The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has introduced a number of travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. These restrictions involve both visas and residency permits and could affect a large number of travelers and official residents of the country.
From Thursday March 19, the UAE’s Federal Authority for Citizenship and Identity stopped issuing visas on arrival for all foreign nationals.
All visas already issued have been temporarily suspended for holders who are currently outside the UAE, effectively preventing them from entering the country. This measure will last for a minimum of 2 weeks.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has also implemented a temporary ban on leaving the country for citizens of the Emirates.
All passenger flights to and from the UAE have been grounded for 2 weeks from March 25. Cargo and evacuation flights continue.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was first identified at the end of 2019 in Wuhan, China. It has since spread rapidly around the world, with most countries now having reported cases of the illness.
Many governments have taken measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, including implementing travel restrictions.
The UAE has so far reported over 200 cases of coronavirus. While it has not yet implemented a complete lockdown or curfew, it has suspended prayers in mosques for 4 weeks from March 24 and closed all malls, restaurants, cafés, and food markets for 2 weeks from March 25.
The UAE’s travel bans and suspensions of visas are strict and leave few travelers who are currently allowed to enter or leave the country.
Travelers are advised to regularly check worldwide visa information for updates.
How Do the Travel Restrictions Affect Foreign Nationals Inside the UAE?
Foreign nationals who are already inside the United Arab Emirates are allowed to remain in the Gulf state. They are still able to extend their current visa or apply for a new one, avoiding the need to leave the UAE at a time when travel is discouraged due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Applying for a new visa may require a sponsor, such as a family member who is an Emirati citizen or resident. Foreign nationals in this situation should check the visa requirements for their nationality and situation.
Visitors from overseas who remain in the UAE after their visa has expired without obtaining an extension or a new visa will be fined 200 United Arab Emirates dirham (Dh) for the first day (around US$60), Dh100 (around US$30) per day after that, plus a one-time Dh100 processing fee.
The Situation for Foreign UAE Residents
Foreign nationals who are official residents of the UAE are allowed to renew their residency permits as long as they are still in the Emirates. They may also transfer their residency to a new sponsor.
If a foreign national has just canceled their residency, but cannot leave the UAE due to the coronavirus pandemic, they may apply for a visit visa instead and remain in the country.
However, UAE residents who are currently out of the country are suspended from reentering the Emirates for a period of 2 weeks from March 19. This period may be extended by the UAE government if deemed necessary.
Foreign residents of the UAE who have been outside the country for more than 180 days will most likely have their residency terminated, as per the usual rules.
Individuals in this situation are advised to check with the relevant authority for updates.
All travelers, including Emirati citizens, official residents, and foreign visitors, who have recently arrived in the UAE from abroad must self-quarantine for a minimum of 14 days. Anyone found to have breached these quarantine rules by leaving their place of residence may be punished with a fine, imprisonment, or both.