UAE resident visa – guidelines 2019

There are 6 ways to get UAE resident visa:

  1. Employment
  2. Purchase of residential property
  3. Opening own business
  4. Becoming a dependent of a resident
  5. Becoming a student
  6. Getting a freelance permit

Everything is quite easy and straightforward with the employment scenario. You get a job in UAE and your employer becomes responsible for your resident visa. By law, the employer carries out all the paperwork and pays for the visa.

In case of property, you can apply for the resident visa only if the residential apartment or villa you have bought is worth 1 mln AED or more. It should be a completed ready-to-move project. You cannot claim the visa if your property is still under construction. The cost of the visa will be around 15 000 AED altogether. You will need to get certain approvals from the Land Department and renew your visa annually.

Getting a student visa is a standard practice for all the students who go for higher education in the UAE. 

Dependency way is usually used by spouses, children, retired parents and house staff of the people who own business or work in the Emirates. 

Freelance permit is a newly launched initiative of the government, which allows creative professionals to work legally. 

Third option - visas sponsored by own company - is the type of visas I usually deal with. Here I want to give you a simple guideline on getting such UAE residency in 2019 with step-by-step procedure and prices.

Step 1 - UAE business registration

UAE offshore companies are not eligible to obtain UAE resident visa

Obviously enough, in order to open resident visa under a company, you need to register a company first. Important to remember - if you open an offshore company, or so-called international business company (JAFZA offshore, Ajman offshore or well-known RAK ICC offshore), it won’t be eligible for resident visas. If you want to have a resident visa, always make sure that you setup a Free Zone company (or a Mainland where you would deal with a local partner).

Non visa license is the cheapest start of the business

Nowadays, the majority of the UAE Free Zones have an option of non-visa company registration. It can be called “Start-up package”, “Business center”, “Business club” etc. Always make sure that the package you have chosen is be eligible for resident visas. If you decided to open a non-visa package to start with, usually it is quite easy to convert it into a visa package for an additional price later on.

The company can be registered in any UAE Free Zone. Your visa will belong to the respective Emirate where this Free Zone is located. But it doesn’t mean you have to live there if you plan to settle in the UAE. You can have a visa from Fujairah Free Zone, but live in Dubai.

From 2018 onwards, along with a visa eligible company registration, you need to pay the fees for a so-called E-channel. It is an immigrational innovative system which is supposed to make the visa processing more smooth. This system was introduced in January 2018 and is obligatory for all Emirates with the exception of Dubai. The costs are roughly the following: 2200 AED for the E-channel registration and 5000 AED as refundable deposit (to be refunded when the company is liquidated and visas are cancelled). Annual renewal of the E-channel is around 1100 AED in all the Emirates.

Lifehack: Many Free Zones nowadays waive E-channel deposit of 5000 AED

If your company is not eligible for visas - you don’t need to pay for E-channel! 

A few Free Zones nowadays have a unique offer of a FREE resident visa for certain types of setups. If you open the business and pay for the license for 3 years in advance, you get a free Partner visa and branding services for your company on top of that. Some other zones issue a free visa even if you pay for 1 year registration of your company only! 

Step 2 - Establishment card

Establishment card - immigration card which allows a company to have visas

In the majority of the Free Zones or in Mainland, the next step after business registration will be getting a so-called Establishment card. It’s basically a plastic card, issued by Immigration authority, based on a few different security checks of the shareholder. These checks are done by the Police, Criminal Investigation Department and other authorities. Once approvals from all of them are given, a formal confirmation of those approvals - the plastic card - is issued. Establishment card is given only to visa eligible companies.

There is nothing special the shareholder should do when the card is under process. Some Free Zones, however, have special requirements. For example, Ajman Media Free Zone requires a shareholder to be inside UAE during the whole process of Establishment card check-ups.

The time-frame of receiving the Establishment card varies literally from 1 day to 1 month (or even more sometimes). There is no VIP or fast-track service. All you can do is just wait.

Step 3 - Entry visa

Entry visa, previously known as “pink visa” thanks to its colour (which is actually not pink anymore in most of the Free Zones), is a prerequisite to a UAE visa stamp in the passport. You can apply for entry visa only after the Establishment card is issued.

Entry visa is valid for 60 days only

Depending on the Free Zone, it usually takes about 5 working days to get the entry visa. In most of the Free Zones the visa is just an electronic document, so you do not need to get any “original”. Just print it out - yes, it’s that easy! When you have the printout ready, you have to do “status change”. It simply means the activation of the visa, or getting residency status under this new visa instead of your previous status (tourist, let’s say). How can this status change be done?

You can do it being inside the UAE by going to Immigration authority with the visa and paying about 750 AED

You can go out of UAE and return with the visa - in this case it will be activated at the border when you enter the country

If you were out of UAE while the visa was issued, you just need to jump on a plane and enter UAE with the visa - congrats, you are half resident now!

Once you enter UAE by Entry Permit you will not be able leave the country until you finish the residency procedure

Important - once you have changed the status, you won’t be able to leave UAE until you do visa stamping (if you have major force circumstances and have to leave earlier you may cancel the entry visa, which anyway will take 2-3 days).

Step 4 - Medical check and Emirates ID application

When you find yourself in the UAE with your entry visa activated, you have 60 days in order to do Medical check and apply for Emirates ID and finally get the visa stamp in the passport. If you don’t do it within the 60-days period, the entry visa will expire and you will have to make a new one.

Many clients wonder if they can do Medical check at their own country and bring the results to UAE. The answer is NO. Medical check has to be done only in UAE and only after the activation of the entry visa.

You can eat and drink before Medical check-up

Another popular question is what kind of Medical tests are done or should the applicants come to the medical center on an empty stomach. I’m happy to inform you that you do not need to starve at the Medical center, because the only 2 blood tests that are made are Hepatitis B and AIDS test. One more check is an X-ray for the TB, so in case you are pregnant you need to inform the staff and get an alternative TB test.

If Medical test results are not good by any reason, you will have to repeat them. However, if the tests are not good again, you will not be able to proceed with your UAE residency. Apparently, there are no people with AIDS, Hepatitis B or Tuberculosis in the UAE))

Along with the Medical test you need to apply for Emirates ID. Usually Emirates Identity Authority has offices adjacent to Medical centers, so you can do all the formalities in one place.

Be ready to spend a couple of hours at the Medical center, as they are usually crowded. Women are more lucky - they have a separate line and usually finish everything faster.

You will get the Medical report by email within a few hours if it was urgent (VIP), 24 hours or 48 hours. Your ID will be ready only after the visa is stamped into the passport, but make sure that you keep a copy of your Emirates ID application form - this would prove that you have actually applied for it.

Step 5 - Visa stamping and maintenance

Having your Medical report and Emirates ID application confirmation, you can apply for visa stamping. It usually takes one week, however in Dubai Free Zones it may take longer, because apart from Medial report and ID application you need to provide a copy of your health insurance.

UAE is a systematic country and you cannot get health insurance in advance. It can be only done when you have applied for Emirates ID. Normally, large insurance companies can issue your policy within 2-3 days.

Once your visa is ready, you will be able to collect your passport from the Free Zone. There are certain rules regarding visa maintenance. If you are not planning to live in UAE permanently, please remember them.

If your visa status says “Investor” or “Partner”, you need to visit UAE once in a year in order to keep in valid. If the visa has another status (Manager, Sales executive, etc.), you will have to enter UAE once in every 180 days. Failure to do so will result in automatic visa deactivation.

All Dubai visas are valid for 3 year. Investor visa is valid for 3 years and employment visa - 2 years in other Emirates

The validity of your visa will be either 3 years (if you are a company owner) or 2 years for most employees. In certain Free Zones, such as Creative City in Fujairah, even employees enjoy 3 year visa validity.

Dependant visas

Once your visa stamping is done, you may become a sponsor of the visas for your family members. You can sponsor only your immediate family: spouse, children under 18, parents. Boys over 18 years old cannot be sponsored by their parents - the government expects that they would have a visa from the college or university. It’s much easier with the girls - if your daughter is over 18 and not married, you can sponsor her, but have to be ready to prove that she is single (a letter from the council or municipality of your home country is usually enough).

If you have a resident visa you can become a sponsor for you family

If you are planning to sponsor a family, you need to rent an apartment or a villa, because the Immigration department needs to have a proof that your family has a place to live. If you sponsor only wife and children, it’s enough to have a studio or one bedroom apartment rent, but if you want to sponsor parents as well, you need to make sure that they have a separate room, so a 2 bedroom apartment is a must.

If you are an employee, you also need to provide your salary certificate. The salary must be at least 4000 AED per month.

Lastly, it’s more difficult to sponsor a family if you are a woman. If you are divorced and have kids, you have to prove that the father has to objections for your to sponsor them or that you are a single guardian. If you are planning to sponsor your husband too, the immigration would expect you to have a higher salary and an educational degree. Some conservative Emirates, like Sharjah, may have even stricter rules for women sponsoring their families.

Visa renewal

During renewal you have to do medical check up again and pay visa fee

When the validity if your visa comes to an end, you either need to renew it if you still want to have residency status, or cancel it. It is a mistake to think that expiration of the visa means its automatic cancellation. In UAE even if the visa has expired, you still need to cancel it by sending your passport to the Free Zone where it was opened (be sure that the company, sponsoring the visa, is still active).

If you want to renew the visa, you just need to repeat Medical test and apply for a new Emirates ID. You do not have to issue the “Entry visa” anymore, if you manage to come for new Medicals on time, before the current visa expiration. It is advisable to start visa renewal at least 2 weeks before its expiration date.

Visa renewal takes same time as visa stamping, but usually costs cheaper.

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