Getting here and advice about your stay
Entry requirements for the UAE
You should consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
If you are a British citizen you can get a visitor’s visa on arrival in the UAE. In the past, this visa has allowed the visitor to stay in the UAE for up to 30 days. The visa has terminated automatically on departure and a new visa issued on arrival each time the same visitor returns to the UAE.
That approach continues to be applied in most cases, but in some cases British citizens (and visitors of some other nationalities) who have left the UAE and returned again within the 30 day period of stay granted at the time of the first arrival, have not received a new visa. Instead their stay has been limited to the initial 30 day period.
The British Embassy has sought, but not yet received, the UAE Authorities’ clarification of the status and application of this different approach.
If you have any questions on the validity or expiry of your visa, contact UAE Immigration directly in Abu Dhabi on 02-4024 500 or Dubai on 04-3980 000. If you are residing outside the UAE, contact the nearest UAE Embassy for advice.
If you hold any other type of British nationality (e.g., British Overseas Citizen or British National Overseas) you will need to get a visa from the nearest UAE Embassy before you arrive in the UAE.
Living and working in the UAE
If you have entered the UAE on a visit visa and you wish to work then you should get a probationary work permit, valid for up to three months, from the Ministry of Labour. If you do not get this permit and are caught working while on a Visit Visa, you risk being jailed or fined and deported.
For further information, including on how to stay in the UAE for longer than 60 days, visit the website of the UAE Embassy in London at: http://www.uae-embassy.ae/Embassies/uk/Content/591, or the Dubai Naturalization and Residency Department at: http://www.dubaicity.com/naturalization-residency-department-dnrd/.
If you apply for a residence visa, you will have to take a blood test. Those testing positive for HIV or hepatitis are detained and then deported. There is no appeal process.
UAE employers may ask foreign employees to deposit their passports with the company as part of the terms and conditions of employment. While this is not an unusual practice, it is illegal under UAE Labour Law.
You should cancel your work visa before leaving the country permanently. If you do not do this, you risk being reported as an absconder and could be arrested if you return to the UAE, even if you are in transit to another country. Failure to repay debts or resolve any outstanding cases against you may also result in your arrest on return or transit through the UAE.
If you have any doubt about your status before returning to the country you should seek advice from a local lawyer.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into the UAE. If you hold a residence permit, your passport must be valid for at least three months in order to travel into the country.
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs)
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are not valid for entry into the UAE. However, ETDs are accepted for airside transit and exit from the UAE.
Some prescribed and over-the-counter medicines that are available in the UK are considered controlled substances in the UAE and cannot be brought into the country without prior permission from the UAE Ministry of Health. If you arrive in the UAE without this permission and the required documentation, the medication will not be allowed into the UAE and you may be prosecuted under UAE law.
For further information and specific queries, contact the UAE Embassy in London at: http://www.uae-embassy.ae/Embassies/uk/Content/591 to check whether your medication is on the controlled list. You can find a list of registered and controlled medicines and details on import regulations on the UAE interact website at: http://www.uaeinteract.com/.
Visitors must have legal status in the UAE when they depart. If you are subject to a travel ban, involved in legal proceedings, have unpaid debt or are a child subject to a custody dispute, you may be prevented from leaving the country.
[Source – FCO Travel Advice/gov.uk]
Local laws and customs
UAE laws and customs are very different to those in the UK. Be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas. There may be serious penalties for doing something that might not be illegal in the UK. You are strongly advised to familiarise yourself with, and respect local laws and customs.
See the FCO’s guidance on travelling during Ramadan at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travelling-during-ramadan, and you can read more about living in the UAE at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/living-in-the-united-arab-emirates#social-ethics-and-traditions-in-uae.
Importing pork products and pornography into the UAE is illegal. Videos, books, and magazines may be subject to scrutiny and may be censored.
There is zero tolerance for drugs-related offences. The penalties for trafficking, smuggling and possession of drugs (even residual amounts) are severe. Sentences for drug trafficking can include the death penalty and possession of even the smallest amount of illegal drugs can lead to a minimum four-year jail sentence. The Emirati authorities count the presence of drugs in the blood stream as possession. Some herbal highs, like Spice, are illegal in the UAE.
Many people stop off in UAE airports on their way to other destinations. UAE airports have excellent technology and security, so transiting passengers carrying even residual amounts of drugs may be arrested.
It is normal practice for hotels to take a photocopy of your passport or Emirates ID. You cannot stay in a hotel if you are under 18 years old and not accompanied by an adult.
Photography of certain government buildings and military installations is not allowed. Do not photograph people without their permission. Men have been arrested for photographing women on beaches. Hobbies like bird watching and plane spotting may be misunderstood – particularly near military sites, government buildings and airports.
Posting material (including videos and photographs) online that is critical of the UAE Government, companies or individuals, or related to incidents in the UAE, or appearing to abuse/ridicule/criticise the country or its authorities, or that is culturally insensitive, may be considered a crime punishable under UAE law.
If you are considering undertaking or promoting fundraising or other acts of charity in (or while passing through) the UAE, bear in mind that these activities, including where conducted online and via social media, are heavily regulated. You should be fully aware of the legal requirements and seek professional advice as necessary. Non-compliance can incur criminal penalties, including heavy fines and/or imprisonment.
If you want to buy property in the UAE, you should seek appropriate professional advice, as you would in the UK. A list of lawyers for Abu Dhabi and Dubai is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/united-arab-emirates-list-of-lawyers.
Financial crimes, including fraud, bouncing cheques (including post-dated and ‘security cheques’) and the non-payment of bills (including hotel bills) can often result in imprisonment and/or a fine. Bank accounts and other assets can also be frozen.
Bail is generally not available to non-residents of the UAE who are arrested for financial crimes. Those convicted will not generally be released from jail until the debt is paid or waived and they may even remain in jail after a debt has been paid if there is an outstanding sentence to be served.
Weapons and related equipment
Weapons, ammunition, body protection and related equipment (like cleaning kits, gun belts, etc.), however small the quantity and whatever the purpose, all require permission before entering or transiting the UAE.
Equipment like satellite phones, listening or recording devices, radio transmitters, powerful cameras or binoculars, may require a licence for use in the UAE. Seek advice from the UAE Embassy in London.
[Source – FCO Travel Advice/gov.uk]
Safety and security
Over 1.5 million British visitors travel to the UAE every year and more than 120,000 British nationals are resident there. The vast majority of visits are trouble-free, but you should take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings. Do not accept lifts from strangers. Use only licensed taxis or other recognised forms of public transport.
Personal attacks, including sexual assault and rape, are relatively rare, but do happen. UAE law places a high burden of proof on the victim to demonstrate that the sexual relations were not consensual, especially when the victim had consumed alcohol or where the alleged attacker was known to the victim. If the sexual relations are determined to have been consensual, both parties may face prosecution for the offence of sex outside marriage.
Female visitors and residents should take care when walking or travelling alone, and should use a reputable taxi company, particularly at night. Drink spiking can occur. Do not accept drinks from strangers or leave drinks unattended.
Rip currents can occur at any beach, and can sweep even the strongest swimmer out to sea. Always comply with warning signs, especially red flags, and only swim from approved beaches.
If you are visiting the UAE, you can drive a rental car using your UK driving licence. If you intend to drive a private vehicle as a visitor, you should check that you are covered under the vehicle’s insurance.
If you are applying for residence in the UAE, you can use your UK licence until your residence permit is issued, after which you will need to immediately get a UAE driving licence from the traffic department.
Driving standards in the UAE are not always as disciplined as in the UK and there is a high rate of traffic accidents. The World Health Organization has reported that UAE road users are almost seven times more likely to be killed than their UK counterparts and that the UAE has one of the highest rates of road deaths. Speeding is common.
It is a criminal offence in the UAE to drink and drive, no matter how small the amount. Your insurance is also likely to be invalidated in the event of an accident. Offensive gestures and bad language used at other drivers can lead to fines, a jail sentence, and possibly deportation. Flashing your lights in the UAE can mean a driver is coming through, rather than giving way.
If you have an accident you should follow the rules of the Emirate in which you are travelling. In Abu Dhabi, if no one has been hurt and vehicle damage is minor, drivers should move vehicles to the side of the road to avoid blocking traffic; otherwise, the vehicles should not be moved. In Dubai, you should only move your vehicle if it is causing an obstruction to other motorists. In the other Emirates, you may only move your car if the accident is minor and both parties agree on who is responsible for it. In all cases, call the police. It is an offence to leave the scene of an accident before the police have arrived.
Excursions to the desert can be dangerous unless you are in a properly equipped 4 x 4 vehicle. Always travel in convoy with other cars, take a supply of water and a mobile telephone, and leave a copy of your travel plans with friends or relatives.
Pedestrians should take great care. Only cross roads using designated pedestrian crossings, failure to comply can lead to prosecution.
Many areas of the Gulf are highly sensitive, including near maritime boundaries and the islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs in the southern Gulf. Vessels entering these areas have been detained and inspected. Mariners should make careful enquiries before entering these waters.
You should consider how regional tensions may affect your route. Vessels operating in the Gulf of Oman, Northern Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and Bab El Mandeb regions may be at increased risk of maritime attack.
Be careful when travelling by tourist boat. The safety of these vessels may not be up to UK standards. Make sure life jackets are available for all passengers.
Despite the regional instability, the UAE does prove to be an oasis for stability and tolerance. However, events in the Middle East, including Iraq and the Middle East Peace Process, can affect local public opinion. Follow news reports and be alert to local and regional developments which might trigger public disturbances.
[Source – FCO Travel Advice/gov.uk]
Visit your health professional at least four-to-six weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures.
Country-specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website: https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries and by NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website: http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/destinations.aspx.
Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website: http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/Pages/Healthcareabroad.aspx.
Healthcare facilities in the UAE are generally comparable with those in the UK, but visitors may be prevented from using them without travel insurance or without the means to settle any medical fees. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 999 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
[Source – FCO Travel Advice/gov.uk]
FCO travel advice
If you are travelling to the UAE for business, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) website has travel advice to help you prepare for your visits overseas and to stay safe and secure while you are there.
For advice please visit the FCO travel section pages on the gov.uk website: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/united-arab-emirates/travel-advice-help-and-support.
Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel. See the FCO Foreign Travel Insurance guidance at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/foreign-travel-insurance.
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