Foreign travel advice

United Arab Emirates

Important COVID-19 travel guidance

Travel in your area, including international travel, may be restricted because of domestic regulations. Different rules apply in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Follow all the rules that apply to you.

Other countries may close borders, restrict movement or bring in new quarantine rules with little warning. Check our advice on things to consider, and be prepared to stay overseas longer than planned.

Before you return to the UK you must provide your journey and contact details. Also check if you need to self isolate.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

As of 6 July, holders of full British passports will once more be granted a free of charge visitor/tourist visa upon arrival in the UAE although currently visitors/tourists can only fly to Dubai. No application in advance of travel is needed. Your passport will be stamped with the visa as you pass through Immigration at any of the International airports in the UAE. The visa issued at the airport for British passports holders is valid for 30 days.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Testing before arrival

COVID-19 entry requirements may change at short notice, and travellers to the UAE are strongly encouraged to check the specifics, including the time frames for undertaking COVID-19 PCR tests before departure with their airline before they travel. Further details are available on British Airways, Emirates and Etihad websites including information about what these airlines accept as proof of a negative test.

Individuals travelling from the UK to Dubai now have the option to undertake a PCR test on arrival at Dubai airport. If you test positive for COVID-19 on arrival in Dubai, depending on your symptoms and your accommodation plans, you may be required to self-isolate in a government led facility, a hospital, your hotel or privately arranged accommodation.

For the rest of the the UAE, authorities have stated that, citizens, returning residents and tourists have to undertake a COVID-19 PCR test in the country they are currently in, and have proof of a negative result, before travelling to the UAE.

If you are transiting through the UAE to a country that requires a PCR test on arrival, then you must obtain a negative PCR test before travelling.

In all circumstances, the test must be a PCR swab test. Other test results including antibody tests are not accepted. The test must have been carried out within 96 hours of departure.

Further information is available on the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority website. Children under the age of 12 and those with severe and moderate disabilities will be exempted from the test requirement. Those entering the country may also be asked to take a further COVID-19 PCR test on arrival and to complete a period of self-isolation or quarantine.

You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.

Entry to the United Arab Emirates other than Dubai

Some foreign residents, including British Nationals, are being allowed to return to the UAE based on criteria set by the UAE authorities. Visit and tourist visas are not currently being issued by the Abu Dhabi authorities at Abu Dhabi airport. Visitors can travel to Abu Dhabi by road but must have had a COVID-19 PCR test within 48 hours

All arrivals in Abu Dhabi must isolate for 14 days on arrival and will be required to wear a medically approved wristband for the duration of their quarantine. The wristband will be provided at Abu Dhabi airport after clearing immigration. Arrivals under the age of 18, over the age of 60, diplomats or those suffering from a chronic disease will be exempt from having to wear the wristband. Further information is available on the Etihad Airlines website including a guide for arrivals in Abu Dhabi. Further advice for international arrivals in Abu Dhabi is also available from the Abu Dhabi Media Office and on the UAE Government Portal.

The National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority announced on 12 August that, apart from Dubai, there is no longer a requirement for residents who wish to return to the UAE to get permission to travel. Further information is available on the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority website.

Dubai residents returning to or leaving Dubai

The government of Dubai announced new procedures on 21 June for returning residents. Dubai residents overseas can return to Dubai from 22 June and Dubai residents within Dubai can travel overseas from 23 June. Further information about what returning residents need to do before they travel and what will happen on arrival in Dubai is available on the Government of Dubai website including information about testing on arrival and quarantine.

Dubai residents must apply for a permit to return on the Dubai Government General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs website. Before they fly returning residents will also be required to complete a Health Declaration Form and a Quarantine Form. Both forms need to be printed, completed and handed over to Dubai Health Authority staff on arrival. Further information about how to book a flight for returning residents is available on the Emirates Airline website.

On their return to Dubai, returning residents will have register their details on the COVID-19 DXB App.

Visitors to Dubai

New procedures for visitors to Dubai were announced by the Government of Dubai on 21 June. Visitors are able to travel to Dubai from 7 July. Further information about what visitors need to do before they travel and what will happen on arrival in Dubai is available on the Government of Dubai website including information about testing on arrival and quarantine.

Before visitors fly to Dubai, they will also be required to complete a Health Declaration Form and a Quarantine Form. Both forms need to be printed, completed and handed over to Dubai Health Authority staff on arrival. Visitors to Dubai will also have to register their details on the COVID-19 DXB App.

Visitors must have international health insurance before travelling.

All visitors to Dubai must adhere to all public health measures issued by the Dubai authorities including any requirements to quarantine.

Quarantine requirements

Stringent entry restrictions remain in place upon arrival at all airports in the UAE which may include, but are not limited to, a Health Authority COVID-19 PCR test on arrival, mandatory quarantine period, usually via self-isolation at a private address if suitable, or a hotel or Government facility, for at least 14 days, and follow up testing before you are able to complete quarantine. Once any quarantine period is complete you must continue to comply with all measures put in place by the UAE authorities to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Arrivals in Abu Dhabi from countries that the UAE authorities consider high risk, and/or for whom the authorities assess private accommodation in the UAE to be unsuitable, are likely to be required to quarantine in a government quarantine facility for at least 14 days.

Cruise ships

Passenger cruises are currently not allowed to dock in the UAE as a result of measures taken to combat COVID-19. A UAE-wide notice to mariners has issued.

Vessels already in port have been allowed to disembark passengers at the end of cruises.

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) has adopted an enhanced member health policy which all CLIA ocean member cruise lines are required to follow to address COVID-19.

If you are planning to travel on an international cruise that is due to call at any port in the UAE, contact your travel company for the latest information.

Visas

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MOFAIC) has provided a hotline for holders of valid UAE Residence visas who wish to return to the UAE: +971 (0)9 208 3344.

The UAE authorities announced on 10 July that they have cancelled their decision to extend the validity of visas and entry permits that expired after 1 March 2020 until the end of December 2020. This affects residency visas and ID cards. For residents it applies to those both inside and outside the UAE. Further information is available on UAE Information and Services and the Emirates News Agency website.

If you have any questions on the validity or expiry of your visa, contact UAE Immigration directly. If you’re living outside the UAE, contact the nearest UAE Embassy for advice.

Exit rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

With effect from 1 August 2020, all travellers departing from the Abu Dhabi to the EU and UK will need to have a negative COVID-19 PCR test result within 96 hours prior to their departure. This is also a requirement for travellers to other countries that require a negative COVID-19 PCR test before arrival. Children under the age of 12 and those with severe and moderate disabilities will be exempted from the test requirement.

On 2 October the Dubai Media Office announced that Emiratis, residents and tourists travelling overseas from Dubai are only required to undergo a COVID-19 PCR test prior to departure if their destination country requires a pre-travel negative test certificate. It is not a requirement for travellers to the UK to undergo a COVID-19 PCR test prior to arrival in the UK.

Transit passengers from some countries are required to conduct a PCR test prior to departure for Dubai. The pre-travel test is also mandatory for transit passengers if their destination country requires them to do so. Further information is available on the Dubai Media Office website

All travellers departing from the UAE to the UK will also be required to complete the UK Government Public Health Passenger Locator Form online and provide a printed copy at the airport before departing the UAE.

Further information is available on the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority website. Further information about testing facilities in the UAE is available on the UAE Government Portal.

Regular entry requirements

Living and working in the UAE

If you have entered Dubai on a visit visa and you wish to work then you should get a probationary work permit, valid for up to 3 months, from the Ministry of Labour. If you don’t get this permit and are caught working while on a visit visa, then you risk being jailed or fined and deported.

For further information, including on how to stay in the UAE for longer than 60 days, visit the websites of the UAE Consulate in London, the Naturalisation and Residency Department – Dubai or the UAE Federal E-Government Portal.

If you apply for a residence visa, you will have to take a blood test. Those testing positive for HIV or hepatitis are detained and then deported. There is no appeal process.  

UAE employers may ask foreign employees to deposit their passports with the company as part of the terms and conditions of employment. While this is not an unusual practice, it is illegal under UAE labour law.

You should cancel your work visa before leaving the country permanently. If you don’t do this, you risk being reported as an absconder and could be arrested if you return to the UAE, even if you are in transit to another country. Failure to repay debts or resolve any outstanding cases against you may also result in your arrest on return or transit through the UAE.

If you have any doubt about your status before returning to the country seek advice from a local lawyer.

On 5 April the Cabinet approved a decision exempting holders of expired residence visas from fines until the end of this calendar year. Please see UAE official sources for full details or contact the Federal Authority of Identity and Citizenship (ICA) on 600 522222.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into the UAE. If you hold a residence permit, your passport must be valid for at least 3 months in order to travel into the country.

If you’re transiting the UAE (and not passing through Immigration) your passport only needs to have a minimum of 3 months validity from the date of transit.

Medication

If you’re planning to travel with any prescribed or over the counter medicines for personal use, you’ll need to meet the UAE’s specific requirements for your medicine to be allowed into the country.

If you’re entering the country with medication that the UAE classes as narcotic, psychotropic, controlled or semi-controlled, approval is needed from the UAE authorities. A list of medicines where this rule applies, allowed quantities and documents to present can be found on the UAE Ministry of Health website.

Approval can be requested in advance or on arrival. To gain approval prior to travelling, you can apply online using the electronic application form and accompanying user guide on the UAE Ministry of Health website. The UAE authorities advise that applications are normally processed within 5 working days. If you arrive in the UAE without prior approval, you will be asked to present the documents cited on the list above. It is not guaranteed that you will receive approval.

If you arrive in the UAE without prior approval or the required documentation, the medication will not be allowed into the UAE and you may be prosecuted under UAE law. If you need more information on controlled medicines or the process for obtaining permission, you should contact the UAE Ministry of Health by emailing info@moh.gov.ae or calling +971 800 11111.

If you’re travelling in transit through a UAE airport and do not intend on entering the country, or are entering the country with other types of medicine not listed in the above, you’re not required to go through this approval process.

In all cases, there are limits on the amount of medication that can be brought into the country legally. The Ministry of Health advise that you can bring up to 3 months’ supply of medication as a visitor, reduced to one month’s supply if the medication is included in the list requiring approval.

Previous travel to Israel

UAE immigration authorities have advised that British nationals with valid or expired Israeli visas or stamps in their passports should not face any difficulties entering the UAE as long as they don’t intend to work. If you do intend to work, further checks may be required and there is a risk that entry may be refused.

British-Israeli dual nationals may be refused entry to the UAE. If you have any concerns or further queries, contact the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in London.

Regular exit requirements

Visitors must have legal status in the UAE when they depart. If you are subject to a travel ban, involved in legal proceedings, have unpaid debt or are a child subject to a custody dispute, you may be prevented from leaving the country.

Thermal scanning is in operation at airports. Departing passengers may be subject to testing, quarantine and medical treatment in the UAE.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for airside transit and exit from the United Arab Emirates, but not for entry into the UAE. If you are requesting an ETD to leave the UAE, you must check with UAE Immigration which documents you will need to present to leave the country. This will depend on the circumstances and you should allow time to do this. If your passport has been lost or stolen you will need to obtain a police report from a local police station. It can take a number of days to complete this process and you may need to reschedule your flight.