UAE legal Q&As: Are tattoos illegal?

If a foreigner is banned for life from the country regardless of the reason, is there any way to lift and annul the ban?

Powered by automated translation

Q: I am a Catholic living in Abu Dhabi. Is it illegal for me to get a tattoo done by a tattoo artist who is also a Catholic? I am aware that tattoos are forbidden in Islam but what if a non-Muslim wants to get a tattoo? Am I breaking the law here? What sanction can the tattoo artist and I possibly face, and is such an act ever penalised? What charge would be brought against me?

A: A tattoo does not constitute a crime in itself and getting a tattoo is not legally penalised. However, this does not mean that it is acceptable or commendable in the UAE. It is forbidden in Islam by virtue of a Fatwa issued by the Official Fatwa Centre at the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, as it is considered a form of self-injury. It is also socially unacceptable and uncommon among Emirati people, and the removal of tattoos is a prerequisite for joining certain establishments such as the army, the police and some airlines. It is forbidden to get a tattoo done by an unlicensed tattoo artist, due to the risks this poses to public health, as it might not comply with relevant health standards, the tools might not be sterilised and may thus lead to the transmission of serious diseases such as Aids or Hepatitis and the tattoo itself might cause certain skin diseases.

Q: A lot of minors are held in detention centres due to drinking alcohol. Is there a legal minimum age beyond which expatriates can drink alcohol?

A: UAE law specifies the age of juveniles subject to specific trials and penalties; a juvenile under UAE law is a person who is below 18 years of age when they commit the offence. This law is applicable to any person who resides in the UAE, with no difference between citizens and expats. So a minor arrested on charges of drinking alcohol is referred to prosecutors and then to the court, which will decide the appropriate ruling, whether they are citizens or residents, Muslim or otherwise, because drinking alcohol is illegal for minors, regardless of nationality and religion. To buy an alcohol licence in Abu Dhabi, a resident has to be 18. In Dubai and the Northern Emirates, except Sharjah, the age is 21. In Sharjah, drinking alcohol is illegal for all.

Q: If a foreigner is banned for life from the country for any reason whatsoever, is there any way to lift and annul the ban?

A: If such a decision is rendered, the only way to lift and annul the ban would be to raise a petition to the Minister of Interior in accordance with Article 28 of Federal Law No 6 for 1973, concerning immigration and residence. A foreigner who has been banned cannot return to the country unless special authorisation is granted by the minister.

* If you have a question for our lawyer, please email it to with the subject line "Know the law".