The United Arab Emirates welcomes the world with open arms, thanks to its new visa rules in 2023, which are designed to attract talent and investment. These sweeping changes to the visa system make it easier for tourists, professionals, and investors to enter and reside in the UAE, reflecting the country’s vision to become a leading global hub.
The UAE is setting a new benchmark for hospitality and opportunity with the introduction of visas that do not require sponsors, extended visa durations, and more inclusive family sponsorship policies. These reforms simplify the entry process and provide a more flexible and welcoming environment for those looking to work, invest, or explore the UAE’s rich cultural tapestry and economic potential.
The United Arab Emirates has introduced a comprehensive overhaul of its visa system in 2023. These changes include introducing new visa types, expanding existing categories, and extending visa durations, all designed to enhance the UAE’s appeal as a global hub for business and tourism.
One of the most significant updates is the introduction of about ten entry visas that don’t require a host or sponsor. These visas offer flexible durations and can be for single or multiple entries. They’re renewable for the same period and remain valid for 60 days from the issue date. This move simplifies the process for visitors and expatriates looking to explore opportunities in the UAE.
The job exploration visa is a game-changer for young professionals and recent graduates from the world’s top 500 universities. It allows you to seek employment in the UAE without needing a sponsor or host, provided you’re classified within the first three skill levels and hold at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent.
Entrepreneurs and investors are also catered to with the business entry visa, which facilitates exploring business and investment prospects without a sponsor. This visa is part of the UAE’s strategy to bolster its economy by attracting foreign investment.
The UAE has reintroduced the 3-month or 90-day visit visa, which can be extended within the country for an additional cost. This visa is distinct from the tourist visa, issued for 30 or 60 days, and the visit visa, issued for 90 days. A new five-year multi-entry tourist visa has also been launched, allowing self-sponsored visits for up to 90 days per entry, with the possibility of an extension for another 90 days. Applicants for this visa must show proof of a bank balance of USD 4,000 over the past six months.
Family sponsorship has become more inclusive under the new rules. Parents can now sponsor male children up to the age of 25 and disabled children indefinitely. In contrast, unmarried daughters can be sponsored without age restrictions.
For those visiting friends and relatives or on temporary work assignments, the UAE has made it possible to apply for entry permits without a sponsor or host, provided their employer sponsors them in the case of work assignments. Similarly, entry permits for study and training are available for attendees of courses or internships, with sponsorship from licensed educational institutions or government/private entities.
Humanitarian cases have not been overlooked, with residence permits now available for widowed female residents with children, parents or children of UAE citizens holding foreign passports, and spouses and children of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) state citizens with foreign passports.
A reentry permit is now available for residency visa holders who have stayed outside the UAE for more than six months, allowing them to return within 30 days of approval and maintain their residency status.
Visa extensions have become more flexible, with the UAE implementing a one-time 30-day extension for travellers on 90-day visit visas and the possibility of extending all types of tourist visas for an additional 30 days from within the country. The extension fee is set at USD 163.
The management of entry permits has been streamlined, with individuals now able to extend or terminate their permits through a personal online account. The validity of regular visas or green residency visa applications is two months. In comparison, Golden visa applications allow for six months with multiple entries. Notably, Green and Golden visa holders and their families can maintain their residence visas even if they stay outside the country for over 180 days.
Overstayers must obtain an out-pass or leave permit and pay the total overstay fines, which amount to USD 14 per day after a 10-day grace period for visiting visa holders. The fees for UAE and Dubai visas have increased. Travellers with unused visit visas must cancel them within a specified period, incurring a cost of up to USD 82.
The Golden Visa scheme has been expanded and simplified, with a 10-year validity for all types. It now includes scientists, researchers, skilled professionals, and exceptionally talented individuals. Real estate investors, startup investors, exceptional students, humanitarian pioneers, doctors, nurses, and creative professionals aged 25 and above are also eligible for the Golden Visa, which allows for the sponsorship of parents for a 10-year residency.
The Green Residence visa offers a 5-year residence option for skilled professionals, freelancers, investors, and entrepreneurs, with the added benefit of a 6-month grace period after permit cancellation or expiration. This visa is available to those without a sponsor or employer and aims to encourage investment in the UAE.
In a move towards digitalisation, the UAE has removed the requirement for residency visa stamping in passports, replacing it with the Emirates ID. Visa information changes can now be made online, and the validity of residency visas for children of Emirati women and foreign nationals has been extended from three to five years. Additionally, the Federal National Council has approved the extension of work permits from two years to three, easing financial burdens on residents.
The Golden Visa now extends eligibility to recent graduates from the top 100 universities worldwide, as recognised by the UAE Ministry of Education. Applicants must have a minimum cumulative average of 3.5 and have completed their studies within the last two years. This addition aims to attract young talent to the nation’s workforce.
The application process for the Golden Visa has been streamlined, with four channels available around the clock, including the UAEICP website or smart app, Customer Happiness Centres, and accredited typing offices. Required documents include a passport with at least six months’ validity and a coloured personal photo. The visa issuance fee is USD 95, which includes application, issuance, smart services, and ICP and electronic services fees.
If the visa is not utilised within the designated time frame, applicants can request a one-time extension of 60 days.
Golden Visa holders benefit from a range of privileges, such as the ability to sponsor family members and domestic helpers and discounts on various services. In Abu Dhabi, partnerships with entities like Imkan Properties and banks such as Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and First Abu Dhabi Bank offer reduced mortgage rates and savings account rates, respectively.
Eligible individuals from certain countries can convert their foreign driving licence in Dubai without additional lessons. Outstanding expatriate students and their families are eligible for the 10-year residency Golden Visa, with additional benefits like discounts on higher education and the Esaad card, which offers a range of privileges.
The eligibility criteria for the Golden Visa now encompass a broader spectrum of professionals and talents. Entrepreneurs with innovative projects, skilled professionals earning a significant monthly income, and students with exceptional academic records are also considered.
Individuals who have made notable contributions to humanitarian work or who have served as frontline heroes during crises are also eligible for the Golden Visa.
The UAE has introduced health insurance packages for Golden Visa holders through the National Health Insurance Company (Daman), with premiums tailored to age and chosen plan. The application process for the Golden Visa is accessible online via the ICP website or the GDRFA-Dubai app.
The Green Visa distinguishes itself by offering a self-sponsorship pathway for highly skilled individuals, investors, entrepreneurs, and top students and graduates, enabling them to reside in the UAE without being anchored to an employer. Eligible applicants can receive preliminary approval from the GDRFA in Dubai, facilitating their entry into the UAE to complete the residency formalities.
The ICP has enhanced the user experience by enabling individuals to manage their entry permits digitally through a personal account. The Green Visa now provides a five-year residency, significantly longer than the previous investor or partner visa duration.
This visa category is accessible to skilled workers, freelancers, and self-employed professionals without the need for a UAE-based sponsor. Skilled workers must possess a valid employment contract and meet the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation criteria, including a minimum salary of USD 4,100 and a bachelor’s degree. Freelancers and self-employed individuals are required to obtain a permit from the same ministry and present evidence of a bachelor’s degree or specialised diploma, along with proof of an annual income of at least USD 98,000 from self-employment over the past two years and financial solvency for their stay in the UAE. Investors or partners are required to have their investment approved and demonstrate an investment of at least USD 272,280, with the possibility of combining capital from multiple licences, subject to local authority approval.
The Green Visa enhances the benefits for family members, allowing residents to sponsor their spouses and children more conveniently. The grace period for departure following visa cancellation has been extended to six months. The age limit for sponsoring children has been increased to 25 years, with no age limit for unmarried daughters and children of determination, who will all enjoy the same residency duration as the primary visa holder.
The fees for the Green Visa are set at AED 2,280, excluding additional charges for the ID card and medical services. They may vary based on the number of dependents sponsored.
In 2023, the United Arab Emirates introduced new regulations for visa extensions, giving you updated guidelines for extending your stay within the nation. These changes are significant if you’re looking to prolong your visit or manage your residency status more flexibly.
The UAE now allows visa extensions for 30 days, which is especially beneficial if you hope to enjoy the country’s attractions for longer. You can apply online to extend a visa, simplifying the process and saving time.
There’s a cap on the duration of stay in the UAE, set at a maximum of 120 days within a year. This means that no matter how many extensions you might apply for, your cumulative stay can stay within this 120-day limit. It’s important to plan your extensions carefully to avoid any complications with your travel or residency status.
If you’re holding a 90-day visa, you also have the option of an additional 90-day extension, effectively doubling the initial permitted duration of your stay. This extension is a significant change that offers more flexibility for longer-term visitors.
Introducing personal online accounts has made extending, or cancelling entry permits more convenient. This digital approach allows for more efficient management of your visa status. In the event of visa cancellation, the processing time is typically up to 48 hours, which is quite swift.
The cost of extending a visit visa in the UAE is around AED 1100, which you’ll need to consider when planning an extended stay. It’s also good to know that all categories of tourist visas are eligible for an additional 30-day extension.
In Dubai, the GDRFA is the go-to authority for visa extensions. The main GDRFA office is in Al Jafiliya, Dubai. Plus, there are Amer Centers, service centres located in various malls and other convenient spots around the city, offering a range of government services, including visa-related ones.
You can also process some types of visa extensions online through the GDRFA website or a UAE government portal, providing an alternative to in-person applications.
One of the key advantages of extending your visa is avoiding overstay fines, which can be quite hefty, at 50 AED for each day of overstaying. Moreover, if your tourist visa has expired and you’re still in the country, an extra charge of 100 AED is tacked on when exiting at the border crossing point.
To figure out how much you owe in overstay fines, you can use two online methods: the official GDRFA website and the ICP website. These tools can help you calculate any fines due and avoid surprises when it’s time to leave.
The UAE has also reintroduced the 90-day visit visa, which you can now extend in-country for an extra fee. This provides additional convenience for those needing more time to explore the UAE or conduct short-term business activities.
Parents can now sponsor male children up to 25 and disabled children indefinitely with a special permit. Unmarried daughters can be sponsored with no age limit, reinforcing the UAE’s commitment to family unity.
If you’re visiting friends and relatives, you can now apply for an entry permit without needing a sponsor or host. Plus, if you’re on a temporary work assignment, you can get a temporary work mission entry permit as long as your employer sponsors you.
The entry permit for study and training is ideal if you’re looking to attend training, study courses, or internships sponsored by licensed entities in the UAE. This facilitates access to educational and professional development opportunities within the country.
For residency visa holders who’ve been outside the UAE for more than six months, there’s a reentry permit to prevent their residency status from being cancelled. This is particularly beneficial for those who need to be abroad for extended periods.
In a step towards digitalisation, you can now manage your entry permits through a personal online account, streamlining the process of extending or cancelling your permits.
However, if you overstay your visa, you’ll need to obtain an out-pass or leave permit before leaving the UAE and settle overstay fines, with a grace period provided for visit visa holders.
The fees for UAE and Dubai visas, including tourist visas, have increased. If you have an unused visit visa, it must be cancelled within a certain time frame, and a fee will be incurred.
For residency visa applicants, it’s important to note that you cannot travel outside the UAE. In contrast, your residency visa is being processed, and a minimum of 6 months of passport validity is required.
The Golden Visa now includes a wider range of eligible individuals, such as those in certain categories who may qualify based on talent alone, without the need for specific qualifications, salary, or professional status.
The Green Visa, offering a 5-year stay, is available for skilled employees, freelancers, self-employed individuals, and investors or partners without the necessity of a UAE-based sponsor or employer.
In an administrative update, the UAE government has transitioned to using the Emirates ID as the primary document for residency, eliminating the need for residency visa stamping in passports. This move streamlines the residency process and reduces paperwork. Changes to visa information can now be handled online, and the validity of residency visas for children of Emirati women and foreign nationals has been increased.
Lastly, the FNC has approved the extension of work permits, enhancing job stability for expatriate workers.
The sweeping changes to the UAE’s visa rules in 2023 represent a strategic pivot towards inclusivity, simplification, and digitalisation. These updated regulations demonstrate the nation’s commitment to fostering a welcoming environment for tourists, expatriates, and investors alike. With a particular focus on attracting global talent, supporting family cohesion, and facilitating business ventures, the UAE continues to cement its position as a leading cosmopolitan nexus.
As you navigate these new visa pathways, embrace the opportunities and convenience they present, whether you’re a career trailblazer, a young academic achiever, or part of the growing expatriate community. The UAE’s visa transformation is a testament to its forward-thinking ethos, ensuring your experiences in the Emirates are as seamless as they are enriching.