Tim Elliot: Welcome to Lawgical, the U.A.E.’s first legal podcast. My name is Tim Elliot. Lawgical comes to you from the Dubai-based legal firm, HPL Yamalova & Plewka. As is always the case, I’m joined by the Managing Partner, Ludmila Yamalova. Nice to see you, Ludmila.
Ludmila Yamalova: Good to see you too, Tim.
Tim Elliot: Today, family and friend visas, once again, Ludmila, part of sweeping changes to the visa system here in the emirates that we have seen and discussed at some length after the U.A.E. Cabinet Resolution 65 of 2022. This visa specifically benefits families and friends if you’re a resident here in the U.A.E.
Ludmila Yamalova: Yes, indeed. As many would appreciate, this visa therefore would be of much interest to many because so many of us who live here, expats, most of us have family and friends outside of the U.A.E. who want to come and visit us frequently. Having an easy way of applying for a visit visa to see your family is of great comfort and convenience for everyone because if it’s easy to come and visit your family and friends here, then it becomes a lot more—
Tim Elliot: As long as you want them to come visit.
Ludmila Yamalova: Yes. You’re right.
Tim Elliot: Some people turn up a bit too much.
Ludmila Yamalova: Yes. For sure. We can all attest that it happens to many of us. But that being said, I digress a little bit, but when I came here, 13 years, almost 14 years, ago, it was a lot easier for expats here to go outside of the U.A.E. to travel because of the work ethics here and the work schedule which was a lot more flexible. These days it is a lot harder to just take off for three months in the summer than it was before.
But at the same time, for a lot of expats, that was one of the attractions, being able to leave their home to come and live in the U.A.E. – this was before the U.A.E. became what it is today – so just having the ease of being able to leave the country and see their family and friends outside of the U.A.E. was one of the main factors while they could justify leaving their home and coming to this otherwise unknown land.
Now it is a lot less comfortable or flexible in terms of just being able to go for months at a time and leave the U.A.E. when the weather gets too hot. Now that means there is reverse traffic, and (1) we need more of our family and friends to come and visit us, versus us going to visit them, and (2) as we have said before, the U.A.E. has a lot more to offer now. The U.A.E. has so much to offer that it is perhaps one of the most popular places to visit in the world for many, in particular because every time, say between every six months of your visits, they will be some other new landmark or new attraction to explore. Every time there is something new to explore.
Therefore, having this special visa for family and friends, importantly, it is not just a tourist visa, as was the case before. In most other cases, there is a tourist visa and you have been sponsored by a family member. Under this particular visa, you have a specialized family and friends visa, so you are not just here for tourism per se. It is very clear what you are coming here for, and (1) you don’t need the pretense of a travel agency, for example, and (2) importantly, you no longer need a guarantor host in the U.A.E., as was the case before.
Before, your family had to make an invitation and vouch for you with some guarantees, or if it was not a family member that would have done that, because it was easier for a professional agency to do it, like a travel agency, would do it, but they were ultimately your guarantor or sponsor.
Under this new visa, and this is, by the way, as you have said, this comes from the U.A.E. Cabinet Resolution 65 of 2022, or the U.A.E. immigration law, in Article 19 in particular, this particular visa is not self-sponsored. You no longer need a family member or a travel agency to be your guarantor or host. You are your own boss. This is your own self-sponsored visa.
The only thing you need to do is to show sufficient proof of financial security to apply. The amount of the financial security ranges from 1,000 to 3,000 dirhams. We are talking about $300 to $800, so all in all, not significant, because remember this is basically a proof of financial security. This is the money you have to deposit with the authorities (1) as a guarantee that you will be leaving and (2) in the event something happens the government has some money to recover your expenses. Relatively speaking, it is not that expensive, and it is much cheaper than it was before.
Tim Elliot: It is not a prohibitive amount, is it? How long does the family and friends visa last? And I think this is an important point, if you can clarify, is it a single or multiple entry?
Ludmila Yamalova: You can apply either for 30 days, or you can apply for 90 days. Both options are there. In both options, they are extendable and extendable for a similar amount. If you are applying for 30 days, you can extend it for an additional 30 days. If you are applying for 90 days, you can extend it for another 90 days, so about 180 days, if you think about it, so almost six months. On this visa, you could be in the U.A.E. for six months.
To answer your other question, you can apply for either a single entry or for a multiple entry visa. You now have an option to have family or friend visit visa into the U.A.E. that is self-sponsored, so you are not dependent on one particular family member or one particular friend. You are your own person and responsible for your own visa with a financial security that is fairly manageable, and as you said, not prohibitive, and it could be for multiple entries. You can spend up to six months in the country, coming and going, visiting your family here.
Tim Elliot: Again, it is part of what is a whole raft of changes to the visa system. It’s so much easier to visit, to stay for extended periods, and it’s just a far more flexible system these days.
Ludmila Yamalova: Yes. In terms of the practicalities of how to apply, all of these visas are under the particular immigration law, which once again is the U.A.E. Cabinet Resolution 65 of 2022. The authority that governs all of these different visas is what is called the Identity and Citizenship Authority (ICA). You can just go on the ICA website and find all of these types of visa. They are listed on the website itself. They are not just listed there, but the requirements for each one of these visas are listed and, more importantly, you can apply for all of the different visas through the ICA website.
This is important. Now it is all very much centralized. It is centralized in terms of the country. It is not Dubai versus Abu Dhabi versus Ajman. The laws we are talking about and these types of visas are federal. It will be the same visas, the same applications, the same terms and conditions will apply across the U.A.E. and you are no longer dependent upon a particular travel agency in Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah, or Umm Al Quwain. It is all done through a centralized government authority.
You don’t need to have a sponsor, and you can be self-sponsored. You can apply through the ICA website. It is fairly transparent. Obviously, the law is quite new still, so you need to prepare that if you are doing it right now, there may be some little growing pains here and there, and maybe a little bit of back and forth until the system is properly implemented to take into account every possibly eventuality, but ultimately it is one centralized portal through which you can submit all your documents. It is secure because it is the government. It is not a private entity. It is all done remotely, so you don’t even need to go to any specific offices. All the documents and all the decisions are submitted online. From our experience already, what we have seen so far, whenever there is a request for additional documents and such, the authorities communicate with you through either email or through the portal. Truly this is technology at its best.
Tim Elliot: That is another episode of Lawgical, the family and friend visas this time. Our legal expert, as ever, Ludmila Yamalova, the Managing Partner of Yamalova & Plewka. Thank you to you.
Ludmila Yamalova: Thank you, Tim.
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