Virginia, US
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| Marcin Kubarek

UAE Residency: How Long Can I Stay Outside of the UAE?

For obvious reasons people normally track the expiry date of their residency visa but the duration of stay outside of the country is often overlooked. In the UAE, the maximum period of time the residents are allowed to remain away from the country is 180 days. The deadline is defined by law and those who do not comply will face consequences resulting from the visa being invalidated.
Re-entry Permits
Historically, those who overstayed could obtain a re-entry permit which facilitates a return into the UAE without complications (learn more about the UAE entry permits in my previous article). This practice has been almost completely discontinued and re-entry permits are now issued only in exceptional cases that are adjudicated on an individual basis. In general, foreign residents who overstayed abroad for medical or educational reasons, and who can justify their absence with appropriate documentation, will be allowed to apply for the re-entry permits. The paperwork that must be submitted includes certificates issued by the relevant authorities (e.g., hospital, university) and legalised by the UAE consular post in the country of issue and by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in the Emirates.
Exceptions for Investor Visas Holders
An exception to the 180-day rule exists and foreign nationals with a residency visa for investors can benefit from stays of up to 360 days away from the UAE. They can simply fly back every 12 months, as long as their visa has not expired. But not all the investors can enjoy the same privileges. In the UAE, investors can obtain their visas through a business established in one of the free zones or on-shore (mainland); they also have an option to invest in a real estate market and get a property-based residency visa. Due to specific free zone regulations, which trigger an employment-like relationship between the authority and the investor, it may occur that the profession field in the residency visa will read ‘director’ or ‘general manager’ and, in that case, the visa holder will not be exempt from the 180-day deadline. For this reason, it is prudent that the applicants verify the regulations directly with the authority governing their jurisdiction or seek an expert advice from an immigration professional to ensure the possibility of utilising either ‘investor’ or ‘partner' titles
Visa Cancellation
If no entry permit can be processed and the visa has been automatically invalidated, the foreign national will have to apply for a new visa should he or she decide to return to the UAE. But before doing that, the current sponsor must officially cancel the residency visa that has been invalidated. This will clear all the immigration records and will release the employment quota if the one who overstayed is an employee. Non-compliance with the cancellation requirement may result in exposure for the sponsoring company and subject the individual to some serious risks, including monetary fines, immigration and/or labour bans and Wages Protection System-related violations.  
Employee Tracking
So the best way for employers to avoid the exposure is to track the duration of stay outside of the UAE for all sponsored persons. It may be critical especially for the companies whose employees travel frequently for projects. Tracking can be done through the company’s internal systems relating to business travel or international assignments. The data can also be verified by pulling out an exit/entry report from the respective immigration department. The document aims at recording all the entry and departure dates of foreign nationals who are sponsored by the company. Carrying out such audits on a regular basis will not only help to mitigate the risk of overstaying but will also save the time and money the company would have to bear if visa cancellation is inevitable.  Obtaining a new residency permit after the previous visa has been invalidated is not a straightforward process; it is a hindrance on the way to a smooth immigration process, an annoyance to be avoided.