What is the change? Visitors in the United Arab Emirates who go to Kish Island in Iran – usually to satisfy the required exit when their current UAE visa expires while they await a new visa – are being denied re-entry to the United Arab Emirates. The policy is unofficial but is being applied in practice.

What does the change mean? Visitors intending to exit the UAE while awaiting another visit visa should avoid travel to Iran. Most foreign employees will not be affected because under a recent change they no longer have to leave the UAE to convert their visit visa to an employment visa. In addition, individuals who hold a valid UAE visa or residency permit are not affected and are able to travel to Iran and return to the UAE.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Visit visas.
  • Who is affected: Visitors exiting UAE while awaiting a visa approval.
  • Business impact: Individuals leaving the UAE while their application for a visa is pending should avoid travel to Iran as they may have difficulty returning, even if their visa is approved.

Background: Kish Island off the coast of Iran has been a customary stopping point for expatriate employees and visitors to the UAE who were required to exit at the expiration of their stay while awaiting a pending application, as Kish Island does not require visas for those individuals.

The UAE is now denying entry to individuals who have traveled to Kish Island. The policy appears to be fallout from the tense relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, as Gulf Cooperation Council countries have supported their co-member, Saudi Arabia, in the political dispute.

BAL Analysis: Visitors to the UAE should avoid travel to Iran if they are awaiting a decision on a visa. At this time, travel to Iran is not a problem for individuals with a valid UAE visa or residency permit or those who are eligible for visas on arrival. The UAE recently changed its rules to allow foreigners holding visitor visas to convert to employment permits without having to exit the country, which eliminates the need to temporarily leave the UAE for many applicants.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in United Arab Emirates. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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