United Arab Emirates


Who needs a visa?

Nationals from the following countries may travel to the UAE visa free:

Bahrain             Kuwait              Oman               Qatar                Saudi Arabia

Residents of the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) who have held residence in the GCC for at least 180 days and of a certain category, may receive a Visa on arrival for a period of stay up to 30 days.  Restrictions do apply.  There are also many other countries whose citizens may obtain a visa on arrival.

Visas on arrival are generally issued for the purposes of tourism or business.

Business Visa

Business visitors are generally restricted to attending business meetings, exhibitions, conferences and seminars:

In some cases, it is possible for a foreign national to convert from visitor status to a Work Permit without having to leave the UAE.

Type of Visa

Those nationals wishing to travel to the UAE on business and who require a visa prior to entry will need to apply for the appropriate Visit Visa.

Visit Visas can be issued either on paper or electronically.  Other factors relating to the appropriate type of Visitor Visa will be determined by the location of the sponsoring company. For example, those that are free zone companies or companies registered with the Ministry of Labour and those outside of the free zone.

Electronic Visit Visas can only be issued to travellers entering the UAE via Dubai International Airport.

Application Process

Nationals, who need to obtain a visa prior to their arrival in the UAE, must do so with support of the host company whom they are visiting in the UAE. The host company will need to apply for the appropriate visa via the appropriate immigration authority in the UAE.

Processing time

Depending upon the type of Visitor Visa and location of the host company, processing can be within 1 to 7 working days.


The following can be requested:

  • Single Entry Short Term Visit Visa for a stay of up to 30 days.
  • Single Entry Long Term Visit Visa for a stay of up to 90 days.
  • Multiple Entry Visit Visa for a stay of up to 180 days.


Work Authorisation

There are several visa categories associated with work authorisation, the choice of which is dependent upon individual circumstances and the sponsoring company in the UAE.

Type of Visa

The most common type of visa is the Employment Entry Permit (EEP).

Application Process

In applying for an Employment Entry Permit, the following generally applies:

  • An application for an Employment Entry Permit (EEP) will need to be submitted to the appropriate UAE authority and in the zone in which the company is located.
  • Once the EEP has been issued, quite often an approval letter is generated that the employee will need to be in possession of upon arrival into the UAE.
  • Once the employee has entered the UAE, he or she must undergo a medical examination.
  • After the medical has been completed and the results obtained, the employee will need to apply for a Residence Permit.
  • Once the Residence Permit has been awarded, a Labour Card or a Smart Card will also need to be applied for.
  • Finally, an Emirates ID card should also be applied for.


The above process applies to Employment Entry Permits for sponsoring companies registered in a free zone.

Processing time

Employment Permit applications are generally processed within the following time frame:

Employment Entry Permit                                                                       1 to 7 working days

Medical                                                                                                 1 to 5 working days

Residence Permit                                                                                  1 to 10 working days

Labour Card/Smart Card issued in parallel with the residence permit           1 to 10 working days

Emirates ID card                                                                                    10 working days

The above process applies to Employment Entry Permits for sponsoring companies registered in a free zone.


Employment Entry Permits are generally valid for 60 days.  The Residence Permit and Labour Card/Smart Card are normally valid for 1 year.

The above process applies to Employment Entry Permits for sponsoring companies registered in a free zone.


The immigration status of a dependant is reliant on the type of permit and the status of the foreign worker.  Dependents are not granted authorisation to work.  They all require Work Authorisation

It is only after the principal applicant has applied for their Residence Permit that the immigration process for a dependant can begin.

Penalties for Non-Compliance


Should an UAE employer of a foreign nationals be found to be in breach of their obligations under immigration law, or should a foreign national employee be found to be in breach of immigration law, the employer can be fined.

Possible violations include failure to obtain and retain required documentation, discrepancies between the employment stated in the Employment Entry Permit and Residence Permit application and the actual role being undertaken by the foreign national employee in the UAE, as well as failure to obtain a valid Work Permit.


A foreign national employee found in breach of UAE immigration law may receive a deportation order, fines and possible imprisonment.

Points to Note

  • An Employment Permit applicant will need to show proof of relevant job specific educational qualifications.
  • Pre-approval to sponsor a foreign employee is required.
  • Several original and official documents are required to be gathered by the sponsoring or host company in the UAE.
  • Many personal certificates will need to be certified and notarised and further legalised for use in the UAE.  Those not in English, or Arabic, will need to be translated accordingly.
  • Processing times and application requirements do vary depending upon the Emirate and the zone in which the sponsoring company is located.
  • The employee will be required to undergo a medical.
  • Should the sponsoring company in the UAE have or employ a Public Relations Officer (PRO) then the authorised PRO of the company will be required to submit work permit applications for that company.


The contents of this article are for information purposes only.  The information and opinions expressed in this document do not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for legal advice or a comprehensive statement of law or current practice.  Immigration rules and requirements frequently change without notice.  You should not rely upon the contents of this document but instead should seek appropriate professional and legal advice in the light of your personal circumstances.  No liability is accepted for the opinions contained or for any errors or commissions. Please contact our Global Immigration Team for further information.