Virginia, US

United Arab Emirates

Whether your company is sending employees to United Arab Emirates or expanding outside of UAE to destinations around the world—Fragomen is here to help. Our experienced United Arab Emirates immigration professionals partner with you to develop immigration strategies that help you meet inbound immigration needs and manage your regional or global immigration program.

The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) immigration system is based on a concept of sponsorship and the majority of travel and all work authorizations require a sponsor. The type of sponsor defines the categories of visas that can be applied for. The UAE provides both short- and long-term visa options for prospective foreign nationals; the availability of permits depends on the sponsor's jurisdiction, desired duration of stay and activities, among other factors.

The UAE is a federation of seven Emirates each of them following the federal laws but with a right to constitute their own laws and regulations (Emirate-specific). As a result, various free trade zones (free zones) have been established across the country with the objective of offering a 100% foreign ownership, tax exemption and flexible business regulations. Each free zone is designed around one or more business industry categories and offers licenses to companies within those categories. Dubai is leading in this field with over 30 free zones currently operating in the Emirate.

The main structure of the immigration process, including eligibility and documentary requirements, is the same across all the Emirates and any differences between free zones and mainland (outside of free zones) appear due to internal regulatory procedures of the free zones.

Companies in mainland are subject to a classification system which groups them into the following categories:

  • Category 1;
  • Category 2-A, 2-B, 2-C, 2-D; and
  • Category 3.


In general, the classification depends on the commitment to Emiratisation, cultural diversity and records of violations and the higher the category the greater the incentives offered to the employer by the authorities.

Select nationalities are either visa-exempt or can obtain a visit visa-on-arrival. The maximum allowable stay depends on the foreign national's nationality but it is typically up to 14, 30 or 90 days. Extension of stay is permissible for select categories of entries. Certain business activities (including attending meetings and interviews, negotiating and signing deals and contracts, site visits, etc.) are permissible for visa-exempt and visa-on-arrival nationals provided that no hands-on work is performed.

Visit visas for business are generally issued for a single entry and are valid for a stay of 14, 30 or 90 days. Free zones often allow for a single-entry visa to be converted into a multiple-entry permit. Extensions of stay are permitted under select visa categories only. Citizens of countries that are visa-exempt or eligible for a visit visa-on-arrival are not eligible for business visit visas.

The main work authorization category in all jurisdictions is an Employment Residence Permit (ERP). The Mission Work Permit (MWP) is an option for those who are seeking short-term work authorization outside of free zones (in mainland). The work authorization process in free zones is less cumbersome and more streamlined as compared to the procedures applicable in the mainland.

Note that Emirates other than Dubai exercise significant discretion adjudicating various immigration requests, such as female foreign nationals sponsoring dependents, adoption of children, sponsorship of parents, etc.

Same-sex and unmarried partners do not qualify as dependents regardless of the jurisdiction.

Detailed Immigration Snapshots, Document Lists and Process Guides are available to clients on request.

Fragomen in the UAE is Fragomen (UAE) LLC in Dubai International Finance Centre and Fragomen FZ-LLC in Dubai Creative Clusters. Both entities operate as immigration consultancies.
Abu Dhabi

Fragomen FZ LLC - Abu Dhabi

+971 2 4083 100

+971 2 4083 101

Office Suites 14 - 16, Level 4, Al Mamoura Building, Block B
Al Muroor Street, PO Box: 30275
United Arab Emirates
Path Created with Sketch. more info
Dubai (FZ)

Fragomen FZ-LLC

+971 4 8181 777

+971 4 429 1392

Office G01, Ground Floor EIB 4 Building
Dubai Internet City
United Arab Emirates
Path Created with Sketch. more info
Dubai (UAE)

Fragomen (UAE) LLC

+971 4 8181 777

+971 4 429 1392

Office 101, First Floor Liberty House Dubai International Financial Centre Sheikh Zayed Road
PO Box 506626
United Arab Emirates
Path Created with Sketch. more info
11 professionals