Home > UAE Company Setup > Obtaining a Business Visa in the UAE – A Complete Guide

Obtaining a Business Visa in the UAE – A Complete Guide

Dec 18, 2023 | UAE Company Setup

If you’re looking to start or expand your business in the United Arab Emirates, you will need to obtain a Business Visa. This article provides a complete guide on what business visas are available in the UAE, which one you need, and how to apply it.

We’ll cover all the steps involved, from gathering the required documents to submitting your visa application. So whether you’re a business owner, or an entrepreneur looking to set up in Abu Dhabi, Dubai or anywhere in the UAE, read on for all the information you need!

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What is a UAE Business Visa?

The Business Visa for the UAE, Dubai and Abu Dhabi is a permit that allows foreign nationals to enter and stay in the country to conduct business activities. The UAE offers a diverse range of business visas, including the Golden Visa, Short-Term Visit Visa, Investor Visa, Entrepreneur Visa, Mission Visa, and Freelance Visa. Each visa is tailored to suit the unique needs of different individuals, from short-term visitors to long-term investors and independent professionals.

Sponsored vs. Self-Sponsored Business Visas in the UAE

Understanding the distinction between sponsored and self-sponsored business visas is crucial for international entrepreneurs and professionals considering business ventures in the UAE. Each type of visa offers unique benefits and caters to different needs.

Sponsored Business Visas

Definition and Process: Sponsored visas are typically obtained through an employer or a sponsor in the UAE. In this arrangement, a local entity, whether a business or an individual, acts as a sponsor and assumes responsibility for the visa applicant during their stay in the country.

Key Features:

  1. Employer Responsibility: The sponsoring employer handles the visa application process and associated legal requirements.
  2. Linked to Employment: The visa’s validity is directly tied to the employment contract. If the employment ends, the visa typically becomes invalid, requiring renewal or a change of sponsorship.
  3. Ideal for Employees: This visa is most suitable for individuals who plan to work for a UAE-based company.

Self-Sponsored Business Visas

Definition and Process: Self-sponsored visas, on the other hand, allow individuals to sponsor their own stay in the UAE without the need for an employer or a local sponsor. This category includes Investor Visas and recently introduced long-term residence visas like the Golden Visa.

Key Features:

  1. Independence: These visas provide more freedom and flexibility as they are not tied to a specific employer.
  2. Longer Duration and Stability: Self-sponsored visas, especially the Golden Visa, often have a longer duration (up to 10 years) and provide greater stability for entrepreneurs and investors.
  3. Ideal for Business Owners and Investors: They are particularly beneficial for those who want to start or invest in a business in the UAE, as well as for high-skilled professionals, researchers, and artists.

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Business Visas in the UAE, How Much They Cost and How To Apply

The United Arab Emirates offers a variety of business visa options to cater to the diverse needs of global entrepreneurs, investors, and professionals. Understanding these options is key to identifying the best fit for your business objectives in the UAE.

Whilst each visa has differing requirements, the following documents will be required in every business visa application. We will include the additional requirements in the individual visa sections.

The ICP (Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship) states that to be eligible for a Business Visa in Dubai, you must:

  • Age: Be over 18 years of age.
  • Passport: Have a valid passport from your country of residence with at least 6 months of validity, along with passport-sized photographs.
  • Flights: Provide a copy of your confirmed return ticket or itinerary showing departure plans within 30 days of the visa expiration date.
  • Financial Proof: Show evidence of sufficient financial means to support your stay in the UAE, which could be bank statements or a letter of support from a sponsor.
  • Proof of Accommodation: Offer proof of accommodation while staying in Dubai or anywhere in the UAE, such as hotel bookings or a letter from a host.
  • Qualifications: Produce a copy of your professional qualifications or educational certificates.
  • Clear criminal background: Provide evidence of a clear criminal background.
  • Business Registration Certificate and Trade License: Provide a copy of your business registration certificate and the company’s trade license, if applicable.
  • Health insurance: Valid health insurance that covers your stay in the UAE.
  • Residence Permit Copy: If you already live in the UAE, a copy of your residence permit.

1. Golden Visa

  • Purpose: Targeted to high-net-worth investors, entrepreneurs, specialized talents, researchers, and professionals.
  • Duration: Offers long-term residency for 5 or 10 years and can be renewed.
  • Requirements: Investors must make a substantial investment in the UAE’s economy, around AED 2 million, and for individuals in other categories like scientists, artists, or professionals, evidence of outstanding achievement in their field is required. You must also show that you have a clear medical certificate of health.
  • Advantages: The Golden Visa allows holders to live, work, and study in the UAE without depending on a specific employer or sponsor. The long-term residency offers visa holders greater stability, and with the inclusion of family members in the visa, they can set up a life in the UAE.
  • Cost: The cost for a Golden Visa can range from AED 2,800 to AED 4,000, excluding additional fees for medical tests, Emirates ID, and biometrics.
How to Apply:
  1. Online Application: Apply through the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship, Customs and Port Security (ICP) or the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA).
  2. Document Submission: Provide all required documents, including proof of eligibility.
  3. Complete Medical and Biometrics: In the UAE after initial approval.

2. Long-Term Business Visa

Investor Visa
  • Purpose: Suited for investors planning to establish or run a business in the UAE.
  • Duration: Usually valid for 3 years and can be renewed.
  • Requirements: Must pass a medical fitness test. Must make a significant financial investment in the UAE (around AED 1 million), typically in real estate or a business venture.
  • Benefits: Allows for residency and brings family members under the same visa.
  • Cost: The total cost for an Investor Visa can range from AED 10,000 to AED 15,000, which includes the visa fee, medical examination, Emirates ID, and other processing fees.
How to Apply:
  1. Application Through Local Sponsor: If you’re investing outside a free zone, apply through your local sponsor or agent.
  2. Application Through Free Zone: If investing in a free zone, apply directly through the free zone authority.
  3. Submit Required Documents: Including proof of investment and personal identification.
  4. Attend Medical and Biometric Screening: Complete in the UAE after initial approval.
  5. Visa Stamping: Once approved, the visa will be stamped in your passport.
Entrepreneur Visa
  • Purpose: Suited for entrepreneurs planning to establish or run a business in the UAE with a promising business idea or project.
  • Duration: Typically valid for 2 years, with the possibility of upgrading to an Investor Visa.
  • Requirements: Proof of sufficient funds to sustain the business and personal expenses, submission of a detailed business plan. The plan must be based on a viable business idea or project, often needing approval or support from an accredited UAE startup incubator.
  • Benefits: Holders of an Entrepreneur Visa can tap into the rich ecosystem of resources, including business incubators, accelerators, venture capital, and a network of local and international entrepreneurs and investors.
  • Cost: The processing fee for an Entrepreneur Visa can be around AED 3,000 to AED 5,000, excluding other charges like establishment card fees and medical tests.
How to Apply:
  1. Approval from an Incubator: Obtain approval for your project or business plan from a UAE-recognized incubator.
  2. Submit Application: Either through the incubator or directly through the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship, Customs, and Port Security (ICP) or the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFAD).
  3. Provide Necessary Documents: Include your business plan and proof of funding.
  4. Visa Issuance: After approval, follow the steps for visa stamping in your passport.

3. Short-Term Visit Visa for Business

  • Purpose: Ideal for business meetings, conferences, or short-term business activities.
  • Duration: Typically valid for 30 days and can be extended. This visa is typically issued for a single entry. Still, it’s possible to apply for a multiple-entry visa if the nature of the business requires frequent visits to the UAE.
  • Requirements: An invitation from a UAE-based company or registration for a business event in the UAE stating the intention of your visit to Dubai (i.e. upskilling, work conferences, etc.), as well as evidence of your business activities, such as company ownership or employment details.
  • Benefits: The application process for a short-term business visa is generally straightforward and quicker than long-term visas, facilitating easier access to Dubai for individuals to explore business opportunities, attend meetings, conferences, and networking events, or conduct negotiations and sign contracts.
  • Cost: This visa costs approximately AED 300 to AED 900, depending on the duration and whether it’s a single-entry or multiple-entry visa.
How to Apply:
  • Online Application: Apply through the UAE’s official visa-processing website or a trusted travel agent.
  • Submit Documents: Upload or provide copies of your passport, invitation letter, and other necessary documents.
  • Pay Visa Fee: Make the payment online as per the fee structure provided on the website.

4. Mission Visa

  • Purpose: Designed for temporary work assignments or projects in the UAE.
  • Duration: Valid for up to 6 months, ideal for short-term projects. The Mission Visa is primarily intended for a specific short-term project and may be limited to a single entry. However, the specifics can vary based on the individual’s situation and the nature of the project.
  • Requirements: An employment contract or official letter detailing the specific project or temporary work assignment in the UAE, with necessary approvals from the UAE Ministry of Labor, is required. Additionally, the visa must be sponsored by the UAE-based company engaging the individual for the project.
  • Benefits: Allows companies and individuals to pay for a less-expensive visa to complete necessary work in the UAE.
  • Cost: This visa typically costs around AED 500 to AED 1,000, but additional fees for processing and medical tests may apply.
How to Apply:
  1. Sponsor Application: Your UAE-based company sponsor initiates the application.
  2. Submission of Documents: Provide your passport details, mission details, and other required documents to the sponsor.
  3. Visa Processing: The sponsor completes the visa processing, including fee payment.
  4. Visa Collection: Collect the visa from the sponsor once approved.

5. Freelance Visa

  • Purpose: For independent professionals in fields like media, tech, education, and art.
  • Duration: Varies, often linked to the freelance permit from free zones.
  • Requirements: Proof of expertise and experience in the freelance field, such as media, tech, education, or art, a portfolio of past work or a history of contracts and client testimonials. In some cases, obtaining a freelance permit from a UAE free zone might also be required.
  • Benefits: Allows working independently or with multiple companies in the UAE.
  • Cost: The cost can range from AED 7,500 to AED 20,000, depending on the free zone and the specific package chosen, which may include the freelance permit and access to co-working spaces.
How to Apply:
  1. Obtain Freelance Permit: First, secure a freelance permit from a UAE free zone.
  2. Online Visa Application: Apply for the visa through the same free zone authority.
  3. Submit Documents: Include your freelance permit, passport, CV, and portfolio.
  4. Visa Issuance: Follow subsequent steps as directed by the free zone authority for visa stamping.

Image of someone stamping a business visa application form in the UAE.

What are the Benefits of Starting a Business in the UAE?

Embracing its strategic location and innovative business environment, the UAE offers unparalleled advantages for entrepreneurs and those looking to grow their businesses. From tax incentives to a diverse workforce, starting a business here opens doors to global success and opportunities.

Key Advantages Include:

  • Access to a Large and Growing Market: The UAE’s dynamic and expanding market offers diverse opportunities across various sectors.
  • Attractive Tax Incentives: Benefit from no personal income tax and advantageous corporate tax conditions, especially in free zones.
  • Strategic Geographic Location: Positioned as a gateway to the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia, the UAE offers unparalleled access to these key markets.
  • Networking Opportunities in a Pro-Business Environment: Engage with a vibrant business community, attend international trade expos, and benefit from a multitude of networking events.
  • Ease of Doing Business: The UAE government streamlines business processes with easy company registration, straightforward legal procedures, and advanced digital government services.
  • Easier Travel Between the UAE and Other Countries: Facilitate your international business operations with improved mobility.
  • Longer-Term Residency Opportunities: The promise of permanent residency, especially in dynamic cities like Dubai, provides stability and security for business owners.
  • Diverse and Multicultural Workforce: Leverage the benefits of a skilled, multilingual, and diverse workforce in the UAE.
  • High Quality of Life: Enjoy a high standard of living, world-class infrastructure, and a safe environment, which are attractive to business professionals and their families.

In recent years, the UAE government has made significant policy changes to attract more foreign investments, acknowledging the region’s appeal to expatriates. These changes include the relaxation of foreign ownership laws and the introduction of new visa types, further boosting economic growth and making the UAE an even more attractive business destination.

Image of an application for a visa

Get Your UAE Visa With Help from Virtuzone

Obtaining a Business Visa is a step toward permanent residency for many aspiring entrepreneurs in the UAE. The process of obtaining a Business Visa in the UAE may seem complex, but the team of experts at Virtuzone can help make the process seamless. We will work with you to ensure that all the necessary documentation is in order and that your application is submitted correctly.

Our Company Formation Specialists are ready to answer your questions and can provide expert advice on the best way to set up your business in the UAE.

Book a free consultation if you’d like to learn more about Business Visas, Family Visas, and the visa renewal process as it applies to your time in the UAE.

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How Do I Know Which UAE Business Visa Type to Apply for?

This will depend entirely on the nature of your stay and business activities in the UAE. For instance, if you want to enter the country for just a handful of days in Dubai or the UAE, a shorter 14-day single-entry permit could be a good option. However, if you are looking to set up your own business and have the financial means to do so, you will be best suited to the entrepreneurial visa or the golden visa.

Can I Apply for a Visa in Any Emirate?

Yes, you can apply for a Business Visa in any of the seven Emirates, including Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al-Quwain, Fujairah and Ras Al-Khaimah. The Business Visa application process is the same across all Emirates.

Can My Dubai Business Visa Be Converted into a Residency Permit?

Yes, your Dubai Business Visa can be converted into a residency permit. Whether you have a 1-month or 6-month Business Visa, both can be used for your UAE residency. The process is relatively straightforward and can be done through the Abu Dhabi or Dubai Immigration Department.

For this, you’ll need to submit a few documents, including:

  • Your Business Visa
  • Copy of your passport
  • Identifying documents such as an Emirates ID

The residency permit will allow you to stay in the UAE much longer and has a validity of three years.

Can I Sponsor Dependents with a Dubai Business Visa?

Yes, Business Visa holders can sponsor their dependents. To do so, you must abide by the rules set out by the ICA for sponsoring families in the UAE.

Then, you must provide proof of relationship (marriage or birth certificate) in order to submit an application form to the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA).

Your dependents could be:

  • A spouse (husband or wife)
  • Children under the age of 18
  • Parents over the age of 60 years old (who financially depend on you as a sponsor)
  • Unmarried brothers and sisters under the age of 18 years old (provided they are financially dependent on you as their sponsor)

How Long Does it Take to Receive My UAE Business Visa?

Each business visa application will take a different length of time to process. However, it usually takes around 5-10 working days for most visas. The time frame will vary depending on the type of visa you’re applying for and your nationality. For example, citizens of GCC countries can expect a shorter processing time than those applying from other countries.

To ensure your visa processing time isn’t extended, it is important to make sure you have completed the forms in their entirety. You can check the status of your application online or by contacting the UAE Embassy or Consulate.

Can I Submit my Visa Application online?

Yes, you can submit your Business Visa application online. If you’re applying for a 1-month visa, you’ll need to go in person to an immigration office in Abu Dhabi or Dubai.

If you’re applying for a 6-month visa, you can apply either in person or through an authorised travel agency. However, you will still need to go to the Visa application centre to submit your biometric information.

What Happens If My UAE Business Visa Application Is Declined?

If your Business Visa application is declined, you can apply again 90 days later. Make sure you meet all the requirements to have a greater chance of getting your Visa approved.

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