UAE Residence Visa
Except for UAE and GCC national citizens, other nationalities must obtain a UAE residence visa to legally live in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, 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.
Generally the application process for a residence visa involves the following steps.
- Sponsor applies for an entry permit, if applicable (employment visa for employee, relative visit visa for relative, etc). For nationals of countries which get a free visit visa on arrival, this step is often omitted but be aware if working that it is illegal without an employment entry visa, or a work permit.
- After entry, the residence visa applicant needs to go to a government hospital or medical clinic for a health check. The medical check is a blood test and chest X-ray for HIV (AIDS), Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Tuberculosis (TB), Leprosy, and Syphilis. If results come back positive for any of those conditions, the person is deported, except for syphilis which is treated. TB cases are quarantined first then deported. There are various reports saying Hepatitis B and/or C cases are definitely deported, might be deported, might not be deported, and so on. Assume the worst unless you can find out otherwise from the UAE immigration department or UAE Ministry of Health (and keep in mind it’s possible to get conflicting reports from them).
- Expat or sponsor’s PRO goes back to residency department with passport, medical test results, salary certificate if requried, tenancy agreement if required, documents verifying relationship between sponsor and sponsee (if that’s a word) for example marriage certificate for spouse. Any certificates should be notarised, attested, and rolled up with a nice ribbon around them.
- At the residency department, find the typing office first, they will have an application form and collect the fees. Then follow their instructions. It sometimes looks like a bit of a mess but just bring a magazine to read, and a bottle of water, and it will work out eventually.
- Come back in a few days to collect your passport with a nice new resident’s visa stamped in it. Or your PRO will do that and hand it back to you at the office. Or if you’re one of the 50% (reportedly in November 2009) whose passports are kept by employers and/or sponsors, complain to them, the labour department, the immigration department, and/or your consulate/embassy. Unless you’re happy for your employer to keep your passport. It’s illegal according to numerous reports but nothing will ever be done about it unless people keep complaining.
UAE residence visa fees, costs and charges
All figures are approximate, check with the Residency and Immigration department for up-to-date official information.
- A deposit of AED 5000 (usually) per person is required by the sponsor for each person’s residence visa.
- Actual cost of the visa itself is relatively inexpensive. Allow 120 dhs for a 1 year visa, and 360 dirhams for a 3 year visa.
- Add 100 dhs per visa for urgent processing
- Allow 200-300 for medical tests.