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Updated 19 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.

Who needs ICA approval?

All UAE residents can travel to Dubai without an approval from GDRFA or ICA

First and foremost, if you’re a holder of a Dubai residence visa travelling from a restricted country, 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. Approval is not needed for those who got a newly issued residence or employment visa.

As mentioned before, you must register via the ICA Smart Travel Service and obtain a QR code before you fly, even if you are travelling to Dubai or another emirate. This does not apply if you are a UAE national or are transiting.

If you have been fully vaccinated in the UAE:

  • Register any time before you fly
  • You do not need to upload your vaccine certificate

If you’ve been fully vaccinated outside the UAE:

  • Register five days before your flight
  • If you do not register in time, your vaccination status may not be recognised – that means you will not receive a green pass in the Al Hosn app, and you may be required to quarantine
  • When you’ve registered, you’ll receive a QR code by email

If you have not been vaccinated:

  • Register any time before you fly
  • When you’ve registered, you’ll receive a QR code by email

How to get your ICA approval?

To make it easier for you, here is the complete step by step guide on how to get your ICA approval, prior to travel to the UAE. 

Step 1: Visit the ICA website. 
You would need to visit the ICA website. 

Step 2: Fill in the application form.
Enter your details such as the Emirates ID number. 

Step 3: Fill in your passport details.
Next, you will be asked to fill in your passport details like type and number. 

Step 4: Fill in address in the UAE
Provide local address in the UAE along with a mobile number. 

Step 5: Fill in vaccination and PCR test dates
The ICA has provided a list of vaccines approved by the WHO that residents can choose from in the form. Applicants must fill out the dates on which they received their first, second, and third doses (wherever applicable). The PCR test date and test result dates must also be mentioned.

Step 6: Upload documents
Passport image, personal image, and PCR test results must be uploaded. The COVID-19 vaccination card is optional.

Step 7: Declarations
Click on the website declaration button stating full adherence to UAE health authorities’ laws and confirming all documents attached are correct.

Step 8: Hit send

ICA Smart Services

To obtain the ICA approval, make sure to take advantage of the ICA Smart Services program. Residents looking to return to the UAE may access various services pertaining to visa inquiries, permit inquiries, payment of fees and fines and personal information updates.

Dubai entry requirements

Testing

Travellers from high-risk countries 

Passengers arriving from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Sudan, Uganda, Vietnam, Zambia 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 is 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.
 

Quarantine 

Once you arrive

  • You may need to take another COVID‑19 PCR test on arrival. If you take a test at the airport, you must remain in your residence until you receive the test result.
  • If the test result is positive, you will be required to undergo isolation and follow the Dubai Health Authority guidelines.
  • You must also download the COVID19 – DXB Smart App for both iOS and Android

 

Abu Dhabi entry requirements 

Testing

If you are travelling to Abu Dhabi, you must:

  • take the PCR test 72 hours before your flight, if you are flying from the United Kingdom. If you’re flying to Abu Dhabi as your final destination, take your test 48 hours before your flight departure time. 
  • download the ALHOSN UAE app on your mobile phones before you travel to Abu Dhabi
  • undergo a thermal screening and another COVID-19 PCR testing on arrival at Abu Dhabi airport.

The rules apply to all travellers, except children under the age of 12.

Quarantine 

Guidelines for vaccinated passengers

  • If you are coming from green countries, you do not need to quarantine yourself. However, you will need to do an RT-PCR test on arrival and on day 6 from arrival.
  • If you are coming from other countries, you do not need to quarantine yourself. You will need to do an RT-PCR test on arrival, day 4 and day 8 from arrival.

To be fully vaccinated, you must have received two doses of the same vaccine at least 14 days before departure. Information about the vaccine must be documented on the Al Hosn app.

Guidelines for non-vaccinated passengers

  • If you are coming from green countries, you do not need to quarantine yourself. However, you will need to do an RT-PCR test on arrival, days 6 and 9 from arrival.
  • If you are coming from other countries, you must quarantine yourself for 10 days. Additionally, you will need to do an RT-PCR test on arrival and on day 9 from arrival.

If you have arrived from a country that the UAE authorities deem are high-risk, then you will be subject to quarantine at a government facility.