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Travel Security Advice for the United Arab Emirates

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COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven emirates, each with its own ruler.  The federal government is a constitutional republic, headed by a president and council of ministers.  Islamic ideals and beliefs provide the conservative foundation of the country's customs, laws and practices. The UAE has a modern and generally well-developed infrastructure, and tourist facilities are widely available. Read the Department of State’s Background Notes on the United Arab Emirates for additional information. 



REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION:

U.S. citizens living or traveling in the United Arab Emirates are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State’s travel registration page in order to obtain updated information on local travel and security.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency. 

Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates

U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi

Embassies District, Plot 38, Sector W59-02, Street No. 4, P.O. Box 4009.

Telephone: (971) (2) 414-2200,

Emergency after-hours telephone: (971) (2) 414-2500

Facsimile: (971) (2) 414-2241.

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , including passport questions.

U.S. Consulate General in Dubai

Dubai World Trade Center, 21st floor, P.O. Box 9343.

Telephone: (971) (4) 311-6000

Emergency after-hours telephone: (971) (2) 414-2200

Facsimile (971) (4) 311-6213.

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The workweek for both the Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Consulate General in Dubai is Sunday through Thursday.



ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

A passport is required to enter the UAE. For personal travel of 30 days or fewer, U.S. citizens holding valid passports may obtain visitor visas at the port of entry for no fee.  For a longer stay, a traveler must obtain a visa before arrival in the UAE.  In addition, a full medical exam is required for work or residence permits and includes an HIV/AIDS test. Testing must be performed after arrival; a U.S. HIV/AIDS test is not accepted.  Americans have been detained and deported for testing positive for HIV or hepatitis.  Please verify this information with the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates before you travel. It is located at 3522 International Court, NW, Washington, DC 20037, telephone (202) 243-2400.  Visit the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates web site for the most current visa information

The Government of the United Arab Emirates requires that all persons residing in the UAE, including U.S. citizens, have a national identification card.  Americans who are working or living in the UAE should visit the Emirates Identity Authority web site for more information on card registration procedures and requirements.

Unlike other countries in the region that accept U.S. military ID cards as valid travel documents, the UAE requires U.S. military personnel to present a valid passport for entry/exit. Please note that U.S. citizens traveling to or through the United Arab Emirates on diplomatic or official passports are required to obtain a visa before travel. This requirement does not apply to private travelers on regular (blue) passports.

UAE authorities will confiscate any weapons, weapon parts, ammunition, body armor, handcuffs, and/or other military/police equipment transported to or through a civilian airport.  Americans have been arrested and jailed for transporting such weapons and equipment without the express written authorization of the UAE government, even though airline and U.S. authorities allowed shipment on a U.S.-originating flight.

Please review the Criminal Penalties section of this document for more information on customs restrictions, particularly in regard to the UAE’s strict anti-drug laws. 

U.S. citizens and citizens of other countries that are not members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) who depart the UAE via land are required to pay a departure fee. This fee is 20 UAE dirhams and is payable only in the local currency. 

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.



THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY:

Americans in the United Arab Emirates should exercise a high level of security awareness. 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 Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula. Both historical and current information suggest that al-Qa’ida 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. Americans 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 are urged to avoid contact with any suspicious, unfamiliar objects, and to report the presence of the objects to local authorities.  U.S. Government personnel overseas have been advised to take the same precautions. In addition, 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.

Taking photographs of potentially-sensitive UAE military and civilian sites or foreign diplomatic missions – including the U.S. Embassy – may result in arrest, detention and/or prosecution by local authorities.  In addition, engaging in mapping activities, especially mapping which includes the use of GPS equipment, without coordination with UAE authorities, may have the same consequences.

On several occasions in recent 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 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.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains current the Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada or, by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). 

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad



CRIME:

Most travelers to the UAE are not impacted by crime. Violent crimes and crimes against property are rare, but do occur. 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. Although vehicle break-ins are not common, U.S. citizens are encouraged to ensure that unattended vehicles are locked and that valuables are not left in plain sight.

Incidents of verbal and physical harassment as well as isolated cases involving assault of expatriate women have occurred, including some incidents of harassment by taxi drivers. On more than one occasion, expatriate females have been sexually assaulted while walking alone through underground pedestrian walkways near the Abu Dhabi corniche.  Female travelers should keep in mind the cultural differences among the many people who coexist in the UAE and should 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. Victims of harassment are encouraged to report such incidents to the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi or the U.S. Consulate General in Dubai.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.



VICTIMS OF CRIME:

If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates). This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.  

The local equivalent to the "911"  emergency line in the United Arab Emirates is 999.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States. 

Further information for victims of crime in the UAE can be found on the Embassy website.



CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. 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 or imprisoned.  Americans have been arrested in the past for obscene hand gestures, using inappropriate (foul) language with a police official, and for public displays of affection, such as kissing.  Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the United Arab Emirates are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.

Drinking or possession of 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.  Public drunkenness and driving under the influence, regardless of one’s blood alcohol content level,  are considered serious offenses.  Persons arrested on alcohol-related offenses are often jailed for many days as they await a court hearing. Penalties may include hefty jail sentences and fines and, for Muslims (even those holding U.S. citizenship), lashings.

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 sentences of four years imprisonment for foreign citizens transiting the UAE. Some drugs normally taken under a doctor's supervision in the United States, and even some over-the-counter U.S. drugs and medications, are classified as narcotics in the UAE and are illegal to possess.  A doctor's prescription should be carried along with any medication that is brought into the country.  A person may be subject to arrest and prosecution if possession of prescribed medicines (especially those containing codeine and similar narcotic-like ingredients) comes to the attention of local authorities.  The U.S. Embassy’s web site includes an unofficial list of such medicines, obtained from the UAE Ministry of Health. Most medications available in the U.S. are also available by doctors’ prescription through hospitals and pharmacies in the UAE.

In addition, the UAE's tough anti-narcotics program also includes poppy seeds, widely used in other cultures, including the U.S., for culinary purposes, on its list of controlled substances.  The importation and possession of poppy seeds in any and all forms is 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.  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 DubaiIf 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.

Crimes of fraud, including passing bad checks and non-payment of bills (including hotel bills), are regarded seriously in the UAE and can result in imprisonment and/or fines.  Bail generally is not available to non-residents of the UAE who are arrested for crimes involving fraud.

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.

If arrested, U.S. citizens should contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General for assistance.  The U.S. Consul will provide information on the local judicial system and a list of local attorneys.  In Dubai, the U.S. Consul can also arrange for U.S. citizen detainees to meet with an ombudsman from the Human Rights Department of the Dubai police headquarters, if the detainee believes he or she is not being treated fairly.



SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

The Government of the United Arab Emirates does not recognize dual nationality.  Children of UAE fathers automatically acquire UAE citizenship at birth and must enter the UAE on UAE passports. UAE authorities have confiscated U.S. passports of UAE/U.S. dual nationals in the past. This act does not constitute loss of U.S. citizenship, but should be reported to the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi or the U.S. Consulate General in Dubai. In addition to being subject to all UAE laws, U.S. citizens who also hold UAE citizenship may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on citizens of the UAE.  For additional information, please refer to our Dual Nationality flyer.

Codes of behavior and dress in the UAE reflect the country's Islamic traditions and are more conservative than those of the United States. Visitors to the UAE should be respectful of this conservative heritage, especially in the Emirate of Sharjah where rules of decency and public conduct are strictly enforced.  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. Homosexual activity is illegal in the UAE and is punished by imprisonment. Sexual relations outside of marriage and adultery are illegal in the UAE and have been punished by lengthy jail sentences.

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.  Isolated incidents of verbal and physical harassment of Western women have occurred.  Victims of harassment are encouraged to report such incidents to the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi or the U.S. Consulate General in Dubai.

U.S. citizens have at times become involved in disputes of a commercial nature that have prompted local firms or courts to take possession of the U.S. citizen's passport.  Travel bans may also be enforced against U.S. citizens involved in financial disputes with a local sponsor or firm.  Such travel bans, which are rigidly enforced, effectively prevent the individual from leaving the UAE for any reason until the dispute is resolved.  Although it is customary 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.  A list of local attorneys capable of representing Americans 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.

American citizens intending to reside and work in the UAE may have to present personal documents authenticated by the Department of State's Office of Authentications in Washington, D.C. before traveling to the UAE. This can be a complex process involving local, state and federal offices and requiring several weeks to complete.  For procedural information, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it by telephone from within the United States at 800-688-9889 or 202-647-5002, by fax at 202-663-3636.  In order to meet UAE government requirements for school registrations and residency sponsorship for family members, Americans 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 appropriate, authenticated by the state in which the document was issued and by the Department of State in Washington, DC.   The U.S. Embassy and Consulate General cannot authenticate U.S. local- and state-issued personal, academic or professional documents; they will only be able to authenticate the final authentication document from the Department of State. The Embassy and Consulate General will also not authenticate the academic documents of institutions of higher education in the United States that are not accredited by the U.S. Department of Education, even if the documents have been authenticated by the Department of State.  Additional information on authentication of documents can be found on the State Department web site.  In terms of employment, a recent change to UAE labor law requires local sponsors to have employees' diplomas, academic and/or occupational/professional certificates validated through a "Degree Verification" process established in the UAE.  Prospective employees will be required to submit photocopies of such documents for verification to a firm under contract to the Ministry of Labor.

In addition, persons in the education and health professions reportedly have to meet two requirements for validation of their educational credentials at this time – the formal "chain" authentication of academic/professional credentials in the U.S. and the "Degree Verification" process in the UAE.  Different UAE Ministries have different requirements in this regard.  Determining these requirements with one’s prospective employer is strongly recommended before arrival in the UAE.

Please see our Customs Information



MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Basic modern medical care and medicines are available in the principal cities of the UAE, but not necessarily in outlying areas. 

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health



MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to determine whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page



TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

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 United Arab Emirates 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 999.  Mobile phones are widely used throughout the UAE, so passers-by usually request emergency police and medical services quickly.  Response time by emergency services is adequate.  However, medical personnel emphasize transport of the injured to the hospital rather than treatment on site.

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. 

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.  However, American non-resident visitors to the UAE can drive using a valid driver’s license issued by his or her state.  An international driver’s license is no longer required.  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.

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 for registering traffic violations, including speeding, are used extensively on Emirati roads.

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.  For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's website.



CHILDREN’S ISSUES:

Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.  

This replaces the Country Specific Information for the United Arab Emirates dated June 9, 2009 to update the sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Criminal Penalties, Special Circumstances, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions. 

 


 

The UK Foreign & Commenwealth office also has information regarding travel to the UAE HERE......

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)............

There is a Malaria Warning for the UAE HERE.....

Regards

The SW Team.........

 

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