- Travel FAQs
- Travelling to and from the UAE
- Visa renewals
- Tourist visa extension
- Overstay fines
- Employment FAQs
- Returning mothers and newborns
- Online resources
As the situation changes rapidly, governments across the world are announcing new policies and measures to facilitate travel and return to normalcy. As a citizen, it is vital to be aware of the new regulations and follow the guidelines recommended by healthcare professionals while travelling in and out of the country. Here are some of the popular FAQs on COVID-19 related travel announcements and the UAE government’s advice.
Travel related FAQs on COVID-19
Since things have been changing on a day to day basis, it can be hard to keep track of the changes in laws and regulations. So to avoid any confusion, read the following FAQs on COVID-19 related to travel.
Some of the measures defined below do not apply to Dubai since the emirate has its own crisis management system. For instance, Dubai does not require travellers to test for COVID-19 before leaving the country.
Do I need to be tested for COVID-19 before travelling to the airport for my departure flight?
Residents and visitors flying outside the country do not need to be tested before going to the airport to catch departure flights. However, all travellers must check the rules of the countries they are visiting, to find out if they need to be tested before they fly.
Residents and Emiratis who are planning to travel have been urged to register with the Twajudi system from the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is a recently introduced online tracking system that enables the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) to stay in touch with UAE nationals and Emirati residents with valid residency visas in times of crisis and help them reach home safely.
Do I need to be tested before returning to the UAE?
All UAE residents who are abroad must get themselves tested for the coronavirus in their departure countries before returning to the UAE. Despite easing restrictions and resuming flight operations, the United Arab Emirates government does not encourage travel to or from the country during this time, unless necessary.
Once abroad, do I need to apply to the ICA system to return?
All travellers returning from other countries to the UAE must apply to the ICA system and show an approval number on their return.
I am stranded in another country and have a UAE residency visa but it is about to expire. What do I do?
The UAE authorities have taken back the decision to extend residency visas that had expired during the coronavirus outbreak. This applies to all UAE residence permit holders, including employees and dependents.
Residents whose visas have expired between March 1st and July 11th should begin their renewal process prior to 11th October 2020 to avoid overstay fines.
Will I need to undergo new medical tests for visa renewal?
It’s important to check your UAE visa status to know the duration for its validity. Residents with an expired visa may need to apply for new ones by acquiring fresh medical tests. The rules vary in different emirates.
When can I begin applying for visa renewal?
The UAE authorities have recently released a schedule for application renewals. Residence visa holders from Dubai can begin submissions while those in other emirates are required to follow the submission schedule provided by the ICA. The phased renewals in other emirates are a means to prevent overcrowding and enforce social distancing during the renewal process in the application centres.
Here is the schedule for renewal applications for Emirates IDs and residency visas as declared by the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA):
- Applicants whose Emirates IDs and residency visas have expired on March and April 2020 may submit their renewal applications which started from July 12
- Those whose documents have expired in May 2020 need to apply for renewals from August 11th
- Applicants whose documents have expired in June or between 1st and 11th July 2020, may submit their renewal applications starting September 10th
Additionally, applicants whose Emirates IDs and residency visas expired after July 11th may visit the application centres any time to submit their renewal applications.
The ICA has rejected my visa application/renewal. What do I do?
Many applicants, especially those without relatives in the UAE, have had their visa renewals rejected by the ICA. To date, stranded family members and those who are in vital sectors have been prioritised.
I was stranded during the outbreak and my visa will expire a few days after I land in the UAE. What do I do?
Residents who were stranded abroad when the borders were sealed off have one month to renew their visas starting from the day they land in the UAE. All residence permit holders whose visa expires from July 12th will incur overstay fines if they do not renew their documents within 30 days.
I am in the UAE and my visa is about to expire. What is the grace period for renewals?
The UAE Cabinet has granted three months to GCC Nationals, UAE citizens and residents inside the country to renew their documents.
What if I was out of the country for more than six months?
A specific grace period has yet to be announced by the ICA for residents whose visas expired after 1st March and have been outside the UAE for more than 180 days. Once flights resume in their destination countries to the United Arab Emirates, they will need to get GDRFA or ICA approval before their return.
The general consensus is that the grace period for renewals will be 30 days on their return to the UAE.
I am a student of an overseas college and have been living on a tourist visa with my family in the UAE. Can I remain in the country?
You can convert a tourist visa to a local residency visa to prolong your stay. This can be done in any ports of entry or immigration office in the UAE. Certain criteria must be met in the case of applicants above the age of 18 who are students in foreign universities, and the judgement will be on a case by case basis. Approval will be given if the case is genuine and the person cannot exit the country. The process will also require a local sponsor like a legal guardian or parent.
Students who arrived in the country on tourist visas, because their overseas universities shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will be required to renew. Based on their nationalities, some students can get visas on arrival and stay for 30 to 90 days.
What are the fines for those who break the residency visa rules?
Those who break the residency visa rules in the UAE incur a fine of AED 25 per day. The fine payable after the one-month grace is AED 225 for the first day and AED 25 for each day that follows.
For offenders exiting the country, the fine is AED 250 plus AED 25 per day. Failure to renew an Emirates ID also incurs a daily fine of AED 20. Those who have dependents or maids must check the concerned online portals for the new expiry dates before the grace periods end.
Check out our guide on UAE overstay fines for more clarity.
What if I incur a fine even though the grace period for my residency visa renewal hasn’t ended?
I need to fly out of Dubai and return at a later date. What should I be aware of?
All those who plan on flying out of Dubai must first apply for permission to return via the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA). They will receive a file number that must be entered into their visas. While you will not need this to travel abroad, you will need it if you plan on returning. It is recommended that you apply beforehand.
Those who haven’t, and expect to stay abroad for more than 30 days, must apply when they are in their destination country well before they return to the UAE.
You can contact the GDRFA via these contacts:
- Toll free: 800-5111
- Toll free (International): +971-4-313-9999
- Telephone (International): +971-4-501-1111
To make the prospect easier, it is advisable to contact the concerned airline about their own precautions for passengers.
What about those who had their visas cancelled or lost their jobs after March 1st?
If you fall within this category, you have 30 days to find a new job. If you haven’t, you must exit the country within 30 days. If your search for a new employer is taking longer, you can try applying for the 30 or 90-day tourist visa. Fines will be incurred once the stipulated time has ended.
What about mothers or newborns who had deliveries abroad?
New mothers can file for an “out of country” permit online via an Amer centre. For other emirates, they can file on the ICA portal for the return of a newborn. Even if the child does not possess a residency permit, one can be required when he or she reaches the country.
Are there any online resources which I can access to know more about the coronavirus?
COVID-19 Health Advisory Platform by Saal.ai is a website that provides verified information from all official sources, with updates about the coronavirus. It also answers all queries related to the disease. You can read general FAQs about coronavirus on the website.
The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention has also made the COVID-19 Virtual Doctor tool available to residents. While it is certainly not a substitute for a real doctor, it can give you an idea of your current health status. A series of questions are asked and based on your answers, you will get a response.
If there is a chance that you might have contracted the coronavirus, the system will ask you to call 998 immediately. Alternatively, it will inform you that you are a low-risk case and for further information, you could call 800-358.
With the Doctor for Every Citizen initiative launched by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), you can get 24-hour consultations via video or voice calls. Call 800-324 or download their mobile app to make an appointment. However, before you do that, make sure you have read up on the travel-related FAQs on COVID-19. At this time, it is vital to gather as much information from reliable sources as possible.
That’s all for our FAQs on COVID-19 for travel to and from the UAE. Understandably, this is a difficult time for all UAE residents. However, everyone has to do their part to help combat the pandemic. Businesses operating in the UAE have to follow best practices to ensure prevention of coronavirus in offices. At home, parents and guardians have to tactfully educate children about coronavirus. If you have any symptoms, it is best to undergo a coronavirus test.