The UAE’s free zones are hugely popular with entrepreneurs from around the world. Offering a host of benefits such as 0% corporate and personal tax, 100% company ownership, 100% repatriation of capital and profits, no currency restrictions, and 100% import and export tax exemption, it’s not hard to see why.
Each free zone also has its own unique set of business advantages that differentiate it from others in the region. Take Sharjah Media City Free Zone (Shams) for example. A great feature of Shams is that its visa application process is incredibly simple and comprehensive – for example, it’s possible to obtain six visas on a basic shared desk package.
As with applying for a visa anywhere in the UAE there is a process that must be carefully followed. But providing you make your application armed with all of the correct information, there’s no reason why it should be complex.
With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know before you apply for a visa through Shams.
1. Who can apply? The Shams visa application process is open to all types of entrepreneurs. It is possible to apply for an investor visa which allows you to live as a resident in the UAE for up to three years. On top of this you can also apply for additional visas for employees and dependants. Unlike many other free zones in the UAE, it is possible to apply for employee visas without having a residence visa yourself. Like investor visas, the employee visa is valid for three years. The exact number of visas you can apply for will depend on the type of licence you require and often the size of your premises. However, as Shams offers up to six visas with a shared desk package, their visa allocation is certainly on the generous side when compared with other free zones in the region.
Shams offers up to six visas with a shared desk package, their visa allocation is certainly on the generous side when compared with other free zones in the region.
2. What documents are required to apply for a visa? Another major plus of the Shams visa application process is that very little is required in the way of documentation. As well as your completed, signed and stamped application form, you’ll also need a copy of your passport (valid for a minimum of six months and with at least two full blank pages), and eight standard passport photos (no jewellery, white shirts, glasses, hair on face or teeth on show). If you are in the UAE on a tourist visa then you will need to provide a copy of this along with your entry stamp.
3. What are the stages of a visa application? There are four main stages to a visa application in Shams.
- Entry permit: You can apply for your entry permit either inside or outside the UAE. Your entry permit is essentially a temporary visa, valid for 60 days. It is strongly advised that you refrain from leaving or returning to the UAE during this period as doing so can cause discrepancies in your immigration file which can lead to delays in the process. This stage of the process takes around one to two weeks. The entry permit is issued in approximately 1-2 weeks from submission.
- Status adjustment: Once you have received your entry permit, it is time to activate it. This process is called a status adjustment. There are three ways to do this: in-country, out of country, and border run. In-country is the easiest option. Simply submit your passport to immigration who will stamp and activate your employment visa. If, however, you are outside the UAE when your entry permit is issued, or you plan to leave the country shortly afterwards, it is possible to activate your visa by exiting and re-entering the UAE and presenting your permit to the immigration officer at the airport who can stamp and activate the visa. Finally, the border run option entails exiting the UAE by land, receiving an exit stamp, and then re-entering by presenting your printed permit to the immigration officer at the border. This step can usually be completed in a couple of days. The status adjustment usually takes 2 days to complete.
- Medical tests and Emirates ID card registration: A medical fitness test is comprised of a blood test for any infectious diseases, and a chest X-ray. With the results of your medical test, you can then apply for your Emirates ID card. This is an identity card that must be carried by UAE citizens at all times and is needed to open bank accounts, to take out contracts for mobile phones, or tenancy agreements. Again, this stage usually only takes two or three days. It takes approximately 2 days as we need to allow time for the results to be released from the medical.
- Residence visa stamping: This refers to obtaining the actual UAE visa stamp or sticker in your passport. To obtain your stamp you must submit your passport to the relevant immigration authority. This process can take around two weeks during which time you will be unable to travel outside of the UAE. Allow approximately 1 to 2 weeks to complete this stage.
- Time frame: Approximately 4 weeks for the entire visa process.
4. What is the best way to make the status adjustment? The in-country status adjustment option is the most advisable. For a small fee of AED787.50 you can activate your visa without ever leaving the UAE. Border run options are largely considered a last resort and using the in-country option saves you time and money as there is no need to travel to the border.
5. Can my visa be rejected? In certain circumstances, visas can be rejected. If you have a previous criminal conviction, pending or unresolved court cases, or fail the immigration security check, you will most likely not be able to obtain a visa. Unfortunately if you are rejected due to a failed security check you will not be given any information or reasoning as to why. If, however, you are rejected as you have pending court cases against your name, you will be advised of this and you can simply reapply once the case has been resolved.
6. Can I sponsor dependants? Yes, both male and female investor visa holders can sponsor dependants such as a spouse, child, or domestic staff. It is important to note that women sponsoring dependents need to provide additional supportive information such as a divorce certificate. However, only male employee visa holders can do the same – females with employee visas cannot. For male visa holders the deposit fee for dependants is AED 3000/- and the dependant visas are valid for 3 years. For female visa holders the deposit fee for dependants is AED 5000/- and the visa is valid for 1 year only. For dependant visas you would need to visit the Sharjah Immigration dept.
Maintaining a Shams Visa: It is important to note that if you are living abroad and have an active investor visa, you must enter the UAE once every 180 days.
It is important to note that if you are living abroad and have an active investor visa, you must enter the UAE once every 180 days.
Bear in mind: When on a SHAMS visa, the visa holder’s car registration and driver’s license renewal/application will need to be done in Sharjah.
Shams – making the visa process easy
Applying for a visa in Shams is incredibly straightforward. However, as with any important process, it is vital that you follow every step correctly to avoid unnecessary delays or even the rejection of your application. Working closely with Virtuzone is the best way to avoid any complications and ensure your visa application runs as smoothly as possible. Virtuzone will take care of the heavy lifting for you, often requiring just a few hours of your time and some basic documentation.
Setting up your own business has never been easier. Virtuzone takes care of it all so you can focus on what matters – building your business. For more information about company formation in the UAE mainland or free zones, please call us on +971 4 457 8200, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, click here.