a man looking at a city
Arabian man watching cityscape of Dubai with modern futuristic architecture in United Arab Emirates.

Update: the UAE reopens to travel on July 7th, 2020, with new restrictions and rules in place. For the latest, updated information on arriving or departing the country head here. For a recap on events during covid-19, you can still read below…

There’s no question that governments are flying by the seat of their pants right now, taking in new information, studies and preventative measures to impede the spread of coronavirus by the minute.

In the last 24 hours, United Arab Emirates immigration policies in response to coronavirus – aka covid-19, have shifted from pragmatic, to arguably obscure at best, with locals on actual lockdown and even residents not allowed to return.

a city next to waterResidents Stay Out, Citizens Stay In

It may take a moment to wrap your head around, but the United Arab Emirates current policy in response to the global pandemic is to keep all non-citizens who are abroad out, and keep all citizens who are in the Emirates, in.

That’s right, even residents of the UAE are not being allowed to return, only citizens. As an emerging economy, a vast majority of the workforce in the UAE are non-citizen permanent residents, and any currently abroad aren’t allowed to return. They’re being told to contact their local embassy or mission for assistance and information.

And then there’s the citizens and permanent residents of the UAE, who are currently in the country. They’ve all just been told they’re not allowed to leave, even if they don’t plan to return for years on end! That’s correct, the country is effectively locking down its citizens and preventing them from travel. Ironic, when the UAE’s most famous export is Emirates Airline.

For anyone else – aka tourists – hoping to cross the sterile transit zone during their layover, all visas are now invalidated and suspended, so that’s absolutely not an option until further notice.

an airplane flying over water
Emirates Boeing 777-300ER photographed on August 17, 2015 from Wolfe Air Aviation’s Lear 25B.

It’s All Go At Emirates Though?

Dubai has always been a transit hub, with the vast majority of passengers simply passing through. Because of that, business is as “business as usual” as it can be in relative terms for Emirates right now.

Of course, the airline is facing massive headwinds and financial concerns as demand for global travel falls to a standstill, but despite massive restrictions on the movement of UAE citizens or the return of UAE permanent residents, a large majority of Emirates flights are operating as normal.

It’s almost surreal, while it lasts.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Qatar implemented the same policy way before UAE. And I am not sure why you find it obscure…Anyone who is not a citizen, gulf countries always treated them as temporary, so it is really not surprising if you live in GCC. Also, non-citizens can leave the country if they want to but there is no guarantee to return…It does make sense….

  2. The only wrinkle you missed in this is that Emirates cabin crew are also being told that they have to self-isolate for 14 days if they are coming back from a flight. If i understand this correctly it means no more that 2 trips a month??

  3. Just got back to Anchorage AK from the Philippines via Emirates. Dubai airport was busy and open for business. My Emirates flights from Cebu to Dubai and Dubai to Seattle were bear full capacity. Lounges open with full services. Seattle airport a ghost town Thankfully AK Air lounges still open and serving limited food options. Flight to Anchorage around 30% capacity.

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