It is a strict system designed to ensure everyone has a job, no criminal background and healthcare paid for by their employer.
But the UAE's visa mechanism is not without compassion, including when it comes to dealing with families in exceptional situations.
Brigadier Ali bin Ajaif Al Zaabi, legal counsel at the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, said in rare cases allow "a person can be sponsored by their friend until they adjust their situation".
He was speaking as the department implemented a 'smart' system to make visa interactions easier.
He gave the example of a woman whose husband died, and left she and her children in legal limbo.
“The residency visas of the Arab woman and her two children should have been cancelled in this case," he said.
"The father was the sole breadwinner and the children were still in school. I and other members of the committee tried to find a solution for them.
“We contacted the woman and asked her if she has any relatives or family friends who will be able to sponsor her and the children.
"A meeting was held with a family friend who agreed to sponsor the family."
That allowed the family to continue to live in the UAE until she found a job that would sponsor her or or other arrangements.
“This case is not the only one. However, such exemptions are given only in exceptional circumstances,” he said.
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Among the other common problems dealt with, he said, is employers withholding an employee's passport - which is against the law across the emirates, regardless of job title or salary.
The department's job is to find a solution, and if one cannot be found, the case can end in court.
“We gather both parties involved in the dispute and try to come up with a solution. If not, some issues, including passport retention by employers, is referred to public prosecutors,” said Brigadier Al Zaabi.
In the event of redundancy, some UAE residents refuse to hand over their passport for their visa to be cancelled.
“We've seen a woman refuse to hand over her passport to her husband for visa cancellation, after her husband left his job. We reach out to them, explain the process, and inform them that there can be consequences to not handing over the passport for visa cancellation."
He urged any resident with a visa or immigration issue to ask for help early on, before fines or legal troubles arise.
“People can ask any question through this application, including if they are going through a crisis. They should not worry about reaching out to us," he said.