UAE flights: Dubai residents stuck abroad need GDRFA and ICA approval to return

A guide for people with visas and those whose residency visas expired while they were overseas

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Approvals are being issued for people stranded in six countries previously on a flight ban list, who will now be able to return to the Emirates after more than four months.

The UAE on Tuesday announced that it will allow vaccinated residents, and unvaccinated residents in some job categories, to fly back to the Emirates.

People from emirates other than Dubai can apply for permission on the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship, but Dubai residents need approval from the ICA and the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, according to immigration experts.

Many residents are concerned about the validity of entry visas because they have been overseas since before April, when flights from 16 countries were suspended to stem the spread of Covid-19.

Heads of missions from countries on the banned list have asked the UAE government to allow those on recently lapsed visas to be allowed to enter the country.

They are hopeful residents affected by the travel restrictions will be permitted to enter in a phased manner over the next few months.

We have requested the UAE government to permit all those residents whose visas expired during their enforced stay in India to also be allowed back
Pavan Kapoor, India’s ambassador to the UAE

Pavan Kapoor, India’s ambassador to the UAE, backed the announcement.

“We welcome this decision of the UAE government to start the process of allowing Indian residents to return to the UAE,” he said.

“We have requested the UAE government to permit all those residents whose visas expired during their enforced stay in India to also be allowed back.”

The recent announcement covered flights from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Nigeria and Uganda.

The National spoke to Haider Hussain, partner at Fragomen, an immigration services company, to explain the options available for residents who are vaccinated and those on expired visas.

"We have checked and filed for approvals for our own staff and clients and approvals have come through in a few hours," he said.

"For our staff based in Dubai, we applied on both the ICA and Dubai links. People should be patient as things will settle down."

The rules differ for residents with valid visas that lapse or become inactive since the person was overseas for more than six months and unable to return because of the flight ban. They can apply for a re-entry permit.

Those whose visas have expired when overseas during the suspension of flights will need to apply for a new visa.

Where can I apply for permission to return?

ICA website:

For Dubai:

People with residency visas from emirates other than Dubai can apply on the ICA link given above.

To get approval they need to provide vaccination details, upload the vaccination certificate, provide resident visa details and provide a PCR test result.

People should apply on the ICA link after they get a negative PCR test prior to flying to comply with the test validity requirements.

They will also need to confirm with the airline about the 72-hour or 48-hour validity of the test before boarding, depending on the country of departure.

Dubai residents, as of now, should apply on both the GDFRA link and the ICA link.

The eligibility criteria at present is that people should have received both doses of the vaccine in the UAE.

Clarity about unvaccinated residents is expected later.

When is this effective from?

The approvals have already begun. People will be allowed re-entry from the six countries from which flights are being resumed, if they meet the requirements from August 5 onwards.

Where can I check my visa validity?

To check visa status and validity for all emirates other than Dubai, visit this website:

If you are a Dubai resident, check this link:

Is an extension possible for people whose visas expired while overseas?

At present there is no announcement or process for extension or renewal of a residency permit for individuals affected by the travel restrictions. However, the authorities may review this and provide guidance once the travel restriction is removed from a particular country.

What are my options if my visa lapsed when I was overseas?

People who were outside the UAE for more than six months first need to check their residency validity.

A visa becomes inactive if a resident cannot enter the UAE for more than six months. In such cases, they can now file for a re-entry permit.

For Dubai:

For other emirates:

What is the next step after I file for a re-entry permit?

An inactive visa means that it is valid, but since you have been out of the country for six months, you need to file for a return or re-entry permit.

You will also need a supporting letter issued by your employer stating you are an employee of the company. You need to show this to the passport control officer at the airport or other port of entry.

Can people with expired visas enter the UAE during the one-month grace period?

The UAE government allows residents a grace period of 30 days to stay in the UAE after the expiry of their visas. People cannot enter the country during this time.

But they may apply through the ICA portal and check if they can get an approval to re-enter. The grace period applies only to a residence permit holder who is in the UAE.

What are my options if my visa expired during my stay overseas?

There is no exception. The employer, spouse or sponsor will have to cancel the existing visa and issue a new one.

In some cases, people whose visas were about to expire took a long route and returned to the UAE after spending the quarantine period in a third country through which travel is permitted. They got back to the UAE in time to renew their visas.

People in counties without direct flights to the UAE returned after completing 14 days in a country deemed safe for travel, including Armenia, Maldives, Tashkent, Kyrgyzstan, Ethiopia, Qatar and Serbia.

What can I do if my visa has expired?

Your employer, spouse or sponsor will need to cancel the existing visa and apply for a new employment permit.

You will also need to apply for an entry permit approval before you enter. This is a standard process whether you are based in or outside the free zones.

Once you have entry permit approval, you do not require any other clearance.

Can I enter the UAE on a tourist visa if I am a citizen of a country on the flight ban list?

The ban is on travel directly from that country and not on nationality.

If you have a valid tourist visa you can enter the UAE but not directly from the country on the restricted list.

People on business trips can go to a third country, complete their work and then arrive in the UAE from the country that is not on the banned list.

Tourists cannot enter the UAE directly from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Nepal unless they have been out of those countries for at least 14 days. They can enter after quarantine in a green-listed or approved country.

Updated: August 05, 2021, 8:20 AM