This post contains information on how to get a UAE visa if you’re traveling as a tourist, visiting a friend or family, or transiting on your way to another destination. If you’re flying to Dubai, Abu Dhabi or any of the other emirates for work or any purpose other than leisure, this guide won’t be of help.
One of the highlights of last year for me was my short stop in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). I was there for two reasons: to visit one of my closest friends, who moved to Dubai a few years ago, and to take advantage of a stopover. I was coming from a longer trip around Morocco and Turkey, and my flight back to Manila (Philippines) was connecting at Dubai Airport, so I decided to just seize the opportunity and stay there for over a week.
UAE Visa is probably the easiest visa we got. It was expensive, but it was relatively effortless, especially given that we have a friend in Dubai, who served as a sponsor.
Yep, sponsor. If you’re applying for a UAE Visa, you need a sponsor. It can be a family member, a colleague, or a friend. This will make things a lot easier. If you don’t know anyone there, an airline, hotel, or travel agency can sponsor you.
In the beginning, we had a difficult time figuring out the process. There’s just so much info online and they somewhat say different things because they serve their own interest. For example, some UAE-based airlines also offer visa services but they require flight tickets booked with them. Dozens of hotels are also authorized to process visas, but many of them require that book rooms with them (for obvious reasons). In this post, I’ll try to summarize everything so you have all possible options.
WHAT'S COVERED IN THIS GUIDE?
Who needs a UAE Visa?
Since I am a Philippine passport-holder, I had to secure a visa first before entering UAE. Not everyone needs a visa, though.
- If you’re a citizen of any member-state of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), no visa is needed. Here are the six GCC members: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar*. I’m putting an asterisk on Qatar because although it is a member, its diplomatic ties with UAE and other members have been severed in a rift that began in June 2017.
- Visa-on-arrival is available free-of-charge for the citizens of the following countries:
EUROPE: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, Sweden, UK, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Hungary, Latvia, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Finland, Spain, Monaco, Vatican, Iceland, Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Malta, Cyprus, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria,
ASIA: Brunei, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore
OTHERS: United States, Australia, New Zealand
For the rest of us, a visa is required.
Note that this doesn’t get affixed to your passport. A regular 30-day tourist visa must be used within 60 days from the date of issuance.
Types of UAE Visa
Travelers visiting the UAE for leisure has three visa types to choose from depending on your purpose and travel duration.
- Visit Visa, if you’re traveling to UAE to visit an immediate family member who is a resident of the UAE (sponsor). The family member must be earning more than AED 4000 or AED 3000 + accommodation. The sponsor should be the one to apply for you.
- Tourist Visa, if you’re visiting a distant relative or friend or if you don’t know anyone there. The regular single-entry visa can let you stay for up to 30 days, although a multiple-entry visa is also available. If you know someone in UAE, it would be faster and easier if they apply for you. But if you have no connections, you can get a visa via an airline, hotel, or travel agency. (More info about that below)
- Transit visa, if you’re visiting UAE for at least 8 hours but not longer than 4 days (including the arrival and departure days). This can also be pre-arranged. This visa can be used within 14 days from the issue date.
Here’s a quick summary of the validity, maximum number of days allowed, and costs per visa type. I’m also indicating a range of prices per type. Rates vary greatly, depending on where you apply.
None of these visas can be extended.
Important: In a memo released on June 2, 2017, Dubai’s Immigration has ordered agencies to stop accepting applications for 90-day visit visas from Filipino and Pakistani citizens for the next 3 months. Not sure if this will be restored in the future but until further notice, this option is no longer available for travelers from the Philippines and Pakistan.
UAE Visa requirements
The following are the required documents when applying for a UAE visa. These are the basic requirements.
Your sponsor may add more. For example, if you book your visa via Etihad Airways, they will ask for Etihad flight tickets. If you book with a hotel, they can demand that you reserve a room with them. Travel agencies often don’t have these extra reqs, but as I scanned prices, I found theirs to be a bit more expensive. Some agencies ask for flight and reservations too, some don’t. The agency where we applied didn’t ask for these so we didn’t submit.
Anyway, here are the required documents when applying for a UAE (Dubai) visa:
- Clear scanned passport copy (the bio page and the last page). Must have at least 6 months validity.
- Scanned colored passport-size photo. 4.3 x 5.5cm. White background. At least 80% of your face must be visible.
- Accomplished application form. It is usually the sponsor (travel agency, host) who does this.
- Visa fee
If you’re sponsored by someone in the UAE, they will also be asked for a copy of their Resident Visa and their Emirates ID (resident card).
If you’re a parent traveling with a minor (18 years old and below), you must also submit a copy of birth certificate of the minor
If applying for a transit visa, a hotel reservation and onward flight ticket are usually collected too.
Search for Dubai Hotels
Additional requirements if visiting immediate family (visit visa):
- If sponsored by a wife or husband: marriage contract attested from Ministry of Foreign Affairs or UAE Embassy
- If you’re a minor getting sponsored by a parent in UAE, attested birth certificates
- If your relationship with sponsor cannot be proven from family names displayed on the sponsor’s and the invited relative’s passports: Relationship proof attested from the Embassy
- If your sponsor works for a private company: Attested work contract
- If your sponsor is a UAE government employee: a salary certificate
The following documents are NOT required. These are often ignored, but the travel agency or sponsor may ask for in order to speed up processing of your visa.
- If you have traveled to UAE within the past year, a copy of the entry and exit stamps on your passport
- If you have traveled to the USA, UK, Schengen countries, Canada, Russia, Australia or New Zealand within the past 5 years, submit a copy of your visas.
Where to submit your application?
Once you have all the documents, it’s time to find a “sponsor”.
Like I said earlier, a sponsor can be a family member or a friend living in UAE. It will be much faster if they take care of the application. Just send them your papers. But if you don’t know anyone there, an airline, hotel, or travel agency in UAE can serve as your sponsor.
Most 3-star hotels (and up) are able to process UAE visas. So if you’re already eyeing a hotel, send them an email if they also offer visa services because there’s a big chance that they do.
You may also check their official website. For example, Jumeira Group — which owns and runs the Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel, Madinat Jumeirah, Jumeirah Living World Trade Centre Residence, Jumeirah Creekside Hotel — provides plenty of visa info on their website. If you would be staying at any of them, you may apply here.
In our case, my friend in Dubai who took care of our application went to a travel agency and it went smoothly. We didn’t run into any problem. You can also avail of their services if you don’t know anyone. Here are the details of the agency that processed our application:
WELCOME TRAVELS LLC
Tel No. : 00971-4224-3902
Address: Al Ghurair Mall (Opposite Rayhaan Rotana Hotel), Deira, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
That’s it! We got our visa after only 1 day. 😍
If you’re a Filipino, UAE is a destination that usually raises a red flag for Philippine Immigration officers. If you’re concerned about getting offloaded, please read this post: How to Avoid Getting offloaded.