Overview of the UAE business visas system
A business visa is permission to enter the Emirates and stay for a certain period. There are two main types of business visas: visit visas and residence visas.
Visit visas are issued to those who come on business trips, plan to attend business meetings and conferences, or explore investment opportunities in the Emirates. Such visas allow single or multiple entries.
Citizens of 81 countries can enter the UAE without a visa or obtain a visa on arrival.
Residence visas are granted to entrepreneurs who want to relocate to the country. To be eligible, applicants must run a business in Dubai or other emirates or have successful entrepreneurial experience. Such visas can be valid for 2, 3, 5, or 10 years, and holders can reside in the UAE for the entire period.
Before receiving any residence visa, an applicant must obtain an electronic entry permit. It is valid for 1 to 6 months, depending on the type of residence. This time is allotted for passing medical tests, submitting applications for a residence permit and providing biometrics.
After approval, you get a residence visa in the form of an Emirates ID card. Stickers in passports are no longer used for residence visas.
Types of business visas in Dubai
|Visit visas||Residence visas|
|1. Single-entry visa for exploring business opportunities|
2. Multiple entry visa for business meetings, attending conferences and similar activities
|3. Free-zone visa for company owners and shareholders|
4. Mainland visa for company owners and shareholders
|5. Green Visa for company owners and shareholders|
6. Golden Visa for investors in business and startup founders
There are business visas of two kinds: sponsored and self-sponsored. Before 2022, all business visas except for Golden required a sponsor from the UAE: a company, a citizen or a resident. After the update of the visa system, new self-sponsored visit visas and Green Visas were introduced.
Visas to Dubai and other emirates are applied for through different services. To get a visa to Dubai, use the gdrfad.gov.ae website or visit an Amer centre. To obtain a visa to Abu Dhabi or any other emirate, use the icp.gov.ae website or visit an ICP customer happiness centre.
When applying for any business visa from inside the UAE, you will be charged AED 550—650 ($150—177) for the status change.
How to obtain a visit visa for investors and entrepreneurs
Single-entry. Consider getting a visit visa if you only look for business opportunities in Dubai. This permit was launched on October 3, 2022. You can apply for this visa if you want to conduct market research and evaluate the possibilities of your business. A visa is valid for 2, 3, or 4 months.
You can apply online for a visa to Dubai and any other emirate. In the latter case, you need to choose one of the three cards that say “Visa — Single entry — Search for Investment Opportunities 60/90/120 days — Issue new visa» after clicking on the link.
You will be asked to fill out a form, upload the documents and pay the fees. The necessary papers are a passport copy, a coloured photo and a Qualification Certificate. After approval, the visa will be sent to you by email.
The cost of obtaining a single-entry visit visa consists of a security deposit and the application fee, which depends on the visa’s validity.
|Cost item||Dubai||Other emirates|
|Security deposit||AED 1000||AED 1025|
|60-day visa application fee||AED 555.75||AED 470|
|90-day visa application fee||AED 685.75||AED 630|
|120-day visa application fee||AED 815.75||AED 790|
Multiple-entry. Consider applying for a multiple-entry visa if you regularly visit the UAE for business meetings, conferences, exhibitions and other events. On this visa, you can enter the UAE and stay for up to 90 days.
A visa is valid for 5 years. The application fee is AED 650 ($177). The set of required documents includes a passport, a photo, a travel insurance policy and a bank statement for the last 6 months with a balance of at least $4,000 or its equivalent in another currency.
To apply online, choose a card saying “Visa — Multiple entry — Long-term Tourism (5 years) for All Nationalities — Issue new visa”.
For global personnel to obtain a multiple-entry business visa for Dubai, a company must first be registered for participation in the program.
Requirements for getting UAE residence visas through business
Residence business visa through a sponsor. You become eligible for a UAE residence permit after registering a company and obtaining its Establishment Card, which can be done remotely. Your company becomes a sponsor for your residence visa, valid for up to 3 years.
A company may be mainland or onshore. Both types are suitable for international business; the difference is that mainland companies can also operate on the whole territory of the Emirates, while onshore ones, only in the free economic zones. Offshore companies’ shareholders do not qualify for a Dubai business visa.
The fee for issuing an Establishment Card is AED 300 ($82). The registration and visa fees vary from one free economic zone to another. In the cheapest free zones, it’s possible to start a business for AED 10,000 ($2,700) or even less.
Self-sponsored Green Residence Visa is available for company shareholders whose contribution to its capital is at least AED 1,000,000 ($272,000). An applicant may own a company solely or be a partner. First-degree relatives can join an applicant and obtain UAE Green Residence, too.
The entry permit for Green Residence is valid for 60 days. The Green Residence Visa is valid for 5 years with the possibility of renewal. When the visa expires, its holders have a 6-month grace period to stay in the Emirates.
The application fee is AED 335.75 ($90). The fee for issuing an Emirates ID is AED 650 ($177).
This type of visa came into effect very recently, on October 3, 2022, and the requirements can be specified with time. Freelancers and skilled workers are also eligible for a Green Visa on certain terms.
Self-sponsored Golden Visas are issued for investors and entrepreneurs as well as talented students and highly qualified specialists. Here we focus on Golden Visa types for businesspersons.
Business Golden Residence types and the documents required
|What you need to do to qualify for a Golden Visa||What documents specific to the option you need to provide to support your application|
|1. Own a startup with annual revenues of at least AED 1,000,000 ($272,000). |
A company must be registered in the UAE as a small or medium enterprise (SME).
You may own a company solely or be a partner.
Financial or Social certificates
Audited financial statements for the past two years
Nomination issued by a business incubator in the UAE
|2. Obtain approval for the startup idea.|
Approval may be given by an official business incubator, the Ministry of Economy, ICP or competent local authority.
You may establish a company solely or with a partner.
|Nomination issued by a business incubator in the UAE|
Founders LinkedIn profile
Business concept overview deck
Acceptance letter into an incubator, venture studio or accelerator program
Trade Licence, if available
|3. Be a founder or one of the founders of a startup project that was sold with a total value of no less than AED 7,000,000 ($1,900,000). |
The startup must be approved by the Ministry of Economy, ICP or competent local authority.
|Nomination issued by a business incubator in the UAE|
Trade Licence of the previous project
Founders LinkedIn profile
Proof of the company being sold for AED 7,000,000.
New owner’s full name or LinkedIn profile, if applicable
|4. Invest in the capital of a UAE company from AED 2,000,000 ($545,000).||Trade Licence|
An updated Commercial
Bank or investment fund letter that shows the capital or value of the share in the company is at least AED 2,000,000
Copy of commercial register of the establishment or company
|5. Own a company that pays an income tax in the minimum amount of AED 250,000 ($68,000) per year.|
When owning a share, the amount of tax must come from your share. For instance, if you own a 50% share, the company must pay at least twice as much tax: from AED 500,000 ($136,000) a year.
A CRC evidencing the capital paid in the company and each investor’s share ownership percentage
Tax Return Form evidencing that taxes have been settled of at least AED 250,000 for the two years preceding visa application
Tax receipts for the settled taxes
The entry permit for Golden Residence is valid for 6 months. The Golden Visa is valid for 10 years and can be renewed.
The application fee is AED 2,790 ($760), and the Emirates ID fee is AED 1,070 ($290).
A UAE Golden Visa holder can sponsor their spouse, children regardless of age and an unlimited number of domestic labourers like babysitters, housekeepers, drivers, etc. for them to get residence, too.
How to obtain a UAE residence business visa:
The entire application process can take from 2 months.
For a sponsored visa, you need to get the necessary permissions and licences, register a company, rent an office space and sign a contract with a service agent, if required.
For a self-sponsored visa, you need to file an online request for a Golden Visa Nomination.
The request will be processed within a week, after which you will receive a link to upload the documents and complete your application if your nomination has been approved.
If your request gets rejected, you can reapply after 90 days.
At this stage, you should collect all the necessary documents, apply for an entry permit and pay the fees. When you receive a permit, fill out the applications for the medical test and Emirates ID. Then enter the UAE if you applied from abroad.
Besides documents concerning your business that were listed in the previous section of the article, you will also need the following:
- A copy of the passport.
- 3×4 cm colour photo on a white background.
- A certificate of no criminal record in your country of residence.
- Good Conduct certificate, which is a certificate of no criminal record in the Emirates.
- Marriage and birth certificates if including family members.
Now you must visit a government health centre to get your medical fitness test done. To obtain a certificate of health status, you will be tested for dangerous diseases like HIV or hepatitis and pass fluorography.
For Dubai and Abu Dhabi, taking out insurance is also necessary.
If you apply for an Emirates ID for the first time, you will get fingerprinted, and your iris will get scanned.
The application for a residence visa is usually considered within a week, after which you receive an Emirates ID card that serves as a residence permit.
Alternatives to a Dubai business visa
If you do not want your UAE residence permit to depend on your business, there is another way to obtain residency in the Emirates: through purchasing properties. By buying real estate, you can get a residence permit in Dubai for 10 years.
for a 10-year Residence Visa
Foreigners are allowed to purchase residential properties in Freehold Zones to apply for this visa.
The minimum purchase amount is AED 2,000,000 ($545,000). If a property costs more than AED 2,000,000, the exceeding part may be mortgaged.
Family members can also apply for a permit with the principal applicant; the investment in real estate does not depend on family composition.
Examples of UAE investment properties
Other expenses under buying real estate for obtaining a residence visa:
- $21,800+ (AED 160,000) — registration fee;
- $1,043 (AED 3,860) — state fees;
- $220 — medical checkup;
- $400 — health insurance;
- $1,000 — documents processing.
Benefits of having the UAE Golden Visa
Favourable business and tax climate. There are no income, corporate, or property taxes for residents of the UAE. The country has Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements with more than 100 countries. This list includes Canada, China, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, and India.
Residency for employees. The business visa allows nominating up to three of a company’s senior staff to get a residence permit.
The ability to live outside the UAE. If you run a business in different countries, you can get a business visa to Dubai but live outside the UAE. Before the conditions were updated, the resident visa holder had to stay in the UAE for at least six months per year to maintain the status.
Social benefits. UAE residents receive special discounts for medical care, insurance, cars, real estate, and entertainment.
Frequently asked questions
To receive a regular business visa, it’s enough to register a company in the UAE. In the cheapest free zones, it’s possible to start a business for AED 10,000 ($2,700).
To obtain a 10-year Golden Visa, entrepreneurs must get approval from a startup incubator or make an investment of AED 2,000,000 ($545,500) or more. The application fee is AED 2,790 ($760), and the Emirates ID fee is AED 1,070 ($290).
The application process can take about 60 days: 30 days on the initial application review and another 30 days to meet Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) requirements.
Yes, you can apply for a trade licence with a tourist visa and start your business. You can apply for your partner visa inside the UAE as soon as you get the trade licence. When you receive your partner visa, you can change your visa status from a tourist visa to a partner visa.
Foreigners with relevant entrepreneurial experience can get a 10-year business visa if they fulfil one of these conditions:
- Invest in a new company or buy a stake in an existing one with a cost of 2,000,000 AED ($545,500).
- Establish a startup in a business incubator. The idea must be agreed upon with the UAE Ministry of Economy.
- Own a company with an annual income of 1,000,000 AED ($272,000). It is allowed to own a company with a partner.
- Be a founder of a company that was sold for 7,000,000 AED ($1,900,000).