The UAE has begun issuing five-year multi-entry visas for tourists in a move set to encourage longer and more frequent stays in the country.
It allows visitors to enter several times over a calendar year or stay for 90 days at a stretch and extend it for another 90 days.
The scheme will be a boost for those with families based outside of the country and is also set to be a crucial tool for businesses aiming to bring employees in and out of the country for conferences and other events.
“It will help relatives travel back and forth and will also attract a lot more tourists without any connection to the UAE so there will be more footfall,” said Haider Hussain, partner at Fragomen, an immigration services firm.
“Traditionally people would be coming in for short term travel of 30 or 90 days from India, Pakistan or other countries who need visas to come to the UAE.
“Now more and more individuals who are eligible will apply for this five-year visa and will be able to travel to Dubai and the UAE as and when they wish.”
It allows tourists who are in the country the option of extending their stay for another 90 days.
“This will enhance travel into UAE and make life easier for residents and their extended family members,” he said.
“People can stay for six months at one go if they want to."
More details on how visitors can stay for longer from September were released this week as part of a series of visa changes announced by the UAE Cabinet.
The five-year tourist visa scheme was announced in March 2021 during a Cabinet session, with the first visas issued soon after.
“It’s a relatively quick process and we have had a few visas issued,” Mr Hussain said.
“Generally a week’s timeline is what we are seeing in terms of approval coming through.”
The entry permit works as a self-sponsored visa as individuals can apply for it themselves directly online and do not need to apply via a travel agency, hotel or relative in the UAE.
The approval process is quick as long as the required paper work is submitted.
Here are the details and process explained:
Who is eligible for the five-year tourist visas? What is the criteria?
The five-year multi-entry tourist visa is available to citizens of all countries. To be eligible, the visitor must provide a passport with six-month validity at the time of submission, a passport size photograph, medical insurance valid for the UAE and a bank statement of the last six months with a minimum balance of $4,000 or equivalent in another currency.
“The six-month bank statement showing that the balance has never gone below $4,000 is key to even be considered,” Mr Hussain said.
“That is the main requirement that needs to be fulfilled, the other requirements are pretty standard. Applications go through scrutiny and extensive review because it is a five-year multiple entry visa.”
How do you apply?
Applications can be made online via the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Ports Security website.
Applicants who want to obtain the visa from within the country can approach accredited typing centres.
The ICA has posted information on how to apply.
Log on to the ICA website, select smart channels, the visa service, fill in the data, add the attachments required.
Visitors and residents can log in https://smartservices.icp.gov.ae/ to apply.
The application process in Dubai can be done by multinational companies for employees who travel frequently for international business.
How much does it cost?
The multiple entry five-year visa costs Dh650 plus a service fee of Dh50.
Can I extend my visa when I’m still in the UAE?
The initial visa is issued with a 90-day duration of stay in the UAE in a year from the date of first entry. This can be extended once for an additional 90-day period. The maximum permitted duration of stay under this visa cannot exceed 180 days in a year.
Which authority do I approach to issue the visa?
This is a self-sponsored visa foreign nationals can apply for as long as they meet the eligibility conditions. In Dubai, companies can also issue this visa for international employees once the company registers with Dubai Tourism via their website. An authorised typing centre, a government service centre can help a person apply for it to ensure the eligibility criteria is met and the application is successful. Individuals can apply for it on their own.
How can companies get a five-year visa for international staff?
Dubai introduced a five-year multi-entry visa for employees of international companies based in the emirate to simplify the application and provide easy access to the city for global visitors.
Companies need to register with Dubai tourism, open a file for the firm and then start filing for their employees instead of through a tourist agency. The employees will get the same five-year multi-entry visit visa but it will be via the company. This is open to those companies who have been approved.
What are the other tourist visa options?
A 30 or 90-day single entry tourist visa can be issued by a UAE registered tourist agency that cost between Dh300 to Dh600. The UAE will allow visitors to enter and stay for 60 days as standard from September. This decision was recently approved by the Cabinet.
If a tourist over stays what is the grace period?
The grace period to exit without incurring any overstay fines is 10 days from the date of expiry of the tourist visa.
What is the fine per day for lapsed tourist visas?
Overstaying the permitted stay in the UAE under a tourist visa attracts a fine of Dh100 each day of overstay.
There is an additional fee for an exit permit that must be paid on departure by visitors who overstay.
#This story was first published in November 2021 and has been updated to reflect new visa legislation