This is a guide on how to apply for a UAE Visa online if you are flying with Emirates
Click here if you would like to apply for a South African passport online.
Visa applications are such a schlep. I’d be delighted if visas were abolished forever. It would make travel so much easier and cheaper. On my South America trip, I visited Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. None of them required visas for South African passport holders. However , we chose to do a stop-over in United Arab Emirates on our return leg, as we were flying with Emirates, and UAE visas were required.
If you are flying on Emirates or Etihad, you can apply via their websites for visas. You can also apply by other means but this is easier as it requires much less documents, you don’t need a sponsor and you can do it from the comfort of your home or office. I did my visa application through Emirates, so I will talk about the Emirates process, which is managed by VFS Global.
Step 1: Book your air tickets
Step 2: It is only possible to apply within 59 days of your return date. The latest you can apply is 2 weeks before travelling. Once you are within the 59 day period, go onto the Emirates website and click on Manage an Existing Booking. Log in using your surname and reference number on your ticket.
Step 3: Scroll down to Apply for your UAE Visa and click on it. There are 7 Dubai visa types. Choose the one that meets your requirements. We applied for the 30-day short-term tourist visa.
Step 4: Click on Continue to Visa Application
Step 6: Select the flight leg you require the visa for (if you have a multi-leg trip) and the passengers who require the visa. You are required to enter the passport numbers, issue date and expiry date here so have this information handy. Click on Continue.
Step 7: You will then see a note to the effect that you will be receiving an email link to proceed with your application “shortly”. I waited for 2 days and did not receive it. I phoned VFS in JHB and they told me to come in with my documents to their offices to apply. This was not appealing to me as I prefer doing things online. Eventually I found something on one of the international VFS websites that said that you should log in and click on Forgot Application Number and complete your details, and you will get a new email or you can click here.
I tried this from Chrome and got an error message. Then I logged in via my Opera VPN, which showed that I was from the USA and tried again. This time it worked. Enter the visa application number received by email and your flight reference number to log in - not the booking reference number.
I then had to complete personal and passport details, employment details and hotel details. Under profession there was a drop down list with very detailed job titles (although I couldn’t find Blogger or Writer). I did find these though:
After completing these details, I proceeded to the next page where I had to upload the documents mentioned above. The document sizes accepted are very specific and I used the online image editing tool provided to resize the documents. I submitted them for myself and the rest of my family.
Once all the applications were submitted, I had to make payment via credit card. There was a Paypal option too but it seemed to be greyed out.
After submission I received an email to say that my application was received then another one to say that clearer copies of our passports were required. I was able to submit them via email which was better as there was no restriction on the document size, unlike the website application.
Three days later, I received email confirmations that our visa applications were successful. The process was much easier than going into an office to apply and we went on to have a great time in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. If it wasn’t for the cost of the visas, I would do a stopover in UAE, every time I travelled via Emirates.
Update - September 2018: UAE visitors can now obtain a free 48-hour transit visa. This visa may be extended for up to 96 hours against a fee of AED 50. Please note that the visa processing centre will charge a fee. Read more here.
Find accommodation in UAE here.
Read about things to do in UAE here.
Click here for How to apply for a South African passport online.
Click here for How to apply for UK visas
Click here for How to apply for Schengen visas
Click here for How to apply for US visas (for children)