Assessing travel and visa obligations in United Arab Emirates

When traveling to the UAE, your nationality and the types of activities you will conduct during your trip will determine whether you may travel lawfully as a business visitor or if work authorization will be required. Please seek advice from your immigration counsel if you are uncertain about the specific types of activities that constitute business or work.

Traveling for business

What types of activities may I engage in as a business visitor?

As a business visitor to the UAE, you may engage in the activities below. While this list is not exhaustive and other activities could qualify as business, you may:

  • Attend a meeting or conference
  • Attend or participate in a trade show
  • Arrange deals, negotiate, or sign trade agreements or contracts
  • Buy goods for sale outside the country


If I qualify as a business visitor, do I need a visa for the UAE?

Visas on arrival are available for many nationals, including nationals of the United States and member states of the European Union, which permits them to enter the UAE and perform business activities on a short-term basis.

Nationals of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia) are eligible to enter the UAE on visa-waiver status and conduct business activities for a short duration. Foreign nationals who are residents of GCC countries and visiting the UAE for business purposes are eligible to obtain an eVisa prior to travel.

Those who are ineligible for a visa waiver, eVisa, or Visa on Arrival must apply for a Visit Visa from a UAE Embassy or Consulate prior to travel. Please consult with your immigration provider before traveling to determine eligibility and the appropriate category.

Working in the UAE

What types of activities require work authorization?

The activities below, whether paid or unpaid, generally constitute work under UAE law. This list is not exhaustive, and many other professional activities are considered work in the UAE, even if conducted for a short duration.

  • Facilitating or receiving technical training
  • Technical repairs or maintenance
  • Market integration
  • Participating in an inventory evaluation


If I am traveling to the UAE for work, what type of work authorization do I need?

The requirements for work authorization depend on your qualifications, on the nature and duration of your work and on whether your employer has an entity in the UAE. The most common forms of work authorization in the UAE are:

  • Mission Visa (short-term work authorization for eligible mainland companies)
  • Temporary Access Card or Authorization Letter (short-term work authorization for business visitors in eligible free zones)
  • Employment Entry Permit, Labor Card/Free Zone ID Card, and Residence Visa (long-term work authorization)
  • Golden Visa (long-term work and residency authorization for specialists, investors, highly skilled professionals and top-performing students)
  • Virtual Work Residence Visa
  • Virtual Working Program (work authorization for professionals and business owners working remotely in Dubai)


Is it possible to be exempted from work authorization requirements?

There are no long-term work authorization exemptions available in the UAE. While eligible nationals of GCC member states may enter the UAE on visa-waiver status, they are subject to work authorization and registration requirements.

What else should I know?

Inevitably, the legal and strategic considerations impacting visa selection, as well as visa waiver and work authorization eligibility, entail the careful consideration of many factors. We recommend that you consult with your immigration counsel before taking any course of action.


Copyright ©2024 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. Government immigration agencies often change their policies and practices without notice; please consult an immigration professional for up-to-date information. This document does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. BAL maintains comprehensive immigration information and processing specifics for our clients.