Obtaining an UAE driving license

Driving licence for UAE residents

Officially, after receiving the UAE residence visa, you're not allowed to drive a car until you have received the UAE driving licence. Car rental companies request an UAE driving licence once they see a residence visa in your passport. Police will issue a ticket when caught and car insurance companies do not cover damage.

UAE Driving Licence from Ras Al Khaimah is valid for 10 years.
UAE driving licence from Ras Al Kaimah is valid for 10 years.

European countries tend to have a switch-over period (a few months) to obtain a drivers licence after the residence visa issued. This takes of the rough edges - the UAE doesn't seem to have this provision. It's a peculiar situation, because there is no control over the exact moment when the resident status is reached.

UAE residence visa from a Free Zone Company

There is no way to prepare for this moment, it is not possible to obtain the UAE driving licence without a UAE residence visa. The only way to stay safe is to not drive a car once you hand over your passport for the resident status change. For the owner of a Free Zone Company this is not really an option, it cripples the ability to move in the UAE - suddenly being totally dependent on only Taxi's and Busses.

UAE driving license exchange list

Getting a UAE driving licence can be a difficult process when your nationality is not on the list of the UAE driving licence exchange. In this case you need to pass the UAE driving test.

Although a medical test for certain license categories or people with a medical condition is not yet a reality, the federal state of Dubai is preparing for introduction of additional medical tests. Also Dubai's car registration renewal policy has recently being revived.

UAE Driving licence exchange list
* Australia
* Austria
* Bahrain
* Belgium
* Canada
* Cyprus
* Czech Republic
* Denmark
* Finland
* France
* Germany
* Greece
* Iceland
* Ireland
* Italy
* Japan
* South Korea
* Kuwait
* Luxembourg
* Netherlands
* New Zealand
* Norway
* Oman
* Poland
* Portugal
* Qatar
* Saudi Arabia
* Singapore
* Slovakia
* South Africa
* Spain
* Sweden
* Switzerland
* Turkey

When your drivers licence doesn't have an English translation (or Arabic) on the licence itself you should get an official translation first. Double / Triple check this with the department first - in any case do NOT rely on just the results of 1 call - make another call (or by some-one else) and ask again. In doubt call again.....

If your country is on the driving license exchange list, it's a lot easier to get through the process. However still there can be a few hurdles. If your residence visa is from a different state you need to apply for the UAE driving licence in this state.

Applying for the UAE driving licence in Dubai

Required papers to start applying for a new UAE driving licence.

In Dubai the licensing department is the RTA: (duration 1,5 hour)

  1. Valid foreign driving licence on the driving license exchange list or passed UAE exam
  2. Fresh residence visa in your valid passport and a copy
  3. No Objection Letter issued by the Free Trade Zone Company
  4. Free Trade Zone license (copy)
  5. Request by your Free Trade Zone company on company letter with Company Stamp
  6. Passed Eye-test
  7. 3 passport pictures (1 for the eye test)
  8. A few hundred AED (varies with the state)
  9. Application form with Company Stamp
  10. A good mood

NOTE: The RTA driving licence application form mentions it should be stamped by the Free Trade Zone Company. Find out here how to get a company stamp made quickly. Take the company stamp to the RTA to stamp the driving licence application form on the spot and save a few hours.

Result: Dubai Driving licence for 1 year, to be renewed every year.

Applying for the UAE driving licence in RAK

In Ras Al Khaimah - licensing department in the Ministry of Interior: (duration 2,5 hour)

  1. Valid foreign driving licence on the driving license exchange list or passed UAE exam
  2. Fresh residence visa in your valid passport and a copy
  3. No Objection Letter issued by the Free Trade Zone
  4. Free Trade Zone license (copy)
  5. Passed Eye-test (can also be Dubai RTA Eye Test)
  6. Blood type test or bring a Blood type certificate in English.
  7. 2 passport pictures
  8. In 2009: 205 AED (male) or 235 AED (female)
  9. Application form typed by the typing office
  10. A very good mood

Result: Ras Al Khaimah Driving licence for 10 years with blood type indication

UAE drivers licence for family residents

For the family (wife, children, grandparents), it's a little different:

  1. Valid foreign driving licence on the driving license exchange list or passed UAE exam
  2. Residence visa in your valid passport
  3. No objection letter from the Free Trade Zone Company *owner* with company stamp.
  4. The rest is the same as above,

In Abu Dhabi apparently one needs an Arabic translation of a foreign drivers license & No Objection Letter.

UAE driving licence exchange rules

The federal UAE law states a full transfer when your foreign driving licence is on the driving license exchange list. This means license transfer of  Motor Cycle, Car, Bus, Truck, Trailer etc. Immediately object in case the transfer is for cars & bikes only - the federal law prescribes a full transfer. Escalate to managerial level if required to get things done.

  UAE Driving Licence with truck licence transfer.
The RAK driving license with truck license - valid for 10 years - it shows the blood type also.


Getting UAE driving license in another state

For those trying to apply for a UAE driving licence in a different state: "Don't waste your time" is the message from the Senior Supervisor at the Deira RTA Licensing department branch. Get your driving licence from the state you got your UAE Residence Visa. As a Free Zone Company owner, you need to open a branch in Dubai to apply for a Dubai based UAE driving licence. Although it's a federal driving licence, this is how things are organized.

Renewing UAE driving license in a different state

If you already have a driving licence from a previous assignment that needs to be renewed, please be aware you need to do the driving licence transfer in the same state as your Free Zone Company. With the Free Trade Zone as the sponsor, officially you need to obtain the No Objection Letter from the Free Trade Zone.