This post was originally published on 27 March 2016.
GCC expatriates flying to the UAE have to possess an e-visa before boarding the aircraft from April 29, officials from leading airlines have confirmed.
“The implementation date for the electronic visa required by all UAE airports will be the April 29. This will be applicable to all airlines,” Saleem Amanulla, Vice President Airport Operations at Oman Air, told Times of Oman.
Earlier, an official from Emirates confirmed on Thursday that a notice has been issued to trade partners stating that “effective April 29, 2016 all GCC residents/permit holders will need to pre-apply for an on-line visa prior to their travel to Dubai”.
The notice also adds that any GCC permit holders (other than the approved 46 nationalities eligible to get visa on arrival), arriving without a pre-applied online visa will not be accepted to travel.
An official from flydubai office in Oman also said that from April 29 onwards e-visa will be mandatory. “We have alerted the travel agents and customers about the new alert,” the official said.
Confusion over the rules
However, an official from Air Arabia said that they have not received any notice from the UAE immigration authorities. This had led to further confusion due to lack of proper communication.
However, the new development seems to be clear after Emirates & Oman Air confirmed the news.
What is changing now
Earlier, expatriates holding a certain professional status like doctors, engineers, managers etc. were eligible to get visa-on-arrival in the UAE.
During May 2015, UAE introduced an option to apply e-visa for GCC residents, a move that was aimed at reducing queue times at airports.
Later on in October 2015, this e-visa system was made compulsory for all expatriates with GCC residence permit.
However the implementation of the new rules was mired in confusion, with some airlines allowing expats to fly into Dubai and get a visa on arrival while others in Oman blocked passengers from travelling.
The system was apparently halted for some time while authorities worked on the online application system.
There were several complaints as some people who applied online lost their money after the system rejected their application. (Even now, if your application is rejected, you will get only part of your payment as refund).
There was also erratic enforcement at the land border with some expats allowed in, some turned away. The latest notice does nothing to clarify what might happen to travellers by road.
How to apply online
GCC resident who were earlier eligible for visa on arrival (because on their profession) can visit GDRFA website, fill up the form and pay the corresponding fee for the visa.
If your profession status does not qualifying you for visa on arrival, you can still apply for a tourist visa through airlines or travel agents.
- GCC Resident Application will not be approved for any family member if the sponsor is not traveling along with the family members.
The entry permit issued after applying online is valid for 60 days from the date of issue. If the residence permit is expired/cancelled or profession is changed, the visitor will not be allowed to enter the UAE.
Checks have to be conducted before allowing entry to foreigners, with temporary passports. However, foreigners possessing only emergency passports will not be allowed entry into UAE.
Passport should be valid for minimum six months. Minimum validity of residence permit, according to official website, is 3 months. However, recent travellers say that officials ask for minimum 6 months validity.
The new rule also stipulates that a GCC resident e-visa is only valid for entry into the arrival/issuance port in UAE. This means if you are issued a visa for travel to Dubai, you cannot enter through Abu Dhabi.
As per the official website, online visa process will take about two working days while the regular procedure takes about four to seven working days or maybe more.