Proudly wearing as a medal her rank among the top 20 globally-recognized passports, UAE passport boasts its strength by granting its bearer an expansive international mobility permit. With UAE passport owners being able to travel to more than 170 countries worldwide either visa-free or visa-on-arrival, the number of the countries that do not grant free passage to the navy blue passport is being reduced year by year. If you want to learn all about the UAE passport, stay tuned because we have prepared a thorough introduction for you in this article.
Everything About the UAE Passport
Whether it’s delicious Shawarma or the Khalifa Tower and Dubai mall, the United Arab Emirates is known for many things. In recent years however, the UAE passport too has been added to its list of special traits. Issued in the 1970s for the first time, the UAE passport quickly rose among the ranks and nowadays is one of the most powerful passports in all around the globe. Its strength and the extensive mobility permit it can provide its owner has turned the UAE passport into one of the most popular targets among those who want to acquire the citizenship of a foreign country. Here are some interesting facts about UAE passport:
UAE Passport Strength
UAE has one of the strongest passports in the world and the best passport among all Arabian nations and this fact is supported not only by the number of countries that grant visa-free entry to UAE passport owners, but also by passport ranking indexes. There are several systems for assessing the strength of a passport. One of the most authentic passport ranking indexes is Henley, which ranks each country’s passport according to the number of destinations that its citizens can travel to without prior visa. Henley indexes extract their data from the International Air Transport Authority (IATA).
In 2016, citizens of the UAE could only travel to 35 foreign countries without a prior visa and their passport was ranked 62nd based on Henley index. In 2020, however, thanks to the UAE’s profound growth, the nation’s passport ranking went through a sharp rise, becoming the 18th strong passport worldwide. The trend was maintained and one year later, with a visa-free / visa-on-arrival score of 173, the navy blue UAE passport rose to the rank of 16 though it didn’t stop there either. Today, Henley index reports that the UAE passport has achieved the rank of 15, allowing its owners to travel to 175 different countries visa-free or visa-on-arrival.
The UAE passport has set another outstanding record too. In October 2021, another ranking system, the Global Passport Index reported by Arton Capital, gave the global rank of 1 to the UAE passport for achieving the highest mobility score.
With a UAE passport, you can travel to many European countries including Germany, France, Italy, Greece, Denmark, Austria, Netherlands, Norway, Ireland, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland without visa. You will also have visa-free access to many other countries around the globe such as Russia, China, Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, South Korea and Japan. Moreover, you will have the option to request an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) and travel to Canada and England as many times as you want for periods of up to 6 months while your passport is still valid, though you will have to submit a new eTA request each time you renew your passport.
The History and Evolution of UAE Passport
- Origins: The United Arabian Emirates comprises 7 emirates which were once separate nations. Back then, there was no such thing as a UAE passport and each individual who wanted to be granted a permit to enter one of the gulf countries was issued an identification paper containing their name, physical description, and photo. This paper used to serve as a passport and was valid for 6 months to 1 year after issuance.
- New Exclusive Passports: In the 1960s the use of old-school identification papers came to an end with each emirate starting to issue an exclusive passport with distinct color and cover design for themselves. These passports were signed by the ruler of the emirates and were suitable mostly for traveling to other Arab countries plus India and Pakistan. Nowadays, all of these old passports are being exhibited as a collection at the Etihad Museum in Dubai.
- First UAE Passport: After the Unification of all the emirates and formation of the federation of the United Arab Emirates on the second day of December in 1971, the citizens of the new nation were issued an all new passport by the Directorate of Passports of the Federal Ministry of the Interior that undertook renewals as well. The first UAE passport had a black cover featuring an open-winged falcon that carried a parchment. The name of the country “United Arab Emirates” was written in Kufic style Arabic on the parchment. The falcon also had a dhow inscribed on its chest encircled by a ring of chains symbolizing the alliance between the seven emirates.
According to the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship, validity of the black-covered passport was 2 years post-issuance. After expiration, the passport could be renewed twice more, offering another two-year-long validity each time.
- Purpose Specific UAE Passports: Apart from the unified UAE passport, several other categories of passports were issued each serving a distinct purpose. These comprised a blue temporary passport, red diplomatic passport, green special passport and a light blue service passport, all sharing the same logo with the black-covered UAE passport.
- The Final Stage of Evolution: The final change in appearance that took place during the evolution of the UAE passport was a color modification. Black was changed to navy blue. However, the evolution of the UAE passport did not stop there. The final stage was a digital upgrade. In 2011, the Ministry of the Interior began the issuance of electronic machine-readable passports meeting the highest international security standards.
A microchip was added to the last page of the passport which contains encrypted biometric data. These novel digital codes that are encrypted in the navy blue passport are considered the most important international security feature. The codes enable the passport to be identified and verified globally and the United Arab Emirates is the first Arab country to have implemented this security measure. This feature further enhances the strength and international validity of the UAE passport.
Who Can Apply for UAE Passport and What Are the Required Documents?
Thanks to the new UAE nationality law, expatriates, provided that they meet certain criteria, will be allowed to obtain Emirati citizenship and gain passport rights. We have covered all about the new UAE nationality law in another article. In addition to the citizens of UAE, newborn babies of UAE citizens and wives of foreign nationality can also apply for UAE citizenship and passport.
Certain documents are required if you want to apply for a UAE passport. According to the website of the UAE government, submission of the following documents are necessary:
- Emirates ID card, original and copy
- Family book, original and copy
- A recent photo of the applicant
If you want to renew your passport, you also need to submit your old passport in addition to the aforementioned documents.
How to Apply for a UAE Passport
If you’re already a citizen of the UAE and wondering how to get a UAE passport, you should know that the UAE government has arranged for several different channels through which you can apply for a new passport or renew an expired one. You can also apply for a replacement if you have lost or damaged your passport using the same channels, which are:
- GDRFA: You can submit your application at the Citizenship Departments of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs.
- eChannels: You can also apply for a UAE passport online using the portal of eChannels Residency and Citizenship at the website of ICA, Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship, Customs and Port Security.
- Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah Airports: If you’ve got an emergency for passport renewal, for example when you are unaware of your passport expiration, you have the option to renew your passport at the Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah airports. These airports offer their pass renewal services 24/7.
- UAE Embassies: You don’t have to be in the UAE when you want to apply for a passport renewal. If you are a citizen of the UAE but currently reside in a foreign country, you can request the issuance of a new passport in case of loss, damage, or expiration at UAE embassies abroad, in the country you are residing in.
In such instances, an emergency passport or a return document can be issued by the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation which is valid for 6 months and grants you entry to the country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation can provide you with the addresses of the UAE embassies and consulates abroad should you need to request an emergency passport.
- UAE Passport for Newborns: There is an integrated electronic service called Mabrouk Ma Yak for newborn Emiratis which facilitates the issuance of birth certificate, passport, and Emirates identity card for those who are born in UAE. Mabruk Ma Yak also adds the newborns’ names in the family food and registers them in the population register.
There are certain prerequisites for using the Mabrouk Ma Yak service. The father of the child must be a UAE citizen and should apply for the service within three months from the child’s date of birth. In addition, the mother should give birth to her child in one of the hospitals that provide the Mabrouk Ma Yak service. Moreover, both parents will have to submit their Emirates ID and family book. If the parents are having their first child, they should provide a marriage certificate too.
Validity of the UAE Passport
All passports are valid for 5 years after their issuance. An extension is not possible and you will have to renew your passport after it expires. There is also another instance that requires renewal. The navy blue UAE passport contains 60 pages and when all the pages are full, you will have to apply for a renewal regardless of the expiration date.
This concludes all you have to know about UAE passports. The navy blue UAE passport has come a long way since its first issuance and has undergone numerous changes; all for the better! Now boasting its rank as the 15th strongest passport in the world based on Henley index, owners of the UAE passport are allowed to travel to more than 170 countries worldwide visa-free or with visa-on-arrival.
Thanks to the new UAE nationality law, foreigners are now allowed to obtain UAE citizenship and enjoy the expansive rights that the UAE passport grants them. You can apply for a UAE passport at the Citizenship Departments of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs or submit your application online at the portal of eChannels Residency and Citizenship at the website of ICA.