UAE flights: Pre-travel GDRFA, ICA approvals for residents explained

Passengers from restricted countries must present a negative Covid‑19 PCR test certificate with a QR code


Dhanusha Gokulan

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The immigration area at Dubai International Airport. Photo: File
The immigration area at Dubai International Airport. Photo: File

Published: Tue 16 Nov 2021, 12:03 PM

Last updated: Tue 16 Nov 2021, 1:36 PM

UAE government authorities put in place the need for pre-travel approvals in September this year.

For UAE residents, travelling from certain countries, approval from the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) must first be obtained.

If they reside in Dubai, approval from the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) is also required.

However, visitors and tourists travelling into UAE do not need pre-travel approvals.

Approvals are coming through fairly quickly: Travel agents

Travel agents have said the process of getting a pre-travel approval from ICA and GDRFA are largely quick and problem-free after a few hiccups in the earlier stages.

Afi Ahmed, the managing director of Smart Travels told Khaleej Times, “There is no change in protocols. Returning UAE residents must apply for the approval ahead of their travels.” He said most passengers received the approvals in a matter of 15 to 60 minutes.

“Approval is not much of an issue. Residents travelling into Dubai get it pretty quickly. In very rare cases, it takes a day or two. In case of a rejection, the request can be reapplied within in a matter of days,” he added.

Ahmed also said it is recommended that passengers systematically plan their travels to avoid any last-minute hurdles. “In some cases, we are getting approvals in one to two days,” he stated.

Raheesh Babu, the group chief operating officer of, an online travel agency, said, “The pre-travel approvals are required for UAE-bound residents from Nepal, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, and a few other countries. In the case of ICA approvals, they come through instantly. GDRFA takes about 30 to 60 minutes.”

He added, “Moreover, the travel demand at the moment is stable. However, once the December vacations begin, the demand would soar. Return ticket prices to India are up Dh3,000 in some cases.”

Rashid Abbas, the managing director of Arooha Travels told Khaleej Times, “We have faced no issues in getting pre-travel approvals for our passengers. It has become very easy to get it.” Abbas said most passengers apply for the approvals online and there are no changes in the protocol. “Tourist visa holders can travel fairly easily as well,” he added.

Who needs ICA approval?

All UAE residents can now travel to Dubai without GDRFA or ICA approval except when travelling from the following countries:





Sri Lanka

South Africa





Rules for travellers from the above-mentioned countries

> UAE residence visa holders must have GDRFA or ICA approval to enter the UAE. This does not apply to passengers who have other visas, such as a newly issued residence or employment visas, short stay or long stay visas, holders of ten-year UAE Golden visa, investor or partner visas, visit visas or visas on arrival. This does not apply to UAE residence visa holders travelling from Ethiopia.

> Passengers arriving from the countries above must present a negative Covid‑19 PCR test certificate with a QR code for a test conducted within 48 hours, validity should be calculated from the time the sample was collected, prior to departure from an approved health facility.

> Passengers must also present a rapid PCR test report with a QR code for a test conducted at the departure airport within six hours of departure.

> Passengers travelling from other countries must have a negative Covid‑19 RT PCR test certificate for a test taken no more than 72 hours before departure.

> For passengers travelling to Dubai as their final destination from Nigeria travel is currently not possible as there are no rapid PCR testing facilities at the airport.

How to get the approvals?

> You must register via the ICA Smart Travel Service and obtain a QR code before you fly.


Here are documents and passenger details needed for ‘Registering Arrivals’ ICA

Step 1: Fill in applicant information

>Applicant information includes details such as name, gender, date of birth, place of birth, expected date of arrival, arrival port, and country of departure, e-mail.

>A QR code will be sent to your e-mail. Please make sure that the e-mail entered is correct

Step 2: Fill in passport information

>Applicants must fill in passport type, expiry date, issue date, number, and issue country

Step 3: Fill in address in the UAE

>Provide local address in the UAE along with a mobile number

Step 4: Fill in vaccination and PCR test dates

>The ICA has provided a list of eight vaccines that residents can choose from in the form, which are: Sinopharm vaccine, Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Sputnik vaccine, Oxford-Astreneca Vaccine, Johnson & Johnson Vaccine, Moderna vaccine, Jamalika (Sputnik V) vaccine

>Applicants must fill out the dates on which they received their first, second, and third doses (wherever applicable). The PCR test date and test result dates must also be mentioned.


Step 5: Upload documents

>Passport image, personal image, and PCR test results must be uploaded. The Covid-19 vaccination card is optional.

Step 6: Declarations

>Click on the website declaration button stating full adherence to UAE health authorities’ laws and confirming all documents attached are correct.

Step 7: Hit send

To obtain the GDRFA approval, the following are required:

> An official vaccination certificate issued and approved in the UAE or abroad. At least 14 days must have passed since the last required dose of the vaccine was administered.

> A valid passport

> A valid residence visa

> A valid Emirates ID

> A valid PCR test result

> A valid vaccine certificate

> A valid email address

Covid‑19 PCR test exemptions

> All UAE nationals returning to Dubai from any country are exempted from the pre‑departure Covid‑19 PCR test requirements but must take a PCR test on arrival.

> Non‑UAE nationals accompanying a first‑degree UAE national family member and domestic workers accompanying a UAE national sponsor are also exempted from the pre‑departure Covid‑19 PCR test requirements but must take a PCR test on arrival.

> Children below 12 years old and passengers with moderate to severe disabilities.

*Source: UAE airlines

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