This article has been reviewed by Wego’s editorial team to ensure that the content is up to date & accurate.

Updated 25 August 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.

Returning to Abu Dhabi

Expat residents looking to return to Abu Dhabi are permitted to do so providing they have obtained approval from the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA)  beforehand. We also recommend you visit the ICA smart services and enter your passport number, Emirates ID number, nationality and passport type to receive instant verification of your entry status before making your way to Abu Dhabi. 

Please note that passengers with a valid UAE residence visa arriving from India, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Uganda must have already been fully vaccinated in the UAE, and at least 14 days must have passed since the last required dose of the vaccine was administered.

If you are travelling to Abu Dhabi, you must follow these additional rules:

  • take the PCR test 72 hours before your flight, if you are flying from the United Kingdom
  • 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.

 

Returning to Dubai

Non-Emirati residents holding Dubai residence visas looking to return to Dubai must ensure that they would be able to satisfy all the necessary entry requirements to Dubai, as well as any specific requirements their country of departure may have. 

Please note that residents from certain countries are required to obtain both the GDRFA approval as well as the ICA approval as per the latest regulations.

Apart from obtaining the GDRFA and ICA approval, UAE residents must also ensure that they are able to satisfy all the necessary entry requirements to Dubai as outlined below.

Dubai testing requirements

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, except for travel from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka (for which specific requirements are stated below).

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, digital or printed 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. Digital COVID‑19 certificates are accepted upon arrival at Dubai International airport verification points.

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 Sudan, Lebanon, Egypt and Ethiopia, 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.

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, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Ghana, Guinea, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Russia, Senegal, Slovakia, Somaliland, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe.

Transiting in Dubai

All passengers who have started their journey in Afghanistan or Indonesia and are transiting through Dubai must have a negative COVID‑19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test certificate for a test taken no more than 48 hours before departure. The test certificate must include a QR code.

Passengers transiting through Dubai from the following countries are required to present a negative COVID‑19 PCR test certificate for a test taken no more than 72 hours before departure, as well as to follow any requirements mandated by their final destination.

Angola, Argentina, Bahrain, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Ghana, Guinea, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Poland, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Russia, Senegal, Slovakia, Somaliland, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe.

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

Passengers from all other countries do not need a COVID‑19 PCR test to transit in Dubai, unless it’s required by their final destination.

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 tumours, 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.
  • There may be specific test exemptions in your country of origin and final destination. Please check the requirements before you travel.

COVID‑19 testing laboratories

  • The UAE government has specified designated laboratories. You can either use the recommended laboratories in the list or any trusted and certified laboratories in your country of origin to get your COVID‑19 PCR test.
  • If you are flying from India, Pakistan, Nigeria or Bangladesh, you must get your certificate from one of the labs listed in the designated laboratories document to be accepted on the flight.

Upon arrival

  • 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 iOS and for Android

Rules for travel from the United Kingdom

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.

UAE Nationals travelling to Dubai are exempted from COVID‑19 testing requirements prior to departure but will be subject to a COVID‑19 PCR test on arrival in Dubai.

Rules for travel from India, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Uganda

As per the latest rules and regulations, arrivals from India, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Uganda are subject to the following.

UAE residents

All passengers with a valid UAE residence visa are allowed to travel to and through Dubai from India, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Uganda, subject to below conditions.

All passengers arriving in Dubai must comply with the following:

  • Dubai visa holders must apply for pre‑entry approval through General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA).
  • Passengers with a UAE visa sponsored by “Dubai EXPO 2020” do not require GDFA approval to enter Dubai.
  • Passengers must have a valid COVID‑19 test certificate issued within 48 hours between the time of sample collection and scheduled flight departure. Only COVID‑19 PCR test reports from certified labs that issue a QR code linked to the original report will be accepted.
  • Passengers must complete a COVID‑19 PCR rapid test at the departure airport before the departure of their flight. The Rapid PCR test can be conducted within 6 hours prior to departure. (Rapid antigen test will not be accepted)
  • Passengers must complete a COVID‑19 PCR test on arrival in Dubai.

UAE Nationals are exempted from the above requirements but subject to COVID‑19 PCR test on arrival in Dubai.

All other passengers who have been in India, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Uganda in the past 14 days will not be permitted to enter Dubai.

Note: Indian Nationals with a normal passport who are travelling to India via Dubai can obtain a visa on arrival in Dubai for a maximum stay of 14 days provided they:

  • have a visitor visa or a green card issued by the United States, or
  • a residence visa issued by the United Kingdom or European Union

The visa issued by United States, United Kingdom or Europe union has to be valid for a minimum of 6 months

Transit passengers

Must complete all the requirements of their final destination and present a negative COVID‑19 PCR test certificate for a test taken 72 hours or less before departure or as required by their final destination.

Rules for travel from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, South Africa, Vietnam and Zambia

The following passengers are allowed to travel to their final destination through Dubai from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, South Africa, Vietnam and Zambia, subject to specific requirements.

All passengers are required to have a negative COVID‑19 PCR test certificate for a test taken 72 hours or less before departure as per the requirements of their final destination.

UAE Nationals are exempted from the above requirements but subject to COVID‑19 PCR test on arrival in Dubai.

Specific rules for travel from Afghanistan and Indonesia

Only the following categories of passengers will be accepted for travel to Dubai from Afghanistan and Indonesia:

  • UAE nationals and their first-degree relatives
  • Members of diplomatic missions
  • Holders of UAE Golden and Silver Visas
  • Officials and passengers exempted and/or granted permission to enter the UAE by the appropriate authorities

Exempted passengers must have a COVID‑19 PCR test conducted within 48 hours of the date of departure. Passengers from Indonesia must perform a COVID‑19 Rapid Antigen test at the airport prior to departure.

All other passengers who have been in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, South Africa, Vietnam and Zambia in the past 14 days will not be permitted to enter Dubai.

Rules for travel from Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Namibia and Sierra Leone

Passengers who have been in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Namibia or Sierra Leone, in the past 14 days are not allowed to enter or transit in Dubai until further notice.

  • The Democratic Republic of Congo to Dubai effective 11 June 2021
  • Liberia, Namibia and Sierra Leone to Dubai effective 21 June 2021

Only the following categories of passengers will be accepted for travel to Dubai:

  • UAE nationals and their first‑degree relatives arriving from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Namibia, Sierra Leone
  • Members of diplomatic missions from the above countries
  • Holders of UAE Golden and Silver Visas
  • Officials and passengers exempted and/or granted permission to enter the UAE by the appropriate authorities

Exempted passengers must have a COVID‑19 PCR test conducted with 48 hours from the date of departure. The test certificate must be issued by an accredited laboratory and must contain a QR code. Additionally, passengers will be required to undergo COVID‑19 PCR testing on arrival in Dubai.

 

Returning to Sharjah

Expat residents looking to return to Sharjah are permitted to do so providing they have obtained approval from the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) beforehand. We also recommend you visit the ICA smart services and enter your passport number, Emirates ID number, nationality and passport type to receive instant verification of your entry status before making your way to Sharjah. 

Please note that passengers with a valid UAE residence visa arriving from India, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Uganda must have already been fully vaccinated in the UAE, and at least 14 days must have passed since the last required dose of the vaccine was administered.

Residents looking to return to Sharjah must comply with the following.

  • All travellers to Sharjah must present a negative PCR test result before boarding; this test should have been conducted within 48 to 72 hours depending on the country of departure before the date of travel.
  • They must take another PCR test upon arrival at Sharjah airport and quarantine until the results of the PCR test are released.
  • If you test positive, you will need to isolate yourself for 14 days. You or your sponsor must bear the cost of isolation and medical expenses.
  • Tourists and residents must ensure that they have adequate health insurance that covers all costs of treatment and isolation.
  • You need to download the AL HOSN app on your mobile phones to allow authorities to monitor your health while you are in isolation/quarantine.