Certain categories of UAE residence visa holders can enter the country even if they have lived overseas for more than six months.
Updated guidelines for golden and investor visas allow for some exemptions to the rule that UAE residents must return to the Emirates within the stipulated period for their visas to remain valid.
During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, people with visas that had lapsed were permitted to enter the UAE as global travel restrictions and lockdowns to slow the spread of Covid-19 prevented residents from reaching the country in time.
The rules were gradually brought back into force in mid-2021, with residents with lapsed visas needing to reapply to regularise their status.
Immigration regulations approved by the cabinet aim to make it more attractive for skilled professionals and families of the brightest students to settle down in the Emirates and make the UAE their home.
The National spoke to Haider Hussain, partner at Fragomen, an immigration services company, to pinpoint the categories of residency visas that stand to benefit.
Why is the six-month rule in place?
“It is important for people to be aware of the six-month rule and plan accordingly,” he said.
“They also need to understand the basis of the rule and why authorities have put it in place.
"For individuals on an employment residence permit with accompanying dependents, the expectation is that they will stay in the UAE.
"If they are outside for six months, this is quite a significant period and then that brings into question of whether they are real residents.”
The exemptions are part of enhanced benefits for golden visa holders and investors.
Here are the details of who is exempt from the rule to return to the UAE within six months.
When did entry extension end?
UAE residence permit holders who remain outside the UAE for six consecutive months will not be able to re-enter on their existing residence permit as this would become inactive.
During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, UAE residents stuck outside the country were allowed to enter even if their residency visas crossed the six-month period as an exceptional measure to support those affected by various international travel restrictions.
Authorities did not announce a rollback date of that exemption, but rules were re-enforced from the middle of last year.
Any exceptions to this rule?
Generally allowances are not made.
But in case a person has a genuine reason, such as medical causes or border closures due to which they were unable to re-enter the UAE in time, an official letter can be submitted to immigration authorities.
Will golden visas remain valid?
As per regulations, 10-year golden visa holders can stay outside the UAE for more than six months without any change to their residence permit status.
This extends to family members they have sponsored, who received 10-year residence permits.
To which other visa categories does this apply?
Some residents can remain outside the UAE for more than six months and their status will remain unchanged as per a 2014 government decision.
- Investors with residence permits under an approved classification, government employees sent abroad for medical reasons or on assignment
- A foreign national wife of an Emirati citizen sponsored by her husband
- Domestic helpers accompanying Emirati citizens
- People sponsored by the diplomatic or consular representative of the UAE
- Foreign national students enrolled with a university or institute abroad. This applies to Dubai
Does this cover students in universities overseas?
Foreign students studying abroad at a university or institute will be allowed to enter the UAE even after six months of overseas stay, as long as they hold a Dubai-issued residence permit and their port of entry is Dubai.
Students need to provide proof at immigration, such as a valid student identity card or university enrolment letter.
For other emirates, students must check the status of their residence permit on the ICA portal before travelling.
The status can be checked at this online government channel.
What is the procedure for students in other emirates?
For other emirates, a request must be completed to authorities for the visa of dependent students to be revalidated.
“In Dubai, it’s largely a streamlined process where they can re-enter,” Mr Hussain said.
“In any other emirate other than Dubai, we have had cases in the past few months where visas were inactive and we needed to prepare a letter to request that it be made active and it is done.
“That is why it is important families should check the validity of a student’s permit.”