Dubai has become a top global destination for expats looking to live and work abroad. Drawn by its cosmopolitan lifestyle, tax-free salaries, and endless sunshine, more and more people are moving to this glitzy emirate each year.
But before you can officially call Dubai your new home, there is some bureaucracy you need to handle – getting a residence visa. This long-term visa allows foreigners to legally live, work, and reside in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates.
What is a Residence Visa?
A Dubai residence visa permits qualified foreigners to take up residence and employment in Dubai as well as other parts of the UAE. It is sponsored by an employer or a family member already living in the UAE. Residence visas need to be renewed periodically, usually every 2-3 years.
The residence visa is issued by the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) of each individual emirate. For Dubai, residence visas are issued by the Dubai immigration department.
Some key features of the Dubai residence visa:
- Valid for 2 or 3 years, renewable
- Allows ex-pats to live and work anywhere in the UAE
- Requires a sponsor – employer or family member
- Emirate specific – only valid in the emirate it was issued
Types of Residence Visa in Dubai
There are several categories of residence visas issued in Dubai depending on your purpose:
The most common is the employment residence visa. This is for expats taking up jobs in Dubai. To get this type of visa, you need a job offer or work contract from a Dubai-based company. You’ll also need to provide your educational qualifications, experience certificates, valid passport, and a health/medical certificate. As your employer sponsors the visa, their approval is mandatory.
For family members of UAE residents, a family residence visa can be obtained. The sponsor needs to be your spouse or your father if you are below 18 years old. You’ll have to provide documentation proving your relationship to the sponsor such as a marriage certificate, birth certificate, passport copies, etc. Accommodation proof is also required to show you have a place to live in the UAE.
Business investors or partners looking to set up operations or invest in the UAE can qualify for an investor/partner residence visa. You need to show proof of your investment in a UAE business along with the trade license of the company. A no-objection letter from your sponsor is also mandatory. This type of residence visa is typically issued for 3 years.
If you wish to study in Dubai, you can apply for a student residence visa. This requires you to submit enrollment proof from an approved university or school along with a valid student ID card. You’ll also need a no-objection letter from the educational institution itself. As a form of security deposit, you need to submit a fixed deposit of AED 4,000-5,000 while studying in the UAE.
For retirees looking to settle down in Dubai, a retirement residence visa can be obtained. You need to show proof of either a monthly income/pension of at least AED 20,000 or savings of over AED 1 million. Valid UAE health insurance is also mandatory.
How to Apply for a Dubai Residence Visa
The process to apply for a residence visa in Dubai involves a few key steps:
The process of applying for a Dubai residence visa involves:
1- Finding a Sponsor
The first step is finding an eligible visa sponsor. For employment, your Dubai employer sponsors it. For a family visa, it needs to be a close relative already in the UAE.
2- Submitting Documents
You need to submit the required documents – passport, photos, qualifications, employment contract, and relationship proof based on visa type. Medical tests and biometrics are also needed.
3- Visa Approval
The application enters the processing and approval stage. Once approved, the visa gets stamped into your passport.
4- Emirates ID Application
With the visa stamp, you should immediately apply for an Emirates ID card – the UAE national identity document.
5- Visa Activation
You must enter Dubai within 60 days of visa issuance to get it stamped in your passport. This activates the visa so you can legally reside in Dubai.
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Renewing a Residence Visa in dubai
Dubai residence visas are issued for a defined period, usually 2 or 3 years. To continue living in Dubai after the expiry, you need to renew your residence visa.
The renewal process is similar to the new application. You need to submit your passport, previous visa copy, sponsor approval letter, employer NOC, updated salary certificate, and medical certificate.
Ideally, you should start the renewal procedure 2-3 months before your existing visa expires. While expired residence visas can still be renewed by paying fines, it’s advisable to complete the renewal on time.
Getting a valid residence visa is mandatory for any expat looking to live and work long-term in Dubai. The key requirements are finding an eligible sponsor, submitting the required paperwork, and completing medical tests. For most expats moving to Dubai for work or family, obtaining a residence visa is a straightforward process. Renewing it in a timely manner allows you to continue enjoying your life in this bustling, multicultural city.