A Guide to Doing Business in the United Arab Emirates
VII. Immigration Requirements
Visas are available for business, tourism or residence.
Residence visas are generally linked to employment. In order to obtain a residence visa, foreign nationals must enter into an employment contract with a party duly licensed in the U.A.E. This contract must be registered with the MOL outside the free zones and with the relevant free zone authority in a free zone.
Currently, passport holders of certain Western countries (e.g., the United States and the United Kingdom) may obtain visit visas upon arrival at an airport in the U.A.E. Special visa facilities are also available for citizens and residents of member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, an organization which promotes regional stability in the Gulf States (Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.). In all other circumstances, a visa must be arranged in advance by a "sponsor" in the U.A.E.
The sponsor for a visa is not the same as a sponsor for a branch. Generally speaking, a party with a valid business license (including a foreign company branch or subsidiary) may sponsor visit and transit visas for visiting staff and business contacts. Foreign nationals residing in the U.A.E. may sponsor visit and residence visas for family members, subject to certain restrictions, which vary from time to time. Five star hotels may also act as visa sponsors and arrange visit and transit visas for their guests.