Starting next month, many Qatar residents who are planning to visit the UAE will have to buy an online visa before heading there, Emirates Airline has said.
As of April 29, all GCC expats who are not from countries that are eligible for visa-on-arrival or of certain professions will need to start using an e-visa system that was introduced by the UAE government last May.
At the time, officials said the new process would reduce long queues and the need to make payments at the airport.
Initially, the deadline to start using the system was October 2015.
But this was extended by six months, and some applications are still being processed in person as well as through the e-visa system.
Now, Emirates Airline has this week advised on its website of the new cut-off date for in-person visa applications, warning:
“Please apply for an online visa before travelling to the UAE. If you fail to do so, you will have to return on the first available flight.”
People planning to travel to the country can either arrange their visa online through the airline, or through the UAE government’s online visa service.
According to Emirates, “a minimum of four international working days prior to arrival in Dubai is required, however Emirates does recommend that online applications are made as early as possible.”
However, the government said the process to actually issue the visa from the time the application is made until the final decision takes between 24-48 hours, “subject to MOI procedure.”
It added that online applications can be submitted at any time of the day or night.
However, the e-visa isn’t required for all GCC expat residents.
Nationals from 46 countries – including most of Europe, the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and South Korea – can still get a 30-day visit visa on arrival at the airport and for free, as was previously the case, an Emirates representative confirmed to Doha News.
You can see a full list of eligible countries here.
Additionally, some expat professionals working in the GCC on an official list of 201 approved professions may also still be able to get a visa on arrival. However, they should check with their airline to avoid being turned away at the airport.
The exemptions for GCC expats in specific occupations were introduced in 2014.
Gulf nationals can also use the government website to apply online ahead of travel for visit visas for people they sponsor, including domestic staff.
Once granted, the visa is valid for 30 days, and can be extended for a further 30 days, according to the government website.
GCC residents traveling to the UAE must have an RP with at least three months validity on it, while their passport must be valid for at least six months from their date of entry.
The site also warns that applications made by an expat GCC resident on behalf of a family member will only be approved if the sponsor is traveling with them.
Discussions have been underway for several years about the introduction of a Gulf-wide, unified tourist visa, similar to Europe’s Schengen visa.
While the occupations’ exemption has made it easier for some foreign residents to travel within the GCC, the UAE’s new online visa system will effectively rule out last-minute trips for others who now need to pre-order their visit visa in advance.