Coronavirus: UAE officials clarify travel and testing rules for this summer

Permission to leave for holidays, and swab tests before departure, are no longer required

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People living in the UAE who travel abroad this summer do not need approval or to be tested before they leave the country, an immigration official said.

While permission is required to return to the country, it is not necessary to apply before departure.

The country's federal authorities sought to clarify the process after travel restrictions were recently eased and as airlines reopen more routes.

Brig Gen Khamis Al Kaabi, spokesman for the Identity and Citizenship Authority, explained to Abu Dhabi's Emarat TV the rules for UAE residents travelling abroad, and for those trying to return.

The measures outlined below do not apply to Dubai, which has its own crisis authority and immigration service, but Dubai does not require travellers to get tested for Covid before they leave the country.

Rules for UAE residents going on holiday

Brig Gen Al Kaabi said:

– People travelling abroad this summer do not need to be tested before they travel to the airport for their departure flight.

– Emiratis and expatriates are strongly encouraged to register with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Tawajudi system, letting officials know which country they are in, and may be asked for it on departure. This is a tracking system, separate to the ICA system that is used to bring residents home.

– All travellers should ensure they check the rules of the country they are visiting, in case they need to get tested before they fly.

– Once abroad, they must apply to the ICA's system to return and show an approval number on their return. It is not possible to apply before you leave.

– UAE residents abroad, whether they are holidaymakers or seeking to return after being stuck when the borders closed in March, must be tested in the country of departure before returning to the Emirates. A network of recognised clinics is listed here.

Despite that ruling, some travellers who could not get tested abroad said they were swabbed on arrival at Abu Dhabi airport.

– Despite flights opening up, Brig Al Kaabi said the federal government does not recommend travelling during these times unless necessary. He said travellers should check the requirements of the destination country.

Last week, Etihad Airways said it did not require passengers to show a negative Covid test nor ICA approval before they depart.

Expired visas

– UAE authorities on Friday reversed the decision to extend any residency visas that had expired during the outbreak.

– Visas are now being renewed again and residents whose documents have expired since March have three months to get their affairs in order before fines are imposed from October 11.

– Residents who were stranded abroad when the borders closed on March 19 have one month after they land to renew their visa before they are fined.

Brig Al Kaabi said they may require fresh medical tests to renew their visa, and rules vary between the emirates.

Tourists returning

Dubai allowed tourists to return from July 7, issuing visas on arrival for the first time since early March.

The other emirates are expected to start welcoming visitors in the coming weeks and months.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, July 8, 2020.   
Abu Dhabi International Airport Media Tour by Etihad.  Passengers at the Etihad Check-In area.
Victor Besa  / The National
Section:  NA 
Abu Dhabi airport is not asking outbound travellers and residents going on holiday to be tested or show approval. Victor Besa / The National

Brig Al Kaabi said the government was keen to welcome back visitors, but that it would depend on the local and global pandemic situation.

He said the rules remained the same for Emiratis and expats, and thanked people for their patience in difficult times.

"Members of society, whether expats or UAE nationals, are all our partners," Brig Al Kaabi said.

"They have shown responsibility through complying with regulations and we promise to offer them the best services."

Sheikh Hamdan tours Dubai airport as city reopens to tourists

Sheikh Hamdan tours Dubai airport as city reopens to tourists

Stranded abroad

Tens of thousands of UAE residents who were stranded abroad when the borders closed in March have been gradually returning by applying to the ICA immigration system.

But many, particularly those without relatives in the country, have been rejected. To date, stranded family members and people in vital sectors have been given priority.

The authorities are expected to lift restrictions when daily infection numbers, which have run at about 500 a day in recent weeks, start to decline.

Dubai's rules for travel this summer

– Before you book your flight, you should apply to Dubai's immigration service, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, for permission to return. You will be given a file number that must be entered on your visa. You don't technically need this to leave the country but you will need it to return. For peace of mind, you should apply before you go. If you are travelling abroad for more than 30 days, you must apply once you are abroad and well before your flight home.

– If you are flying with Emirates airline, you need a number from the directorate to book your outward-bound journey. Other airlines do not require this.

– As a Dubai visa-holder you are not required by the emirate’s government or airlines to be tested for Covid-19 before you fly out.

– Despite this, many residents are paying the Dh370 cost of being tested as a precaution before they fly.

– All passengers are being tested on arrival in Dubai. Tourists have the option of taking a PCR-test up to 96 hours before flying to the UAE and presenting Dubai authorities with the negative certificate on arrival.

Dubai from the air - in pictures