Citizenship
December 12, 2023
Reading Time: 10 min

7 ways to obtain a residence visa in the UAE

The UAE offers different ways to obtain a residence visa, catering to different needs and circumstances. These include:

  1. Investing in real estate.

  2. Establishing a business.

  3. Working for a UAE company.

  4. Retiring in the UAE.

  5. Enrolling in a university.

  6. Getting a freelance visa.

  7. Being a talented professional.

UAE residents can live, work and study in the state for as long as their visa is valid. Let’s explore the different ways to become a resident of Dubai or one of the other emirates.

Zlata Erlach
Zlata Erlach

Reviewed all the ways to obtain a UAE residence visa

How to get a residency visa to the UAE

7 ways to obtain a residence visa in the UAE

Types of UAE residence visas

The UAE residence visa is a document that foreigners obtain to be able to stay in the country long-term. Depending on the conditions under which a person gets the visa, it can be valid from 1 to 10 years.

The UAE offers various residence visas, each catering to different groups such as investors, entrepreneurs, employees, specialists, students, freelancers, and retirees.

The type of UAE residence visa influences the validity and costs of obtaining a visa. In the table below, you will find an in-depth look at the various visa types, their key requirements, associated costs, and their respective validity periods.

UAE residence visa types comparison

Visa type

Key requirements

Cost

Visa validity

Visa for property owners

Investing in residential and commercial real estate

$204,000 or $544,500

2 or 10 years

Entrepreneur visa

Establishing or investing in a UAE-based business

$136,000 or $545,500

5 or 10 years

Employment visa

Employment contract with a UAE company

Covered by employer

1 year or equal to the employment contract

Freelance visa

Professional licence in a free zone

Proof of relevant skills

$1,360+

1 year

Student visa

Enrollment in a UAE-accredited university

Variable

1 year

Retirement visa

Over 55 years old

Meeting financial independence criteria

$275,000+

5 years

Skilled professionals visa

Accreditation in a specialised field

Variable

10 years

How to get a UAE resident visa by real estate purchase

Obtainment conditions. Foreign nationals can obtain UAE residency when purchasing real estate for at least AED 750,000, or $204,000.

Investors can choose from residential and commercial properties in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Both ready-to-move properties and those in construction can be purchased as an investment.

If an investor wants to get a mortgage, it’s an option for a 2-year visa. The down payment should be at least 50%.

The validity period of the visa depends on the total amount of the investment:

  • a 2-year visa is granted if the real estate cost starts from AED 750,000, or $204,000;

  • a 10-year visa is granted if the property costs at least AED 2,000,000, or $544,500.

Family members to join the application. Along with the investor, their close family members can obtain residence visas, too. This includes their spouse and children.

In the application for a 2-year visa, one can include children under 18. To a 10-year visa application, the investor can add unmarried sons under 25 years old and unmarried daughters of any age.

The list of documents necessary to obtain a residence visa by real estate investment includes:

  • a real estate ownership certificate;

  • a letter from the Dubai Land Department confirming the value of the property;

  • supporting documents from the applicant’s bank if the property was purchased with a mortgage;

  • a real estate purchase and sale agreement;

  • a marriage certificate;

  • a certificate of absence of marriage for children over 18 years old;

  • a certificate of no criminal record in the UAE and country of residence;

  • a passport copy;

  • medical insurance;

  • a copy of a valid visa;

  • a colour photo of 3×4 cm on a white background.

Visa renewal. To renew their residence visa, the investor needs to gather all the documents again, undergo a medical examination and submit their application to the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Port Security (ICP).

Individual cost calculation of the UAE Golden Visa

Individual cost calculation of the UAE Golden Visa

How to get a UAE residence visa for entrepreneurs

Obtainment conditions. Entrepreneurs and investors can get UAE residence visas for five to ten years with an AED 500,000 ($136,000) business investment. Applications are submitted online on the ICP website.

To obtain a 5-year residence visa, the applicant must establish an innovative company with a minimum investment of AED 500,000 ($136,000).

For a 10-year visa, entrepreneurs can choose any one of the following options:

  • invest AED 2,000,000 ($545,500) in either a new business or a share of an existing company;

  • join a startup incubator, provided that the startup concept is approved by the Ministry of Economy of the UAE;

  • own a company with a minimum yearly revenue of AED 1,000,000 ($272,280);

  • establish a company and later sell it for at least AED 7,000,000 ($1,900,000).

Family members to join the application. Entrepreneurs can add their family members to their resident visa applications. This includes the main applicant’s spouse and unmarried children — sons under 25 and daughters of any age.

Documents. The list of necessary papers for obtaining a Golden Visa for entrepreneurs includes:

  • a business registration certificate;

  • a copy of the company’s trade licence;

  • an Establishment Card (a company immigration card);

  • a bank letter confirming investment in the authorised capital;

  • a passport copy;

  • a colour photo of 3×4 cm on a white background;

  • medical insurance;

  • a medical examination certificate.

Visa renewal. To renew their UAE resident visa, an entrepreneur needs to regather all the documents and confirm the fulfilment of the program’s conditions.

How to get a UAE residence visa for employment

Obtainment conditions. Foreigners who have long-term employment contracts with UAE companies can get residence visas. By law, the employer bears the costs of obtaining a visa and work permit.

The validity period of the residence visa by employment is equal to the duration of the work contract. Generally, the contracts are concluded for one year.

Special requirements. Foreign specialists must undergo a medical examination and get healthcare coverage within two months after arriving in the UAE. The costs for the insurance start at AED 500, or $136. By agreement, it can be paid for by the employer.

Aside from that, foreign employees are required to confirm their educational documents. This can be done on the UAE Ministry of Education website. The fee for confirming a bachelor’s degree is AED 100, or $27. For a PhD, it’s AED 200, or $55.

Family members to join the application. If the main applicant is male, their close family members can also obtain residence visas. This applies to:

  • the spouse;

  • sons from 18 to 21 years old who are studying at a university;

  • unmarried daughters.

To be able to add family members to their application, the main applicant needs to earn at least AED 4,000, or $1,090, monthly. If the applicant makes more than AED 20,000, or $4,500, per month, they can also request visas for their parents.

If a female foreigner obtaining a residence visa by employment wants to add their family members, they can do that on different conditions. They can add their spouses and children, but their parents are not eligible for residency.

To be able to add their children and spouse to the application, a female employee has to:

  • earn at least AED 10,000, or $2,750, per month;

  • work in healthcare, education or science industries or obtain special permission from The Department of Naturalisation and Residency Dubai (DNRD).

Documents. To obtain a residence visa by employment, the applicant needs to provide:

  • a work contract;

  • a colour photo of 3×4 cm on a white background;

  • a passport copy;

  • a notarised copy of the diploma;

  • a CV.

Visa renewal. To renew their residence visa, a foreign employee needs to extend their work contract and regather all the supporting documents. The visa validity period will be set according to the contract duration.

How to obtain a UAE residence visa for specialist talent

Obtainment conditions. Scientists, medical doctors, educators, inventors, artists, and sportspeople can get residence visas to the UAE for specialist talent.

The costs for obtaining the visa depend on the profession and the emirate. For instance, a permit for artists in Dubai costs AED 3,860, or $1,050. Applications for residency visas for talented professionals are submitted on the ICP website.

The validity period of the visa for talented specialists is 10 years.

Family members to join the application. Talented professionals can request visas for their parents, children and spouses.

Documents. The applicant must meet the UAE state requirements to obtain the visa. For instance:

  • scientists are required to obtain Emirates Scientists Council accreditation or Mohammed Bin Rashid Medal for Scientific Excellence;

  • artists are required to get accreditation from the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT);

  • inventors need to get a patent from the Ministry of Economy of the UAE.

How to obtain a UAE residency visa for students

Obtainment conditions. Foreigners over 18 years old can obtain a student visa if they study at UAE universities from the list of institutions with state accreditation.

The validity period of a student visa is 1 year. International students with excellent grades can obtain long-term residence visas for 5 to 10 years for outstanding academic achievements.

Special conditions. Foreigners don’t have to know the Arabic language to be able to study at UAE universities. However, they are required to provide a language certificate. For example, to get accepted to the American University of Sharjah, an applicant has to pass one of the following language exams: IELTS score of 5,5, TOEFL iBT score of 70 or EmSAT score of 1250.

The list of documents required for the application to a UAE university can vary and is usually published on the institution’s website. A standard package of documents contains:

  • an application form;

  • a notarised copy of the high school diploma translated into Arabic;

  • a passport copy;

  • a copy of the birth certificate;

  • a letter confirming the equivalence of a foreign diploma issued by the UAE Ministry of Education;

  • a colour photo of 3×4 cm on a white background;

  • a language certificate confirming knowledge of English.

Visa renewal. The student visa is renewed yearly as long as its holder studies at the university.

American university of Sharjah | Residence visa to the UAE for students

American University of Sharjah is one of the institutions with state certification. International students can get UAE residence visas

How to obtain a UAE residence visa as a freelancer or remote worker

Obtainment conditions. Foreign freelancers and remote employees can get visas allowing them to reside in the UAE while working for a foreign company or as self‑employed.

To get a residence visa for freelancers, the applicant needs to get a licence in one of the free zones. For that, they need to complete the following steps:

  1. Pick one of the free zones. Each of them supports specific types of professionals. For example, developers and other IT specialists can choose Dubai Internet City and photographers, and graphic designers can get a licence from Dubai Media City.

  2. Apply for a licence on the website of the chosen free zone.

  3. Pay the licence fee.

The licence fee depends on the profession and age of the applicant. For instance, in the Ajman Free Zone, the licence fees start at AED 6,000, or $1,630, per year. Applicants aged 20 to 30 can obtain the licence at a lower fee — AED 5,000, or $1,360.

Validity period. The remote worker visa is valid for one year. After it’s over, the foreigner has to regather all the documents and pay the licence fee.

Special conditions. A visa will be cancelled if its holder stays outside the UAE for longer than six months.

Family members to join the application. The remote worker obtaining a UAE residence visa can add to the application and sponsor their parents, spouse and children.

Documents required to obtain a freelancer Dubai residency:

  • a passport with a minimum 6 months of validity;

  • medical insurance with UAE coverage validity;

  • proof of employment or ownership of a company;

  • bank statements from three preceding months;

  • a copy of the freelance licence;

  • a copy of a valid visa;

  • a CV;

  • a colour photo of 3×4cm on a white background.

How to get a UAE residence visa as a retiree

Obtainment conditions. People who get pensions from outside the UAE can obtain residence visas with the Retire in Dubai program.

To be eligible for the visa, the applicant has to meet one of the following conditions:

  • get a monthly pension of at least AED 15,000, or $4,100;

  • have opened a deposit of AED 1,000,000, or $275,000, for at least three years;

  • have invested in one or more properties with a total cost of at least AED 1,000,000, or $275,000.

Validity period. A resident visa for retirees is valid for 5 years.

Special conditions. Only people over 55 years old can join the program. A person who is getting a pension after military service but is not yet 55 is not eligible for this kind of visa.

Family members to join the application. Along with the applicant, their spouse and children under 18 can obtain residence visas.

The list of documents needed to obtain a residence visa for pensioners includes:

  • a passport copy;

  • a certificate of retirement;

  • bank statements from three preceding months;

  • a document confirming the amount of the pension;

  • documents confirming fulfilment of investment conditions: a certificate of deposit from the bank or contract for the sale of real estate.

Visa renewal. To renew the visa, the applicant must provide proof that they are still eligible for the Retire in Dubai program.

How to get an Emirates ID

The Emirates ID is an ID card that citizens and residents of the UAE get at the Federal Authority For Identity and Citizenship (ICP).

The Emirates ID contains personal information on its holder, including their fingerprints. The ID card allows taking advantage of state services, acquiring SIM cards and skipping the lines at the border control at UAE airports.

To obtain Emirates IDs, foreigners apply at the ICP website and provide biometric data at one of its departments. The administrative fee for the application is AED 30, or $11. Aside from that, residents pay a yearly service fee of AED 100, or $27, for the Emirates ID.

The ID card is valid for as long as its holder’s visa. It can be renewed along with the visa.

How to get a residence visa and the Emirates ID in the UAE and Dubai

The Emirates ID has a chip that contains the personal and biometric data of its holder

UAE re-entry rules for residence visa holders

In 2023, the UAE introduced new re-entry permit rules. UAE residents whose residence visa expired due to staying outside the country for more than six months can apply for a permit to re-enter the UAE.

The key requirements are the following:

  1. The application must be submitted from outside the UAE.

  2. Applicants must provide a valid reason for staying outside the UAE for more than 180 days.

  3. A fine of AED 100, or $27, is charged for every 30 days or less spent outside the country.

  4. Once the application is approved, the applicant must enter the UAE within 30 days from the approval date.

These re-entry rules are particularly important for those who need to stay outside the UAE for extended periods but wish to maintain their residency status.

How to cancel the UAE residence visa

To cancel a UAE residence visa, the sponsor of the visa, which can be an employer, a spouse, a parent, or the visa holder themselves if self-sponsored, initiates the cancellation process.

The sponsor must submit the necessary documents for cancellation, typically including the sponsored individual’s original passport, Emirates ID, labour card, and a signed visa cancellation paper from the sponsor.

For employment visas, the company must first cancel the labour contract and labour card at the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation.

If sponsoring dependents, their visas must be cancelled before the sponsor cancels their own.

The visa must be cancelled by the same authority that issued it, such as the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs for Dubai Mainland visas or the respective Free Zones for visas issued by free zone companies.

Cancellation applications are accepted through a registered typing centre or online via the ICP website or mobile application.

Discover the perks, conditions, and features of the Emirati investment program 

6 benefits of the UAE residence visa

1. Business-friendly environment. The UAE provides grants and financing facilities to companies in the industrial sector, for instance, businesses in IT, construction and healthcare technologies.

The UAE provides grants and financing facilities to companies in the industrial sector, for instance, businesses in IT, construction and healthcare technologies.

Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for SME Development provides support for small and medium businesses in Dubai. Its services are available to foreign investors, too.

2. Beneficial tax policies. Individuals do not pay income tax in the UAE. The corporate tax of 9% only applies to companies that earn more than AED 375,000 yearly, which is around $102,000.

Companies that earn more than AED 375,000 also pay VAT tax at 5%. Aside from that, all companies pay 5% of import tax.

Taxes can be optimised if the company is registered in one of the UAE Free Zones, areas with special tax and customs regimes. Businesses in Free Zones are free of corporate tax for 15—50 years after registration and VAT and customs taxes.

3. High quality of life. The country’s stable economy provides great job opportunities and tax-free income in many areas. Residents enjoy high-quality public services in a safe and culturally diverse environment, from healthcare to transportation. This mix of comfort, security, and a vibrant expat community makes the UAE an attractive place to live and work.

4. Higher education in internationally recognised institutions. 11 UAE universities are in the 1,000 best institutions, according to QS World University Rankings. The top three ones are the following:

  • Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi;

  • United Arab Emirates University in Abu Dhabi;

  • American University of Sharjah in Sharjah.

Foreigners must pay tuition fees to study at state and private universities. Each university sets its own fees. Usually, the more famous and prestigious the university is, the higher the fees.

For instance, undergraduate degrees at Khalifa University begin at AED 16,000, around $4,300. American University of Sharjah’s tuition fees start at AED 100,940, or $27,500.

5. Access to high-quality medicine. According to the World Index of Healthcare Innovation study, the UAE is in the top 20 countries with the most modern and innovative healthcare systems.

UAE nationals get full medical coverage from the government. For residents and tourists, healthcare comes with paid insurance.

Medical insurance allows getting treatment in private clinics. Some of them are accredited by Joint Commission International (JCI), which means that their services meet the international healthcare community standards. For instance, NMC clinics in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi have JCI accreditation.

6. Foreign UAE residents can purchase properties on a mortgage. Housing loans are provided only with a down payment of at least 20%. The maximum mortgage loan amount is AED 10,000, which is around $2,700,000.

The mortgage rate depends on the loan’s total amount, the financing term, the borrower’s official income and the down payment’s size. The minimum rate at First Abu Dhabi Bank, which works with foreigners, is 3,99% per annum.

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent for citizenship and residence by investment programs in the EU, the Caribbean, Asia, and the Middle East. Take advantage of our global 15-year expertise — schedule a meeting with our investment programs experts.

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Frequently asked questions

  • Who can get a residence visa to the UAE?

    A residence visa to the UAE is available to foreigners who purchase real estate in the country, start a business here, get accepted in a local university or are employed by a local company. Aside from that, retirees with more than $4,100 of passive income can obtain residency in the UAE.

    Real estate purchase is one of the more popular ways to obtain a residency visa. The candidate needs to buy a property in Dubai or Abu Dhabi for at least $204,000. A visa is valid for 2 years.

  • Is it easy to get a UAE residence visa?

    Application conditions for a UAE residency visa depend on the requested visa type. For instance, investors can obtain a 10-year visa after investing at least AED 2,000,000 ($544,500) in real estate.

    Freelancers and retirees can get a visa if they prove their sources of income. Students and employees of local companies are required to provide their contract with the university or a local company they’re employed by.

  • How long does it take to get a UAE residence visa?

    The obtainment period depends on the type of visa. For instance, a visa for investors can be issued in about 5—6 months.

  • What documents are required to obtain a freelancer visa to the UAE?

    A foreigner can obtain a freelancer visa to the UAE if they are self-employed or working remotely for a foreign company. To do so, the applicant needs to get a licence from one of the free zones of the UAE.

    Documents required to obtain a freelancer visa to Dubai:

    • a passport with minimum a 6 months of validity;

    • medical insurance with UAE coverage validity;

    • proof of employment or ownership of a company;

    • bank statements from three preceding months;

    • a copy of freelance licence;

    • a copy of a valid visa;

    • CV;

    • a white background.

    The visa for remote workers is valid for one year. After it has passed, it has to be renewed.

  • Can foreign entrepreneurs get a residence visa to the UAE?

    Investors and entrepreneurs can get a Golden Visa to the UAE for 5 or 10 years by investing AED 500,000, or $136,000, or more. They can choose to invest in a business, real estate or a fund.

    The visa validity period depends on the kind of investment and its total cost. For instance, a 5-year visa can be obtained when investing AED 500,000, or $136,000, in a new company. A 10-year visa is issued for startup owners who join a local business incubator or people who own a company with AED 1,000,000, or $272,280, of yearly revenue.

  • How much do I need to invest in getting a UAE residency visa?

    Foreigners who invest at least AED 2,000,000 ($544,500) in real estate can get a 10-year residency visa. Investors can purchase ready-to-move properties or those in construction in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

  • Can a foreigner get UAE citizenship?

    A foreigner can obtain UAE citizenship by investment, for exceptional services or by naturalisation after 30 years of residing in the country. The first two options became available in 2021.

    The UAE government does not specify the minimum investment amount for obtaining citizenship. Conditions of obtaining residency by investment can serve as a guideline.

  • How long can I stay with a UAE Residence Visa?

    The duration of stay with a UAE Residence Visa depends on the type of visa. It can range from one year for student and freelance visas to up to 10 years for Golden Visas. The specific duration is determined by the visa conditions and the holder’s circumstances.

  • Does Dubai allow dual citizenship?

    In January 2021, the UAE government approved amendments that allow specific categories of foreigners, along with their spouses and children, to become citizens of the UAE. These amendments permit naturalised citizens to keep their original nationality.

    However, UAE nationals need to inform the UAE government entity if they acquire or lose any other citizenship.