UAE residents stuck abroad no longer need approval to return

The ICA immigration system has changed, allowing residents overseas to return under a new set of procedures

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Special approval for residents who are trying to return to the UAE will no longer be needed, the government said on Wednesday.

All UAE residents abroad, who have a valid visa, had to apply for approval to return to the country from the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship – if they were planning to travel into any emirate except Dubai.

From today, this procedure has been removed and travel will be permitted into the country, provided travellers carry out specific procedures.

These include updating their data, including a valid Emirates ID, passport number and citizenship, at This will allow residents to travel and no approval process is needed.

The ICA portal appeared to be down at times on Wednesday, possibly due to demand.

An official estimate from the government suggested that more than 200,000 people with a valid UAE visa were abroad when the borders closed on March 19. Since then, families and workers have been gradually returning but many were unable to secure permission under the previous ICA system.

On Twitter, the National Crisis Emergency Management Authority said the decision coincided with the "end of the summer vacation for academic institutions, and the return of commercial activities and social facilities to normal".

Once details have been updated, travellers must then take a PCR nasal swab test at an accredited lab. A negative test, taken within 96 hours of their flight, must be submitted when booking a ticket to the UAE.

NCEMA reiterated that "all precautionary measures will be applied to residents upon arrival to the UAE, which include a lab Covid-19 test and to abide by quarantine rules, plus downloading Al Hosn app, in order to preserve their health and safety".

Tourists are not yet permitted to travel to Abu Dhabi but can land in Dubai with a negative PCR nasal swab or DPI blood test.

Dubai, which has its own procedures, requires its residents to apply to its General Directorate of Residency and Foreigner Affairs immigration service to return to the country, as well as a negative Covid-19 test.

Tourists travelling to Dubai do not need approval but must be tested in advance, in their home country.

New arrivals into the country may also be asked to take a second PCR test at the airport and must remain at a specified residence until results are known.

Only then will tourists or returning residents be allowed to leave quarantine in Dubai, if the test is negative. A 14-day quarantine is mandatory elsewhere in the UAE, regardless of the result.

"The development is welcome news for UAE residents at home or overseas, who can now travel with ease and return to Abu Dhabi freely without having to wait for approval to do so while abroad," Etihad Airways said on Wednesday.

"With the gradual return to normal life in Abu Dhabi, this step will further ease the re-entry process for a greater number of professionals as schools and universities re-open and regular working practices are resumed."

The airline urged all residents with a visa to "submit their passport number, and Emirates ID number, to obtain instant verification of their UAE entry status," to the portal before booking a flight.