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Updated March 2023
Living while working or doing business in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is an attractive proposition. With a thriving ex-pat community, a nightlife that rivals that of London and New York, and zero income tax, many inevitably find this Middle Eastern country an enticing place to live.
The country also boasts high-quality education facilities along with seemingly endless shopping and entertainment options, making the UAE an ideal setting in which to raise a family.
All the benefits of living and working in the UAE will be applicable to you once you’ve secured a residence visa. Here we take a look at all the available residence visas in the UAE, along with their validity period, cost and how you may obtain such visas.
UAE residence visa news
Minimum salary to sponsor relatives
UAE expats wishing to sponsor five relatives on a residence visa must have a minimum monthly salary of AED 10,000. The sponsors must also have adequate housing.
New ICA services
As per the latest development, the Federal Authority for Identification and Citizenship (ICA) of the United Arab Emirates has revealed a list of 15 services that have been upgraded in its smart services system to enhance the services offered to citizens, residents, and visitors.
These updates also include changes to the renewal of residence visas, with a new policy that restricts renewal applications if the residence validity is more than 6 months (a separate residence service). The smart service system also provides services for printing visa and residence details in the accounts of visa holders.
In addition, the updated package of services and procedures exempts citizens of the UAE from the fingerprint requirement when submitting applications for the issuance, renewal, and replacement of their passports. It also offers exceptional service from Emirates ID procedures (fingerprints and ICAO) in individual accounts in the E-Channel and stops charging any fees. Additionally, they were excused from the need to pay a fee recovery service and open a sponsorship file for this type of service.
UAE residence visa
The residence visa serves as a formal permit allowing a foreign national to reside in the UAE for an extended period of time.
Unification of residency visa with Emirates ID
For UAE residents, the Emirates ID now officially serves as their residency documents, having replaced the visa stickers stamped onto passports.
Residence visa stickers have been officially replaced by Emirates ID cards across the UAE, with the exception of Dubai. This means that the residency information of an individual will now be stored on their Emirates ID. The change also eliminates the need for residents to apply for two different processes; Emirates ID and residency visa issuance/renewal.
Applicants may also obtain a soft copy of their Emirates ID upon submitting their issuance or renewal request. The new generation of Emirates ID cards will be able to accommodate all details, including personal, professional, and other pertinent data.
Earlier residency visa stickers were stamped on expatriates’ passports. As per the new circular issued by the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Port Security (ICA), the Emirates ID has now replaced the residency visa stickers on passports. The merging of residence and identity card applications in the UAE will help simplify residency services.
Emirates ID detail change and update
The UAE digital government has clarified that residents and citizens will have to notify the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Port Security (ICP) of any changes or updates regarding the data contained in their Emirates ID cards within a period of 30 days from the date of the change.
This applies to Emirates ID cards issued to nationals and expatriate residents.
According to authorities, UAE residents and citizens can apply to change or update any details for an existing and valid Emirates ID card through the ICP website or its smart application (iOS, Android) without the need to submit any documents.
The Emirates ID data, as stated by the ICP, must be updated in case of marriage or regarding any changes in the wife’s last name (adopting a maiden name) for some nationalities. However, in case there is no change, the data in the ID card and the population registry must be updated.
The service fee for changing or updating the details of an existing Emirates ID card through the ICP website is Dh50 (USD 13.61).
UAE residence visa benefits
Being a legitimate resident in the UAE will entitle you to:
- open a bank account
- access financial facilities
- apply for a driving licence
- access government health services and health insurance
- register his/her children in government schools and in private schools
- work and invest
- travel visa–free to certain destinations (check with foreign embassies in the UAE).
UAE residence visa eligibility
Foreign nationals may be eligible for a residence visa provided they are covered in the following categories:
- foreign nationals employed by a UAE company. The company is responsible for applying for and sponsoring their residence visa
- foreign nationals employed by the government sector. The government entity is responsible for applying for and sponsoring their residence visa
- foreign investors in a business in the UAE. Investors must take an active role in the visa application process under the sponsorship of their company’s registered name
- foreign nationals purchasing property in the UAE. The property owner’s sponsorship will be under the property they own
- foreign nationals who are dependents and are sponsored by:
- someone who is employed in the UAE
- an investor/business owner in the UAE
- a property owner in the UAE
Dependents include children, parents, domestic workers and close relatives.
- foreign university students. The students will be sponsored by their respective UAE universities.
- retired residents
Please note that a residence visa may only be issued to a foreign national once they have been granted entry to the UAE via an entry permit, short or long-term tourist or visit visa.
UAE residence visa validity
The validity period of a residence visa is contingent on the nature of the visa.
For example, the Golden Visa is valid for either five or ten years, depending on the applicant’s educational, professional, or business background. While other visas, such as the student visa, are valid for one year and can be renewed upon proof of continuation of study.
Validity period of residence visa after staying abroad
Most Residence visa holders are only allowed to spend 6 months outside the UAE before they lose their residency. However, the following categories of visa holders are exempt from this visa validity rule. These include:
- Golden visa holders
- Investors with a residence permit under an approved classification, government employees sent abroad for medical reasons or on assignment.
- A foreign national wife of an Emirati citizen sponsored by her husband
- Domestic helpers accompanying Emirati citizens
- People sponsored by the diplomatic or consular representative of the UAE
- Foreign national students enrolled with a university or institute abroad — this applies to Dubai
However, the UAE has now launched a reentry permit which allows residency visa holders staying outside the UAE for more than six months to reenter the country. The reentry permit will allow UAE residents staying outside the UAE for over six months to reenter the Emirate within 30 days from the date of approval of the permit.
Hence, with the Dubai and UAE reentry permit, residents can now stay outside the UAE for more than 6 months without getting their residency cancelled.
How to check the validity of a UAE residence visa?
- If you already have an entry permit/residence visa to Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, and Fujairah check your visa validity on the website of the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship- ICA (the eChannel for residency and citizenship).
- If you already have an entry permit/residence visa in Dubai, check your visa validity through Amer-GDRFA in Dubai.
Alternatively, for any inquiry regarding visa issuance, types and validity, communicate with ICA at the toll-free number 600522222 or through the ICA feedback platform.
For Dubai visas, contact Amer service on the toll-free number 800 5111 if you are living in the UAE. If you are outside the UAE, call Amer on the toll-free number +9714-313-9999.
For more information, please contact:
- The UAE Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship
- General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs – Dubai
Types of UAE residence visa
The types of residence visas are tied to an applicant’s eligibility, as outlined above. Thus, the available types of UAE residence visas are as follows:
- UAE Work Visa, issued to foreign nationals employed in both the private and government sector
- UAE Student Visa, issued to foreign students pursuing higher education in the UAE
- UAE Family Visa issued to dependents of a residence visa holder. Dependents are defined as children, parents, domestic workers and close relatives
- UAE Investment Visa (long-term residence), issued to foreign nationals making substantial investments in the UAE
- UAE Retirement Visa, issued to elderly foreigners wishing to retire in the UAE and possess the necessary financial means to do so
- UAE Remote Work Visa allows you to live in the UAE while you continue to work for your existing employer outside the UAE
Golden Visa and Green Visa
Apart from the aforementioned, there are also other types of residence visas:
- Golden Visa, issued for five or ten years to a special category of applicants, including investors, entrepreneurs, specialized talents and researchers in various fields of science and knowledge, and bright students with promising scientific capabilities.
- Green Visa, a recently launched residence visa not reliant on employment and sponsorship. Holders of this visa may sponsor their immediate families, such as parents, spouses, or children. The Green Visa is reserved for investors, entrepreneurs, highly qualified people, top students and graduates.
Five-year residency visas for children of Emirati women
The UAE has started issuing five-year residency visas for children of Emirati women with foreign nationals, whose validity was previously three years.
This directive will improve the lives of many and is widely regarded as a progressive step towards improving the rights of the children of Emirati mothers born to foreign fathers, granting them the same benefits as other citizens in healthcare and education.
New entry and residence scheme
The UAE Cabinet has also announced a new system of entry and residence while providing detailed and comprehensive information on the types and conditions of entry visas and residence permits in the country. The new entry and residence scheme will offer unprecedented benefits to applicants and will come into force after 90 days from the date of its publication in the Official Gazette.
The new system for residence visas and entry permits offers new types of residence permits for investors, skilled employees, self-employment and family members. The new types provide customized benefits to each category. pic.twitter.com/7JI8qjMsKm— UAEGOV (@UAEmediaoffice) April 18, 2022
UAE residence visa requirements
Conditions for getting a residence visa
A residence visa requires applicants who are 18 and above to undergo a medical test to prove that they are medically fit. They must also pass a security check and apply for an Emirates ID card from Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship.
- the UAE Visa application form obtained online or through the relevant typing centre.
- a valid passport
- two passport-size pictures, in line with UAE visa photo requirements
- an entry visa
- proof of your sponsor’s legal residency/UAE citizenship
- proof of medical fitness test
- proof of UAE health insurance plan
- for family visas, include proof of family ties, such as birth/marriage certificates
- for a work visa, your sponsor must include the work contract and copies of the company’s valid trade licence and valid firm card
- any additional documents in accordance with the type of residence visa
How to apply for UAE residence visa?
In most cases, you simply don’t—UAE visa regulations stipulate that a residency visa may only be obtained through your sponsor. For example, if you’re an employee, your employer/company is your sponsor, and they will be the ones responsible for applying for and sponsoring your residence visa.
Despite the Emirates ID replacing residency visas, the application process and fees for residency permits, including golden visas, remain the same.
You are required to obtain the necessary entry permit to the UAE, which can be obtained from one of the following:
- The Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) portal
- The General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA), either online or in-person
Once you’ve entered the UAE, your sponsor is the one who has to apply for your residence visa at the GDRFA of your emirate.
UAE residence visa processing time
The processing of the UAE residence visa, once all the required documents are submitted, takes about 2 to 10 days.
UAE residence visa cost
As confirmed by a typing centre agent at the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Ports Security (ICP), the fees for the UAE residence visa have gone up by AED 100. Therefore, currently, the price of a UAE residence visa fee for one year is AED 200.
Nonetheless, the fees will change depending on the duration of the issued visa. Please note that this may be subject to change, and you must also factor in the costs of medical insurance and insurance.
As for the Golden Visa, the prices are AED 650 and AED 1,150 for the five and ten-year visa, respectively.
UAE residence visa status
To track your visa application, you need the application number and reference number. When you submit your visa application to any visa service provider, ask them to give you the application number and reference number so you can track the visa yourself through the channels mentioned herein.
- if you applied for a visa to Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah, track your visa application on the website of the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship- ICA(the eChannel for residency and citizenship).
- if you applied for a Dubai visa or through Amer centres in Dubai, track your visa application through the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs-Dubai (Vision eForm.)
UAE residence visa renewal
As announced by the ICP, the grace period after the residence visa expiry or cancellation in the UAE for expats has been extended from 30 days to 6 months.
Therefore, expats now have 6 months to either amend their status and get another residence visa or leave the country. Fines do not apply during the grace period. The residence visa has to be renewed before the end of that period to avoid incurring fines.
Your sponsor must renew your residence visa before it expires. A renewed visa will let you continue living legally in the UAE without incurring fines or facing legal consequences for the same.
The ICP has now standardised the overstaying fines in the UAE. According to the new rules, those overstaying on a UAE residency visa will have to pay AED 50 per day instead of the previous AED 25.
Please make sure to remember that when the visa expires, your Emirates ID card issued by Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs & Ports Security (ICA) also expires.
Residence visa renewal grace period
Expatriates need to either exit the country or get a new visa within the grace period after the visa is cancelled.
The grace period to exit the UAE after a residency visa cancellation has been increased to upto 30, 60 and 180 days according to the category of the visa. The validity of the different types of visa are as follows:
- Golden Visa holders and their family members: 180 days
- Green Visa holders and their family members: 180 days
- Widows or divorcees: 180 days
- Students who have completed their studies: 180 days
- Skilled professionals (first and second level in the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation classification): 180 days
- Skilled professionals (third level in the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation classification): 90 days
- Property owners: 90 days
- Normal residencies: 60 days
- Other categories: 30 days
The time limit to renew expired residence visas has now been extended to 6 months from the date of expiry. However, if there is a need to renew it a few months earlier (one to six months) for travelling reasons, you must first take special permission and approval from the relevant General Directorate of Residency and Foreigner’s Affairs in the emirate that issued your visa.
Requirements for renewal
The conditions for renewing the residence visa are similar to those for sponsoring family members, getting a work permit and when your visa was issued for the first time.
The basic requirements are:
- a sponsor with a valid residency permit
- passing a medical fitness test for those above 18
- insurance card (mandatory in Dubai and Abu Dhabi)
- a renewed identity card issued from ICA, or an original receipt that you have registered with ICA to get a renewal.
The following documents are needed:
- online application or application through a registered typing office for renewal of residency permit signed by the sponsor, whether public sector, private sector company, or personal sponsor
- original passport of the sponsored
- photo of the sponsored.
For employers working in the private sector, the sponsoring company must submit the following additional documents:
- a copy of a valid firm card
- a copy of a valid trade licence
- a copy of renewed labour card of the sponsored
- a copy of labour card renewal receipt for those who reached (60) years and above.
Those sponsoring their families: spouse, children, parents and siblings (relatives of first and second degree) must present:
- a copy of the husband’s/wife’s employment contract or company contract for investors
- a salary certificate from the employer stating the employee’s monthly salary
- a legalised marriage certificate
- a registered tenancy contract
- latest utility bill.
They must also meet the
- sponsorship requirements for wife and children
- sponsorship requirements for parents
- sponsorship requirements for a woman sponsoring her family.
How to apply for a renewal of the UAE residence visa?
The application process for both fresh visa applications and renewal remains the same.
Once you have all the necessary documents, head towards:
- The Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) portal or
- The General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA), either online or in-person
Dubai & UAE reentry permit
The travel and typing centre agents in Dubai have confirmed that residency visa holders staying outside the UAE for more than six months can now reenter the country by applying for a reentry permit. The reentry permit will allow UAE residents staying outside the UAE for over six months to reenter the Emirate within 30 days from the date of approval of the permit.
Hence, with the Dubai and UAE reentry permit, residents can now stay outside the UAE for more than 6 months without getting their residency cancelled. However, to be eligible to apply for this new permit, residents must provide:
- a reason for having stayed outside the country for over six months and must furnish proof of the same.
The reentry permit can be applied for through the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Ports Security (ICP) official website.
You can find out more about the Dubai and UAE reentry permit from our dedicated article below
UAE residence visa cancellation
According to authorities, UAE residents who intend to cancel their UAE residence visa for the purpose of leaving the country or for the purpose of changing jobs are required to hand over their Emirates ID cards to the respective General Directorate for Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA).
The respective General Directorate for Residency and Foreigners Affairs will hand over the returned ID card to Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship, which had originally issued the Emirates ID card.