June 18, 2004
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven independent 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 is a modern, developed country, and tourist facilities are widely available.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport is required. For a stay of less than 60 days, U.S. citizens holding valid passports may obtain visitors 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, an AIDS test is required for work or residence permits; testing must be performed after arrival. A U.S. AIDS test is not accepted. For further information, travelers can contact the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, 3522 International Court, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037, telephone (202) 243-2400. The United Arab Emirates embassy website is: http://uae-embassy.org.
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 UAE dirham currency.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
DUAL NATIONALITY: The UAE government 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 in the past confiscated U.S. passports of UAE/U.S. dual nationals. This 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 affecting U.S. citizens, individuals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on citizens of that country. For additional information, please see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer.
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 possibility of terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world. 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. Vehicles should not be left unattended, if at all possible, and should be kept locked at all times. 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 anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet website at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.
Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
CRIME: Crime generally is not a problem for travelers in the UAE. However, the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi advises U.S. citizens to take normal precautions against theft, such as not leaving a wallet, purse, or credit card unattended.
The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care and contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is 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.
U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlets A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to the Middle East and North Africa for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlets are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Basic modern medical care and medicines are available in the principal cities of the UAE, but not necessarily in outlying areas.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.
When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: 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 hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, please consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.
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 UAE is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:
Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Excellent
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Good
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 because 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.
Country-wide traffic laws impose stringent penalties for certain violations, particularly driving under the influence of alcohol. Penalties may include hefty jail sentences and 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 car is liable for payment of compensation for the death (known as "dhiyya"), usually the equivalent of 41,000 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, and temporary UAE licenses are no longer issued. However, a non-resident visitor to the UAE can drive if he/she obtains a valid international driver's license issued by the motor vehicle authority of the country whose passport the traveler holds. 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.
For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of the UAE's civil aviation authority as Category 1 in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of the UAE's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. As a result of the August 23, 2000 crash of a Gulf Air flight in the Persian Gulf, DOD has recommended that military commanders use air carriers other than Gulf Air for DOD official travel. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: UAE customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from the UAE of items such as firearms, fireworks, pornographic materials, medications, religious materials and communication equipment. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of UAE in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. A current list of those countries with serious problems in this regard can be found at http://www.ustr.gov/reports/2003/special301.htm.
UAE customs authorities impose additional requirements for the importation of pets into the country. Permission in the form of a permit from the UAE Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries must be secured before the pet's travel. To obtain the permit, submit the following four documents to the UAE Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries at: P.O. Box 213, Abu Dhabi, UAE, telephone number 971-2-66-62-781 or 971-2-50-55-707/Airport Branch: 1) the pet's travel itinerary; 2) copies of veterinary health certificates, showing that the animal is free of disease and indicating all shots which have been given to the pet; 3) the sex and color of the pet; and 4) a completed import permit application form (available from the ministry).
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens are 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. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating the UAE laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. The penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal substances are strict in the UAE, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Legislation enacted in January 1996 imposes the death sentence for convicted drug traffickers. A number of drugs normally taken under a doctor's supervision in the United States are classified as narcotics in the UAE. A doctor's prescription should be carried along with any medication that is brought into the country.
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 Dubai.
If suspected of being under the influence of drugs, individuals may be required to submit to blood and/or urine tests. UAE authorities have been known to arrest travelers upon their arrival into the UAE and, based on recent prior drug use, to prosecute these travelers.
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 fraud crimes.
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 not staying at the hotel who use the bar technically are required to have their own personal liquor license. Liquor licenses are issued only to non-Muslim persons who possess UAE residency permits. Drinking and driving is considered a serious offense. Penalties generally are assessed according to religious law.
Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens to exploit children sexually via pornography, the Internet or other means or to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a person under the age of 18 in a foreign country, regardless of whether there was intent.
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.
If arrested, U.S. citizens should contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate 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: U.S. citizens may become involved in disputes of a commercial nature that prompt local firms or courts to take possession of the American citizen's passport. Travel bans may also be enforced for U.S. citizens involved in financial disputes with a local sponsor or firm. These bans, which are rigidly enforced, 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. Most 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.
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.
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 to them. Isolated incidents of verbal and physical harassment of Western women have occurred. Victims of harassment are encouraged to report significant incidents to the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi or the Consulate General in Dubai.
Travelers intending to reside and work in the UAE should have their academic and occupational certificates authenticated by the Department of State's Office of Authentications in Washington, D.C. before traveling to the UAE. 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, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. UAE labor law requires local sponsors to produce employees' academic and/or professional certificates, duly authenticated by the Foreign Ministry of the individual's country, before a work permit can be issued. Travelers intending to bring their families to reside with them in the UAE will also need to have their marriage certificate and children's birth certificates authenticated by the Department of State in Washington, D.C.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children or international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATION: Americans living in or visiting the UAE are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi or the Consulate General in Dubai, where they can obtain updated information on travel and security within the UAE.
The U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi is located at Embassies District, Plot 38, Sector W59-02, Street No. 4, P.O. Box 4009. The telephone number is (971) (2) 414-2200, and the Consular Section fax number is (971) (2) 414-2241. The email address for American Citizens Services inquiries, including passport questions, is email@example.com. The after hours telephone number is (971) (2) 414-2500. The Embassy Internet web site is http://usembassy.state.gov/uae/.
The U.S. Consulate General in Dubai is located on the 21st floor of the Dubai World Trade Center, P.O. Box 9343. The telephone number is (971) (4) 311-6000, and the Consular Section fax number is (971) (4) 331-8594. The email address for American Citizens Services inquiries, including passport questions, is firstname.lastname@example.org. The website for the U.S. Consulate General in Dubai can be accessed through the Embassy website. The workweek for both the Embassy in Abu Dhabi and Consulate in Dubai is Saturday through Wednesday.