How to Obtain a UAE Residence Visa

types of residence visa in uae

Are you interested in acquiring a residence visa in the UAE? Just like with any move to a new country, you have to ensure that the legal status you obtain lets you meet your goals. As not all visas are created equal, we’ll go through the types of available permits and what you need to know for a UAE residence visa application. 


What’s the difference between a residence visa and employment visa in the UAE?

If you are relocating to the UAE for work, the immigration process begins with a work permit application to enter the country from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE). In the context of the Emirati immigration system, this would be an entry permit that you use to arrive in the Emirates that your company must procure for you. This work permit is valid for two months from its issue date, and once in the UAE, you would work towards converting this work permit/entry visa into your residence visa

If you are seeking to work in the UAE, your employer must sponsor you and bear the costs of the procedures. There is no such scheme as an independent employment visa, and should you see this language, please note that it is fraudulent. We’ll go into greater detail about the steps involved in cementing your UAE residence visa later on. 


Types of residence visa schemes in the UAE

In a previous article, we discussed the various residence visas that are available to a foreigner looking to settle in the UAE. They are:

  • Work Visa for either working at a UAE-based firm or the Emirati government
  • Investor Visa for those looking to invest either in a business or property in the UAE
  • Student Visa for those going to study at a university in the UAE
  • Family Visa for family members of residents or UAE nationals


UAE residence visa rules and regulations

Who needs a visa to live in the UAE? All countries, except Emirati nationals or citizens of GCC countries, will require the appropriate residence permit. In contrast to other countries where you apply for a residence visa from outside the country you are looking to settle in (such as the EB-5 visa in the United States), you can only finalise the residence visa process within Emirati territory. Remember, applying for your initial entry permit is different than obtaining a residence permit. 

If you are in the UAE on a tourist visa, and you receive a job offer while on holiday, you can apply for a work permit by exiting Emirati territory. You needn’t go back to your home country, and some airlines have a Dubai-Oman-Dubai flight option should you need to make a quick visa run. Your employer could also go through a “Changed Status” process that will allow you to remain in the Emirates through the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigner Affairs (GFDRA) in the emirate where the company is domiciled. 

If you own a property in Dubai that is worth more than 1 million dirhams, you can apply for a two-year residence permit. Please note that the Investor Visa does not grant you a work permit. You cannot be outside of the UAE for more than six months. Otherwise, your visa will be rendered invalid. 

If you are establishing a business in the UAE and not receiving sponsorship from an employer, don’t fret. You can obtain a work permit, and then residence, through establishing the entity. Whether you are looking to incorporate in a Free Zone or the UAE Mainland, our team at Europe Emirates Group can assist you in this process. 


The UAE residence visa application

Your first step is to apply for your entry permit, regardless of whether you’re looking for an investor visa or a work visa. There may be some extra documents that are required for your work visa, or you are a physician or a teacher, for example, but your employer must make you aware of those documents. If the job offer requires specific educational qualifications, such as a Bachelor’s degree, you will have to supply a legalised copy of the document from your country’s foreign ministry. For those countries that are signees of the Apostille of the Hague, that would require you to get your degree Apostilled. In the case of the United Kingdom, all qualifications from GCSEs to PhDs can get Apostilled. However, every country has differing procedures for obtaining it. You will also have to submit a copy of your passport that has at least six months’ validity and a colour photograph with a white background. 

Once you have arrived in the UAE, you then move ahead to obtain your residence permit. The process includes a medical exam as part of the employment process. Every time you renew your residence visa, you will have to undergo a new medical review. When relocating to the UAE for work, you will need to apply for a Labour Card, as well as an Emirates ID that will serve as your mandatory form of identification for a variety of bureaucratic and immigration procedures. These documents are crucial for starting your life in the UAE, from obtaining a driver’s licence to your bank account and PO box as they are your proof of residency. The Emirates ID links to your visa and passport automatically.  

Male expatriates, once they complete their visa process, can bring over their immediate family as long as they earn a minimum wage of either 4,000 AED or 3,000 AED plus accommodation. Before March 2019, the type of job was also part of the dependent visa eligibility criteria, but they no longer consider that. They have 60 days to complete the process once their family enters the UAE. If you are in a family where the father can sponsor the family, the mother cannot carry out the sponsorship process. As for women, the sponsorship criteria is more stringent, and the procedures are different depending on the Emirate. In Dubai, women must obtain special permission from the GFDRA and earn a monthly wage of at least 10,000 AED; however, single mothers can sponsor their children

How can you obtain permanent residency? Most residence permits in the UAE are valid for either one, two or three years, depending on your situation. However, the Gold Card category offers 10-year, automatically renewable residency permits to investors in public-sector projects that involve an investment of at least 10,000,000 AED or new company formation or for specialised talents in medicine, art, science, engineering and more with a valid work contract. This scheme of visas created in 2019 and also has a five-year visa scheme. Beyond these long-term categories, most have to work with the general work visa renewal periods and meet the indicated criteria. 


Are you ready to get your UAE residence permit number?

If you’re interested in any part of the residence visa process in the UAE, opening a non-resident or resident bank account, or obtaining a visa through starting a business in the Emirates, we’re here to help. We highly encourage you to reach out to our team of residency experts can guide you through your needs. Contact us today. 


Written by
Adrian Oton
Adrian Oton
CEO, Europe Emirates Group



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