Expat students who are at least 18 years of age and residing in the UAE can apply for a student visa. The visa is valid for one year, and students can be sponsored by their parents or by accredited universities. Notably, outstanding students can apply for a long-term residence visa or “golden visa,” which has a validity period of 5 years.
Recently, the UAE Cabinet has also issued new visa and residency rules, which allow expat students to sponsor their families, as long as they are financially able to do so. This is great news for those who are eager to pursue their higher studies in the UAE, while still being connected with their families.
DISCLAIMER: The following guide is presented for informational purposes only. To know more about the student visa, or other types of visas, please visit the official website of the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) or the UAE Government Portal. You may also contact ICA by calling their toll free number 600522222. If you are abroad, you may also inquire with the embassies and consulates of the UAE in your home country.
What is the Student Visa?
The student visa is type of visa given to college or university students who are studying in the UAE. He/she much be at least 18 years old. The visa is typically valid for one year, renewable for another year when the student presents proof of continuation of study issued by the college or university wherein he/she is enrolled in.
Requirements for a Student Visa
Visa applications are processed through the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) in each emirate. To apply for a student visa, you must prepare:
- An official admission letter from the college or university (for freshman students); or
- A certificate of continuation of study (for continuing students).
Additionally, you will also need to accomplish the following:
- Pass a medical fitness test;
- Be sponsored by your parent or by the university; and
- Get the approval of the GDRFA in your emirate.
Sponsorship by Colleges or Universities
Accredited colleges and universities may sponsor visas for their students, including international students as well as those who are already residing in the country. If you are a student applicant, be sure to know the school’s specific requirements for admission and visa processing.
However, keep in mind that getting admitted in a university does not guarantee that a student visa will be issued. You will still need to accomplish other requirements, such as passing a medical fitness test and getting the approval of the GDRFA in the relevant emirate.
Sponsorship by Parents
Parents who are residents in the UAE can sponsor their children’s visas. As of 21 October 2018, students who are at least 18 years old or have graduated from secondary schools/universities may be granted a one-year residence visa. This visa is renewable for another year from the graduation date or upon the student reaching 18 years old.
To apply for this visa, parents must present their children’s duly attested graduation certificates from secondary schools/universities, whether inside or outside the UAE. The visa costs AED 100 for first time issuance and renewal, although parents will not be required to place bank deposits.
Golden Visa for Outstanding Students
On 24 November 2018, the UAE government issued a resolution on long-term residence visas, which are also called “golden visas.” Cabinet Resolution No. 56 of 2018 pertains to the issuance of 5-year or 10-year residence visas (renewable automatically) to:
- Specialized talents and researchers in various fields; and
- Outstanding students with promising scientific capabilities.
In particular, the conditions for students to qualify for a 5-year visa are:
- For incoming college or university students – a grade of at least 95 percent from a secondary school (including public and private schools); or
- For university students pursuing higher education – a distinctive GPA of at least 3.75 from a university (including those inside and outside the UAE).
Notably, a long-term visa would also include the families of the outstanding students.
Students Can Now Sponsor Their Families
More recently, in January 2021, the UAE Cabinet approved a resolution allowing expat students to bring and sponsor their families to the UAE, provided that they can afford suitable housing.
“The UAE has become a regional educational destination with more than 77 universities and tens of thousands of students annually,” stated His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai, as cited in a report by WAM.
“We approved changes in the residency and nationality procedures in the country by enabling foreign students to bring their families whenever they have the financial means,” he declared.
Education Sector Hails Latest Changes
In response, the education sector in the UAE praised the latest changes in residency and nationality procedures.
“I think this is fantastic news. The vision and the wisdom behind this [move] is incredible and truly futuristic,” stated Dr. Karim Chelli, President of Canadian University Dubai, as cited by Khaleej Times.
“The UAE will not only be able to attract but also retain the brightest people in the world over here,” he said. “The UAE is already well known for its world class infrastructure, hospitals, education centres, openness and diversity.”
Likewise, Professor Ammar Kaka, Provost and Vice Principal for Heriot-Watt University Dubai, hailed the new changes. “This is a historic move which will go a long way in retaining the best and the brightest brains, and boost the overall development of the UAE,” he commented.
“Under the National Agenda, the goal of the UAE is to transition to a knowledge-based economy, and the wise leadership of this country has always worked tirelessly to develop talent, promote innovation and research and instill an entrepreneurial mindset,” the Professor explained.
Without a doubt, all of these changes regarding residency will attract more and more people to the UAE. Foreign talents as well as outstanding students will be encouraged to work and/or study in the country, especially now that they have the option to sponsor their families. This is definitely a wise move that will greatly benefit the emirates, and even the global economy, in the long run.