All nationalities except for UAE and GCC nationals need to obtain a UAE residence visa to legally live in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and other emirates. For many expats, the company that employs them will sponsor them for a UAE residence visa, along with a labour card or work permit. But not always. A residence visa is required to open a bank account, obtain a driving licence, register a car, apply for a PO Box, and so on. There are several ways in which a residence visa can be obtained.
List of types of Dubai and UAE residence visas
- Employee residence visa UAE – what most expats are familiar with. Your employer should take care of all the paperwork although you will need to make a trip to a hospital or health clinic for a medical test.
- Family residence visa UAE – sponsor your husband or wife, and children.
- Investor residence visa UAE – a potentially cheap option for those who haven’t got a job or a property but want to live in Dubai. Invest AED 70,000 with a UAE company, pay AED 300 for the visa, and you’re good for the next 3 years. Except we don’t know anyone who’s got one.
- Maid residence visa UAE – sponsoring a maid
- Property residence visa UAE – a 3 year visa was part of the marketing for Dubai property sales to foreigners, and some visas were issued, but then issuing of visas under this scheme was suspended in 2007 or 2008, and in 2009 an inadequate replacement in the form of a 6 month multiple entry UAE visit visa was offered instead.
- Relative residence visa UAE – sponsor your parents, parents-in-law, brother or sister. Not automatic, special application needs to be made.
- Student residence visa UAE – full-time tertiary level students at UAE colleges and universities can get UAE residence visas, usually renewable annually. Secondary and primary level students will normally be under the sponsorship of one of their parents.
Expiry and cancellation of UAE residence visa
- Expiry is when your residence visa becomes invalid (note that expiry is NOT the same as cancellation – residence visas are NOT automatically cancelled when they expire, but they do become invalid). This happens after the expiry date (usually 3 years after it was issued, sometimes 1 year), or if you are outside the UAE for 180 days or 6 months (assume 180 days to be safe). Expiry does not mean your residence visa is cancelled, as some expats have found out when attempting to re-enter the UAE on a visit visa and failing because a previous residence visa wasn’t cancelled.
- Cancellation of your residence visa is an active process which needs to be done even if the visa has expired. Otherwise a new visa, whether residence or visit, cannot be issued. Usually your company or sponsor will take care of this for you. If not, then go to the UAE Immigration Department where the visa was issued, with your passport, and present it for cancellation. Allow AED 500 for fees and typing and you should get a couple of hundred dirhams in change. If you are overseas, then cancellation can still be done but your sponsor needs to go to the residency department on your behalf with at least a copy of your passport, and possibly the original.
Exceptions to the expiry-if-outside-the-UAE-for-6-months rule
There are some exceptions to the 6 month outside-the-uae rule according to the same report.
- Foreign wife of an Emirati citizen if she is on his sponsorship (unknown if that also applies to foreign wives of GCC citizens, or foreign husband of Emirati nationals).
- Domestic helpers accompanying an Emirati national who is studying abroad, or having medical treatment abroad.
- Expatriates going abroad for medical treatment as long as they are sent by a UAE government department, or work for a UAE government department. A medical report approved by the UAE Ministry of Health, or the Medical Services of the UAE Armed Forces or UAE Police must be provided.
- Employees of, and domestic helpers accompanying employees of diplomatic and consular missions in the UAE.
- Expats employed in the UAE Public Sector who are based outside the UAE as part of their job, or sent overseas on training courses.
- Expat students based in the UAE but studying overseas as part of their course.
Residence visa minimum salaries and other requirements
- Minimum salary requirements for sponsoring children, spouse, first degree relatives range from AED 3000 to AED 10,000 as of July 2009.
- Some sponsorship arrangements require minimum apartment or villa sizes, or number of bedrooms. Also detailed separately.
In all cases, it would be sensible to contact the relevant UAE immigration authority before returning to the UAE to avoid getting stuck when re-entering the country.
Note: Visa rules, requirements and rates mentioned in this website can and do change suddenly, and without a warning. Information here may not be complete or accurate. We recommend to check always the UAE embassy in your country or the relevant authority in the UAE.