for the GDRFA approval. 

Please note that Dubai residents arriving from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Sudan, along with Ethiopia are required to obtain both the GDRFA approval and the ICA approval.

To obtain the GDRFA approval, the following are required: 

  • An official vaccination certificate issued and approved in the UAE or abroad. At least 14 days must have passed since the last required dose of the vaccine was administered.
  • A valid passport
  • A valid residence visa
  • A valid Emirates ID 
  • A valid PCR test result
  • A valid email address

As per NCEMA’s announcement, some returning residents are exempt from the vaccination requirement. The exemptions extend to medical and other healthcare personnel working in the UAE, they will be allowed to return regardless of their vaccination status provided other conditions are met.

 

UAE restriction on inbound travel from certain African countries from 29 November

As directed by the Dubai COVID‑19 Command and Control Centre (CCC), all travellers originating from, or transiting from, the countries listed below will not be accepted for travel into Dubai with effect from Monday 29 November 2021 until further notice.

  • South Africa
  • Botswana
  • Eswatini
  • Lesotho
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

 

How do I get the GDRFA approval?

To obtain the GDRFA approval, you must first ensure that you have all the prerequisites detailed above and then simply follow the steps below.

  • Go to the GDRFA’s online portal to start your application process
  • Prepare the necessary documents; your passport, visa and Emirates ID. You will be required to enter your Resident File Number. Find this number on your visa under file. Fill out the form accordingly
  • Provide the remaining required documents; vaccine certificate, PCR test result, photograph, as well as a copy of your passport
  • Before submitting your application, confirm that all provided information is accurate and click send

If your application is successful, an email with a GDRFA reference number will be sent to your email. 

 

Dubai entry requirements

Apart from obtaining the GDRFA and ICA approval, UAE residents from the above-specified countries must also ensure that they are able to satisfy all the necessary entry requirements to Dubai. 
UAE Residence Visa holders must have GDRFA or ICA approval to enter the UAE. This does not apply to passengers who have other visas as follows:
  • newly issued residence or employment visas
  • short stay or long stay visa
  • holders of a 10 year UAE Golden visa \
  • holders of an Investor or Partner visa
  • visit visa or visa on arrival
This does not apply to UAE Residence Visa holders travelling from Ethiopia.

Dubai testing requirements

Travellers from high-risk countries 

Passengers arriving from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Sudan, along with Ethiopia must present:

  • A valid negative COVID‑19 PCR test certificate with a QR code for a test conducted within 48 hours, validity should be calculated from the time the sample was collected, prior to departure from an approved health facility
  • A rapid PCR test report with a QR code for a test conducted at the departure airport within six hours of departure

Travellers from Nigeria

For passengers travelling to Dubai as their final destination from Nigeria, travel is currently not possible as there are no rapid PCR testing facilities at the airport.

Travellers from the UK
All passengers travelling to Dubai from the UK must hold a negative COVID‑19 PCR test certificate for a test taken no more than 72 hours before departure and the certificate must be a Reverse Transcription‑Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT‑PCR) test. Note that NHS Covid Test certificates are not accepted for travel from the United Kingdom.
Travellers from France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland 

Effective 31 October 2021 and until further notice, all passengers travelling to Dubai from France, Germany, Spain, or Switzerland will be accepted for travel if they meet the following conditions:

  • Present a negative COVID‑19 RT‑PCR test certificate for a test taken no more than 72 hours before departure or,
  • Present a vaccination certificate for vaccination administered in France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland or the United Arab Emirates

The vaccination certificate(s) must reflect that the passenger has completed the required doses of a vaccine approved by the WHO and accepted by France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland or the United Arab Emirates.

Travellers from other countries

All passengers travelling to Dubai from any point of origin (GCC countries included) must hold a negative COVID‑19 RT‑PCR test certificate for a test taken no more than 72 hours before departure.

Test certificate requirements 

The certificate must be a Reverse Transcription‑Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT‑PCR) test. Other test certificates including antibody tests, NHS COVID Test certificates, Rapid PCR tests and home testing kits are not accepted in Dubai. Travellers must bring an official printed or digital certificate in English or Arabic to check in – SMS certificates are not accepted. PCR certificates in other languages are acceptable if they can be validated at the originating station.

COVID‑19 RT‑PCR test certificates must be issued by an authorised facility in the passenger’s departure country. Certificates that have already been presented for travel to another destination can’t be used for re‑entry even if they are still within the validity period.

For passengers arriving from the following countries, it is mandatory that the COVID‑19 PCR report includes a QR code linked to the original report for verification purposes. The QR code must be presented at check‑in and to representatives of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) upon arrival in Dubai airports: Indonesia, Sudan, Lebanon, Egypt and Ethiopia.

Test on arrival

Passengers arriving in Dubai from the following countries will be required to take another COVID‑19 PCR test on arrival at Dubai International airport:

Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Iran, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Morocco, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Rwanda, Russia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Somaliland, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

COVID‑19 PCR test exemptions

  • UAE nationals are exempt from taking a COVID‑19 PCR test before departing for Dubai. They must be tested on arrival in Dubai, irrespective if they are holding a valid negative COVID‑19 RT‑PCR certificate from the point of origin.
    This is also applicable for:

    • Passengers accompanying a 1st degree UAE nationals’ relative or domestic workers
    • Domestic workers escorting a UAE national sponsor during travel.
  • Children under the age of 12 and passengers who have a moderate or severe disability are exempt from taking a COVID‑19 RT‑PCR test.
    • Moderate or severe disability includes neurological disorders and intellectual or developmental disabilities. For example: Acute spinal cord injury, Alzheimer’s disease, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Ataxia, Autism spectrum, Bell’s palsy, Brain tumors, Cerebral aneurysm, Cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, Epilepsy and seizures
    • All other passengers, including those who are visually impaired, hearing impaired or physically challenged must hold a negative COVID‑19 RT‑PCR test certificate as per the requirements.