The country’s rapid expansion from a population of just one million in 1980 to around nine and a half million today has been largely underpinned by rising numbers of expatriate workers. Such is the influx of foreign workers in recent years that today approximately 90% of the UAE’s population is non-Emirati, according to the CIA’s World Factbook.
The UAE economy has also been bolstered by a huge rise in the number of overseas travellers visiting the UAE on tourist visas. Dubai alone attracted 14.3 million visitors in 2015, making it the fourth most visited city in the world, behind only London, Paris and Bangkok. This is up five million since 2010 when 9.3 million overseas arrivals came to the city.
The UAE has adjusted its immigration policies and procedures over the years to cope with this increase in demand for visas and to ensure a smooth application and issuing process. The latest changes – in the form of E-Channel immigration – look set to make the process even easier, cutting down admin time and paperwork for both businesses and individuals.
What is the E-Channel immigration system?
Launched as part of the UAE 2021 vision under the slogan ‘Smart Services with Future Vision’ – the E-Channel Immigration System is a new, unified immigration system that has been implemented in six out of the seven Emirates. Dubai and Abu Dhabi continue to use their own independent immigration systems for the time being.
The most noticeable change to the current procedure is that now both businesses and individuals can apply for visas, residence permits, and entry permits through a single online portal – instead of visiting a typing centre or immigration office.
The new system – known in Arabic as the ‘Tahaluf’ system – removes the need for hard copy documents and aims to ensure that all applications are processed more efficiently with improved integration across the Emirates.
Once registered on the E-Channel portal, individuals and businesses can apply for their visas, or entry permits (residence, visit and tourist) – and for those of employees or relatives. The whole process, including payment can be carried out online and where applicable permits can be printed at home.
Registration fees vary depending on the Emirate you are in but are in the region of AED 7,500 with a refundable deposit component of approximately AED 5,000. Registration must be renewed annually at a cost of around AED 1,000.
How to register in the E-Channel portal
The online E-Channel immigration portal has been designed to be incredibly easy to use.
If you are a free zone incorporated entity, it is the free zone’s details which must be used for log in purposes. In this case, you must register to the E-Channel portal via your agent and/or free zone appointed and authorised typing centres.
Otherwise, to get started, visit the E-Channel website and select either individual or establishment services.
Next click on the ‘Registration’ button. You will be asked to input your email address – instructions on how to set up your account will be sent here. Once you have received your confirmation message from the Ministry of Interior (MOI), simply select the ‘Complete Registration’ link to continue creating your profile.
Once set up on the E-Channel immigration system portal, you can start using online services right away.
Benefits of the E-Channel system
The biggest benefit of the new E-Channel immigration system is its efficiency. The MOI calls the new system ‘…a pioneering step to ensure speedy process and accuracy in the visa and residency services.’ And it’s difficult to see how this won’t be the case. For the first time, license applications, visas, amendments, upgrades, renewals, and most other associated activities can now be managed from a single portal – with the whole process entirely online. The MOI is naturally confident that this will result in faster, more efficient processing. As well as freeing up your time, the E-Channel system is also designed to lower your administrative burden – removing the need to visit immigration centres to fill out excessive paperwork. Any required documents such as passport copies or ID cards can be simply scanned and uploaded to the portal with no need to produce hard copies. By the end of 2018, the E-Channel system is expected to have reduced the need for in-person visits to government centres by up to 80%.