Travel.State.Gov > International Travel > Country Information > United Arab Emirates International Travel Information
Embassies District, Plot 38, Sector W59-02, Street No. 4.
Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.
Telephone: +(971) (2) 414-2200
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(971) (0) 2-414-2200
Fax: +(971) (2) 414-2241
U.S. Consulate General Dubai
Corner of Al Seef Rd. and Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Rd
Telephone: +(971) (4) 309-4000
Emergency Telephone: +(971) (4) 309-4000
Fax: +(971) (4) 311-6213
The normal work week in the UAE is Sunday through Thursday.
See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on the United Arab Emirates for information on U.S. – UAE bilateral relations.
U.S. citizens are subject to all UAE immigration laws. U.S. citizens should familiarize themselves with such laws before traveling to, or residing in, the UAE.
Land Exit Departure Fee: All travelers who depart the UAE by land and who are not members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) must pay a departure fee. The fee is 35 UAE dirhams and is payable only in the local currency. Persons with prior visas to the UAE must have their previous visas canceled before departing or returning to the UAE.
Please verify this information with the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates before you travel.
Exit Controls: The UAE maintains tight exit controls. All travelers must exit the country with the passport with which they entered. Travelers should visit a UAE immigration office prior to departure to obtain an exit pass if they plan to leave the UAE without the passport with which they entered.
Travelers both departing the UAE and transiting will be barred from exiting the UAE if there are any criminal or civil legal cases against them; this includes travelers simply changing planes in the UAE with no intention of exiting the airport. Travelers have been arrested at the airport and their passports seized due to outstanding financial cases, unsettled legal disputes, late credit card payments, and for cases that were previously unknown to the traveler. In such cases, some individuals have been arrested and detained for long periods of time. Individuals will be barred from leaving the UAE until legal cases are settled in full. This affects all persons whether they are in the UAE as residents, tourists, or are only transit passengers.
The Government of the UAE requires that all persons residing in the country have a national identification card. U.S. citizens who are working or living in the UAE should visit the Emirates Identity Authority website for more information on card registration procedures and requirements.
Dual Nationality: The UAE does not recognize dual nationality. Those who carry both Emirati and U.S. citizenship may have difficulties traveling to and from the United States and the UAE. The UAE recognizes only the citizenship of the passport with which a person enters the UAE. The embassy may be prohibited from providing certain consular services to those who did not enter the UAE on a U.S. passport.
Information about dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction can be found on the embassy website. For further information about customs regulations, please read the embassy’s Customs Information page.
Prescription Pharmaceuticals: All tourists and residents of the UAE are required to fill in an electronic form to get approval to carry any kind of medication for personal use, whether or not a controlled substance, on their travel to the UAE. Patients or travelers carrying prescription medications must acquire a pre-approval through the new online service launched by the Ministry of Health and Prevention. The service can be accessed directly on their website.
Travelers with prescribed medicine must have their prescriptions issued by licensed U.S. doctors and go through the authentication process. In order for a prescription to be fully authenticated, it must be authenticated by the Secretary of State of the U.S. state in which the prescribing doctor is licensed, then authenticated by the U.S. Department of State, and finally the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC.
Further queries may be directed to the UAE Ministry of Health’s Drug Control Department in Abu Dhabi, P.O. Box 848, Fax: (971) 2-631-3742.
Please review Alcohol and Drugs in the Criminal Penalties section of this document for more information on the UAE’s strict anti-drug laws.
Weapons and Law Enforcement Equipment: Without written approval from the UAE Ministry of Interior for civilian and/or law enforcement personnel or the UAE Ministry of Defense for members of uniformed military services, do not transport any arms or items that may be considered law enforcement or military equipment. Such items include, but are not limited to:
Transport of these items into or through the UAE is considered a violation of UAE law. Persons found to be carrying such items, even in the smallest quantities, will be arrested and face strict criminal penalties, including imprisonment, large monetary fines, forfeiture of the items, and deportation. U.S. citizens, military personnel, and U.S. government/military contractors transporting such weapons and equipment without the express written authorization of the UAE government have been arrested and jailed, even though airlines and U.S. authorities allowed shipment on a U.S.-originating flight.
Other prohibited items: Importation of the following items is also prohibited under UAE law: pornographic material, non-Islamic religious pamphlets for missionary activities, fireworks, ivory, chemical and organic fertilizers, laser pointers, radar jammers/other unauthorized communication devices, endangered animal species, and any objects, sculptures, paintings, books or magazines which do not adhere to the religious and moral values of the UAE. Possession of any of these items can lead to detention and lengthy jail sentences.
Terrorism: U.S. citizens in the United Arab Emirates should exercise a high level of security awareness, even though law enforcement units have effectively demonstrated the capacity to detect, deter, and prevent acts of terrorism in the UAE. The Department of State remains concerned about the global threat of terrorism, including the possibility of terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and interests in the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula. Both historical and current information suggest that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Qaida, and affiliated organizations continue to plan attacks against Western targets; these attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics, including suicide operations, assassination, kidnapping, hijacking, and bombing. Rebel groups operating in Yemen have stated an intent to attack neighboring countries, including the UAE, using missiles and unmanned aerial systems (drones). These groups have already launched long-range missiles and unmanned aerial systems into Saudi Arabia, specifically targeting populated areas and civilian infrastructure; they have publicly stated their intent to continue doing so. U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness when traveling. U.S. citizens should maintain a low profile, vary routes and times for all required travel, and treat mail and packages from unfamiliar sources with caution. In addition, U.S. citizens should avoid contact with any suspicious, unfamiliar objects and report the presence of the objects to local authorities. U.S. government personnel overseas have been advised to take the same precautions. U.S. government facilities may temporarily close or suspend public services from time to time, as necessary, to review their security posture and ensure its adequacy.
Boating: On several occasions in past years, small groups of expatriate recreational boaters were detained by the Iranian Coast Guard for alleged violation of Iranian territorial waters while fishing near the island of Abu Musa, approximately 20 miles from Dubai. The UAE and Iran have had a long-standing dispute concerning jurisdiction of Abu Musa. Fishing or sailing in these waters may result in seizure of vessels and detention of passengers and crew in Iran. Obtaining consular assistance in Iran for U.S. citizens is difficult and can only be done through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which acts as a Protecting Power, providing limited U.S. consular services.
Crime: Most travelers to the UAE are not affected by crime. Violent crimes and crimes against property are rare. The U.S. Embassy advises all U.S. citizens to take the same security precautions in the UAE that one would practice in the United States or any large city abroad.
Harassment and Assault: U.S. citizens, especially women, should take precautions against the possibility of verbal and physical harassment or sexual assault when walking alone, consuming alcohol, or riding in a taxi cab. Female travelers should also be cognizant that unwitting actions may invite unwanted attention. Taxi passengers should avoid sitting in the front seat of a taxicab and should be sensitive that "small talk" can be misinterpreted as over-friendliness or even a form of propositioning by some taxi drivers. Taxis driven by women for the exclusive use of female passengers are available in some airports and by dispatch. Female travelers can identify these dedicated vehicles by their pink roofs.
Victims of harassment or assault are encouraged to report such incidents to the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi or the U.S. Consulate General in Dubai. Some victims of sexual assault have been prosecuted for violating laws against sexual relations outside of marriage. The law puts a high burden of proof on the victim to demonstrate that sex was not consensual. In cases where the victim has failed to demonstrate so, both parties have been prosecuted, and sometimes sentenced to jail time, followed by deportation. Please see Codes of Behavior and Dress below for additional information on rape and sexual relations outside marriage. Also, see our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Pirated Goods: Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are these goods illegal in the United States, purchasing them is a violation of local law.
Victims of Crime: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime. Travelers should call 911 or 999 for emergency assistance.
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy or Consulate General for assistance.
For further information:
Criminal Penalties: While you are traveling in or through the UAE, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen.
As each emirate has its own independent judicial system, legal procedures and penalties vary throughout the country. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Emirati laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, imprisoned, or prevented from traveling and their passports held by local authorities for extended periods of time.
Alcohol: Consuming or possessing alcohol without a Ministry of Interior liquor permit is illegal and could result in arrest and/or fines and imprisonment. Alcohol is served at bars in most major hotels but is intended for guests of the hotel. Persons who are not guests of the hotel, and who consume alcohol in the restaurants and bars, technically are required to have their own personal liquor licenses. Liquor licenses are issued only to non-Muslim persons who possess UAE residency permits and are valid only in the emirate that issued the license. Public drunkenness (no matter where the drinking occurs) and driving under the influence, regardless of one’s blood alcohol content level, are considered very serious offenses. Persons arrested on alcohol-related offenses are regularly detained for many days as they await a court hearing. Penalties may include hefty jail sentences, substantial fines and, for Muslims (even those holding U.S. citizenship), lashings.
Note: The possession and consumption of alcohol is prohibited in the emirate of Sharjah.
Drugs: Legislation enacted in January 1996 imposes the death sentence for convicted drug traffickers. Since January 2006, possession of even trace amounts of illegal drugs has resulted in lengthy prison sentences for foreign citizens transiting the UAE, including those who had no intention of exiting the airport.
Possession or consumption of marijuana is illegal in the UAE, even if a doctor’s medical card is presented. More information about medications can be found on the website of the UAE Ministry of Health. Most medications available in the United States are also available in the UAE by doctors’ prescription through hospitals and pharmacies. However, travelers are advised to check whether any required medications are available on the local market. Please refer to the section on Prescription Pharmaceuticals under Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements for more information on prohibited medications.
The UAE's tough anti-narcotics program also includes poppy seeds, widely used in other cultures, including the United States, for culinary purposes, on its list of controlled substances. The importation and possession of poppy seeds in any and all forms, including as dried decorative plants, are strictly prohibited. Persons found to possess even very small quantities of controlled substances listed by the UAE are subject to prosecution by the authorities and may be given lengthy prison terms of up to 15 years. Persons may be charged and convicted even if the controlled substances were ingested outside of the UAE as long as traces are still present in the bloodstream upon arrival in the UAE. It is possible to be convicted for drug possession based on the result of a drug test even if no other evidence exists, regardless of when or where the consumption originally occurred.
Travelers with questions regarding the items on the list of controlled substances should contact the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi or the U.S. Consulate General in Dubai. If suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, individuals may be required to submit to blood and/or urine tests and may be subject to prosecution.
Codes of Behavior and Dress: Codes of behavior and dress in the UAE reflect the country's Islamic traditions and are much more conservative than those of the United States. Visitors to the UAE should be respectful of this conservative heritage. Public decency and morality laws throughout the UAE are much stricter than in the United States. Penalties for public displays of affection or immodesty can be severe. Travelers have been sentenced to lengthy jail terms for kissing in public. Sexual relations outside marriage are illegal in the UAE and convicted individuals have been punished by lengthy jail sentences. Pregnancy outside of marriage can result in arrest and detention. Doctors may ask for proof of marriage during pre-natal visits, and those giving birth in the UAE must present a marriage certificate to register the child’s birth. Failure to do so has resulted in the arrests of unmarried mothers and fathers, as well as deportation.
There have been well publicized cases of alleged rape, where the victim of the alleged rape was charged for sexual relations outside of marriage. This is especially true where additional risk factors are present, such as drinking. The law puts a high burden of proof on the victim to demonstrate that sex was not consensual. In cases where the victim has failed to demonstrate so, both parties have been prosecuted, and sometimes sentenced to jail time.
Individuals may be arrested, fined, and/or deported for committing any of the following acts: making rude gestures, swearing, touching another person without his/her permission, and making derogatory statements about the UAE, the royal families, the local governments or other people. Travelers should keep in mind the cultural differences among the many people who coexist in the UAE and should be cognizant that unwitting actions, including clothing choices, may invite unwanted attention.
LGBTI Rights: Consensual same-sex sexual relations are criminalized in the UAE. Penalties may include fines and imprisonment. Under interpretations of sharia, the punishment could include the death penalty. Although the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate General are not aware of any recent arrests or prosecutions for such activities, they remain illegal. Cross-dressing is also a punishable offense and there have been reports that the government took action against cross-dressing individuals. See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights report for further details.
Debt and Financial Crime: Crimes of financial fraud, including passing bad checks and non-payment or late payment of bills (including hotel bills, hospital bills, traffic/parking fines, and late payment of credit cards, utility bills, etc.), are regarded seriously in the UAE and often result in imprisonment and/or fines. A personal check written as a guarantee for the payment of a personal or business debt may be submitted to a local bank for collection at any time for the full amount of the check. If the account holder does not have sufficient funds, he/she may be charged with passing a bad check. Bail generally is not available to non-residents of the UAE who are arrested for crimes involving fraud. Debtors can be held in prison until their debts are paid or until an agreement is reached between the parties. Passports may be seized by the UAE government to guarantee that debtors settle their cases. Financial cases may be further complicated by debtors being unable to work in the UAE without passports while still being held responsible for their debts.
Photography: Taking photographs of UAE military facilities, sensitive civilian sites, airports, some beaches, or foreign diplomatic missions – including the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General – may result in arrest, detention, and/or prosecution by local authorities. Travelers should be aware of signs which indicate where photography is prohibited. Note that it is illegal to take photographs of other people without their consent. In addition, engaging in mapping activities, especially mapping that includes the use of GPS equipment, without coordination with UAE authorities, may have the same consequences.
Social Media: The UAE has strict laws regarding use of the internet and social media. Individuals have been arrested and criminally convicted for posting information on social media sites (such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) that local authorities determined was disturbing to the order of the UAE. Users of social media should be cautious about online posting of information that might be deemed to insult or challenge the local or national government. Individuals should avoid posting insults or derogatory information about governments, institutions, or individuals.
Charity and fundraising activities are closely regulated by the UAE government, and it is against the law to conduct any private fundraising activity online (including those conducted on popular fundraising websites for personal causes).
Scams: U.S. citizens have been the victims of email scams seemingly originating from the UAE. Con artists contact U.S. citizens through the internet, including dating web sites. These con artists usually pose as U.S. citizens who have unexpectedly experienced a medical, legal, financial or other type of emergency in the UAE that requires immediate financial assistance. Co-conspirators may pose as UAE based lawyers or medical professionals to verify the story and the supposed urgent need for cash. Some victims have lost tens of thousands of dollars from such scams. Email scams have become increasingly sophisticated using fake websites and we have even heard of individuals taking U.S. citizens’ email addresses in order to pose as legitimate U.S. businesses. Recipients of such emails alleging a U.S. citizen is experiencing a medical, legal, financial, or other type of emergency in the UAE should ask the sender to contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance as soon as possible. The suggestion to contact the embassy or consulate may deter further pleas if they are not genuine. For information on protecting yourself from scam artists, visit our International Financial Scams website, and FBI pages.
Terrorist Organizations List: On November 15, 2014, the UAE government announced a list of 85 groups it considers to be terrorist organizations. Although many of these groups – including two U.S.-based organizations – are not included on the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations list, all travelers to the UAE are subject to UAE law within UAE territory. Individuals who are associated with groups on the UAE list could be detained at UAE borders, have their assets frozen, and/or be prosecuted for membership in a terrorist organization.
Religious Proselytizing: While individuals are free to worship as they choose, and facilities are available for that purpose, religious proselytizing is not permitted in the UAE. Persons violating this law, even unknowingly, may be imprisoned or deported.
Consular Notification: To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
If arrested, U.S. citizens should contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General for assistance. The U.S. Embassy and Consulate will provide information on the local judicial system and a list of local attorneys.
Employment in the UAE: Although it is common for a local sponsor to hold an employee's passport, it is illegal to do so under UAE law. Many contractual/labor disputes can be avoided by clearly establishing all terms and conditions of employment or sponsorship in the labor contract at the beginning of any employment. Should a dispute arise, the UAE Ministry of Labor has established a special department to review and arbitrate labor claims. Please review your employment contract before coming to the UAE and make sure that you understand it. Some employees are obligated to pay their employers if they wish to terminate their contracts early. If an employee leaves his/her job without properly canceling the employment visa, the employer can file charges that can lead to imprisonment, fines, and/or deportation. The U.S. Embassy and Consulate General do not intercede in employment disputes.
U.S. citizens have at times become involved in disputes of a commercial or financial nature that have prompted local firms or courts to take possession of the U.S. citizen's passport, effectively preventing the individual from leaving the UAE until the dispute is resolved. In addition, local firms have been known to leverage the UAE criminal justice system in an attempt to coerce and/or strengthen their negotiation stance during commercial disputes by filing criminal complaints, which may lead not only to travel restrictions but possible criminal penalties, including jail time. A list of local attorneys capable of representing U.S. citizens in such matters is available from the Consular and Commercial sections of the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the U.S. Consulate General in Dubai.
Document Authentications: U.S. citizens intending to reside and work in the UAE are generally required by the UAE government to present authenticated personal documents such as marriage and birth certificates, adoption and custody decrees, certificates of good behavior from police, and educational documents to include diplomas and certificates. The authentication of U.S. documents is done completely in the U.S. and can be a complex process involving local, state, and federal offices and requiring several weeks to complete. For procedural information, the Office of Authentications may be contacted by telephone from within the United States at 800-688-9889 or 202-647-5002, by fax at 202-663-3636. The websites of the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the U.S. Consulate General in Dubai also contain information about the authentication process. Determining the exact requirements with one’s prospective employer is strongly recommended before arrival in the UAE.
In order to meet UAE government requirements for school registrations and residency sponsorship for family members, U.S. citizens intending to bring their families to reside with them in the UAE will need to have their marriage certificate and children's birth certificates, or custody/adoption decrees, if applicable, authenticated by the state in which the document was issued, by the Department of State in Washington, DC, and by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC. The U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate General cannot authenticate U.S. local- and state-issued personal, academic, or professional documents, even if those documents have already been authenticated by the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Authentications. Additional information on authentication of documents can be found on the State Department’s website and on the Embassy or Consulate General websites.
Women Travelers: Please review our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: While in the UAE, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Although the UAE has several modern cities, the level of service, especially outside of newly constructed areas is not comparable to the United States. This includes the availability of public transportation attuned to the needs of those with disabilities, well-designed sidewalks and road crossings, and accessible businesses. Public transportation in Dubai is wheelchair accessible. However, the buses that connect Dubai with the other emirates in the UAE are not wheelchair accessible.
Basic modern medical care and medicines are available in the principal cities of the UAE, but not necessarily in outlying areas. There are significant variations in quality of care provided, so care should be taken in choosing a health care provider and reputable facility. While most common conditions can be appropriately treated in the UAE, complex medical conditions may be better treated in the United States. Providers may recommend a large number of procedures and tests, some of which may be unnecessary.
We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. You may be denied care, even in an emergency, if you are unable to provide a cash deposit up-front. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage. Medical evacuation, if required, is often prohibitively expensive. We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.
Vaccinations: There are no special vaccination requirements for travel to UAE; however, travelers are advised to be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For further health information, go to:
Traffic Safety: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the UAE is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
The police emergency number and ambulance number is 911 or 999. Mobile phones are widely used throughout the UAE, so passers-by will usually request emergency police and medical services quickly if they see that you need help. Response time by emergency services is adequate; however, medical personnel emphasize transport of the injured to the hospital rather than treatment on site.
Road Conditions and Hazards: Traffic accidents are a leading cause of death in the UAE. According to the World Health Organization, the UAE has the highest rate of road fatalities in the Middle East and one of the highest rates in the world. Drivers often drive at high speeds. Unsafe driving practices are common, especially on inter-city highways. On highways, unmarked speed bumps and drifting sand create additional hazards. Pedestrians should also use great care on the roads of the UAE – over 25 percent of road fatalities are pedestrians.
Local Laws and Practices: Country-wide traffic laws impose stringent penalties for certain violations, particularly driving under the influence of alcohol. In the UAE, there is zero tolerance for driving after consumption of alcohol. Persons arrested for drinking and driving are often jailed for many days as they await a court hearing. Penalties may include hefty jail sentences, fines, and, for Muslims (even those holding U.S. citizenship), lashings. Persons involved in an accident in which another party is injured automatically go to jail until the injured person is released from the hospital. Should a person die in a traffic accident, the driver of the other vehicle is liable for payment of compensation for the death (known as "dhiyya"), usually the equivalent of 55,000 U.S. dollars. Even relatively minor accidents may result in lengthy proceedings, during which both drivers may be prohibited from leaving the country.
In order to drive, UAE residents must obtain a UAE driver's license. Foreign driver’s licenses are not recognized for residents of the UAE; however, U.S. citizen visitors who are not UAE residents can drive using a valid driver’s license issued by his or her state. An international driver’s license may be required in some emirates. The UAE recognizes driver's licenses issued by other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states only if the bearer is driving a vehicle registered to the same GCC state. Under no circumstances should anyone drive without a valid license.
There is no Good Samaritan law in the UAE. If you see an accident with injuries, call 999 but exercise caution in trying to directly assist unless you are medically trained. Generally under UAE law, only individuals currently certified may provide CPR.
If you are in an accident, UAE law mandates that you remain at the scene until authorities arrive. The use of front seat belts is mandatory in the UAE. Driving is on the right side of the road. Speed limits are posted. Making a right turn on a red light is not permitted unless there is a special lane to do so with a yield sign. Parking is not allowed where the curb is painted black and yellow. Digital cameras are used extensively on Emirati roads for registering traffic violations, including speeding. Fines can be substantial and must be paid prior to departure from the UAE. Individuals with outstanding traffic fines may be detained at airport immigration.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of the United Arab Emirates’ Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of the United Arab Emirates’ air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to the UAE should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts. Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard Homeport and the NGA Broadcast Warnings website.