Feb 08 2019

Residence Permit Process Change in Abu Dhabi May Impact International Travel

United Arab Emirates

The situation

It now takes foreign nationals in Abu Dhabi longer to obtain their residence permit due to a change in practice.

A closer look

  • Process change. Based on an observed process change (and not an official published announcement of a change), the Immigration Authority is now requiring foreign nationals in Abu Dhabi to obtain their Emirates Identity Card before they can have their residence permit stamped in their passport. These steps were previously reversed in Abu Dhabi.
  • Unaffected applicants. Applicants renewing their UAE residence permit in Abu Dhabi or Dubai or obtaining an initial residence permit in Dubai are still able to obtain their residence permit stamp before they obtain their Emirates Identity Card. Therefore, this change does not impact them.

Negative impact on travel plans

Affected foreign nationals in Abu Dhabi will have to wait longer (until their Emirates Identity Card is issued) to travel internationally since the residence permit stamp is required for foreign nationals to re-enter the United Arab Emirates.


  • Elimination of residence permit stamp. It is likely that the change in process is connected to the planned eventual elimination of traditional residence permit stamps currently endorsed in passports in favor of the Emirates Identity Card, which allows for entry to and departure from the United Arab Emirates via electronic gates, and serves as a health insurance card and a banking card. This will make the immigration process more streamlined by eliminating a step.
  • Expansion of FAIC’s role. The change also indicates the ongoing expansion of responsibilities of the Federal Authority of Identity and Citizenship (FAIC), which was granted authority to oversee foreign nationals’ affairs in the United Arab Emirates in 2017. The FAIC’s responsibilities now include the establishment and implementation of policies for entry and residence of foreign nationals, issuance and renewal of passports for Emiratis and Emirates Identity Cards for UAE residents, and the adjudication and endorsement of long-term residence permits for investors, foreign nationals with exceptional talents and other qualifying applicants.

Looking ahead

  • Other emirates to streamline processes. With the reversed process now in place in Abu Dhabi, it is expected that other emirates, including Dubai, will implement similar changes in the near future as the country aims to increase its digitization and streamline government processes.
  • Expansion of Emirates Identity Card. The use of a single document – the Emirates Identity Card – for identification purposes is expected to reduce the burden on UAE residents, who must now carry multiple documents to access public services. According to some earlier announcements, it is anticipated that the Emirates Identity Card will also replace labour cards and possibly free zone identity cards. Fragomen will report on relevant developments.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to