Emirates ID: A Comprehensive Guide

Emirates ID is a unique identification document and one of the key documents that plays a vital role in the daily lives of UAE residents. The rapid development and growing attractiveness of the UAE as a place to live and conduct business have increased interest in the features of life and work in the country, including the processing of required documents. This article will explore what the Emirates ID is, how to obtain it, and where it is used.

What is an Emirates ID? 

Emirates ID is an identity card issued by the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs, and Port Security (ICP).

The document was first discussed in 2004 when the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship was established. Its task was to create a Population Register and develop the Emirates ID identity card.

This program was aimed at meeting the need to register personal data of the entire population of the country and to store such data in electronic form. Moreover, it was necessary to issue a single document that could be used in all bodies and institutions of the country and that would contain an identification number and personal data in a convenient machine-readable format.

Currently, all citizens and residents of the UAE are required to obtain and always carry such an identification. The law prohibits the seizure of Emirates IDs from others. Thus, companies are prohibited from holding the identity cards of their employees, clients, or visitors. They are only allowed to use personal data from such cards.

In essence, the Emirates ID is a plastic card that consists of several components, ensuring a high level of security:

  • The smart card itself,
  • Digital signatures and authenticity certificates,
  • Biometric fingerprint,
  • 15-digit unique identification number.

These components give the Emirates ID a high degree of reliability and protection of personal data, making it an integral part of the UAE’s identification system.

What is Emirates ID used for? 

Emirates ID is used:

  • To access government services,
  • To vote in the Federal National Council elections,
  • As a travel document for UAE citizens traveling within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries,
  • To process medical insurance in UAE clinics,
  • To open an account in a local bank,
  • To receive discounts at hotels or restaurants,
  • For more convenient payment of fuel, for example, through a mobile application.

In other words, besides containing personal information about citizens and residents, Emirates ID allows access to a range of government services and is necessary for conducting a wide spectrum of operations related to living, working, traveling, and other aspects of daily life.

Obtaining an Emirates ID 

The process of obtaining an Emirates ID consists of the following steps:

  • Submitting an application through the ICP website or through one of the accredited centers,
  • Personal visit to the ICP service center to transfer biometric data,
  • Payment of the registration fee,
  • Receiving the card.

If you are a UAE resident, you can obtain an Emirates ID with a valid residence permit. Thus, residents need to attach the following documents to the application for issuing an Emirates ID:

  • Valid passport,
  • Valid residence permit for those who were not issued an Emirates ID when obtaining a residence permit,
  • Photograph,
  • For individuals under 15 years old – the original birth certificate, passport, or Emirates ID of one of the parents,
  • If the application is submitted by a third party on behalf of the applicant – the original certificate confirming the actions of the person as an agent.

The list of required documents varies for other categories of individuals.

Emirates ID is issued for the duration of the holder’s work visa. For UAE citizens, Emirates ID is issued for 5 or 10 years. After the expiration of the Emirates ID, it must be replaced.

Renewing, changing details, and cancelling an Emirates ID 

After the expiration of the Emirates ID, it is necessary to apply for an extension within 30 days. If this is not done within the specified period, penalties for delay will begin to accrue.

The application for renewal can be submitted on the ICP website, through a mobile application, or through an accredited center.

Note that UAE citizens can apply for an Emirates ID renewal six months before the expiration date, while residents can only do so when renewing or reissuing their resident visa.

Moreover, the owner of the Emirates ID must report any changes in their data contained in the identification within one month from the date of change.

Finally, residents who intend to cancel their resident visa in the UAE and leave the country permanently must submit their Emirates ID to the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs. The latter will send the cards directly to the ICP.

Differences between Emirates ID and a resident visa 

Let’s understand the main differences between the two documents that are necessary for individuals choosing the UAE as their permanent place of residence. Below is a table where the main characteristics of these two documents are compared:

CriterionEmirates IDResident Visa
PurposeIdentity verificationOfficial permission for residence and work in the UAE
Issued toUAE citizens and residentsForeign nationals
DataContains personal data, biometric data, and a unique identification numberContains the visa validity period; typically does not contain biometric data; may include sponsor information
UseUsed for transactions and accessing government services within the country, and for travel outside the UAE but only within a specific regionRequired for legal residence and work in the UAE; allows entry and exit from the UAE territory within its validity period without regional restrictions
AcquisitionIssuing authority – ICP. Emirates ID is the same for all residents, regardless of the purpose and basis of stay in the countryInvolves a separate application process for obtaining a visa; documents vary for different types of residency
RenewalBoth documents must be renewed after the expiration of their validity, which may vary
Consequences of non-renewalPenalty for not renewing the Emirates ID within the specified periodNon-renewal of the visa may lead to fines, deportation, and a ban on re-entry to the UAE territory

Thus, Emirates ID and a resident visa are two key documents for the life and work of foreign nationals in the UAE, each with its unique characteristics and purpose. While the Emirates ID is an identity verification necessary for accessing government services and conducting transactions in the country, the UAE resident visa provides official permission for residence and work in the Emirates. Understanding the differences between these documents ensures compliance with UAE legislation.

Differences between Emirates ID and a UAE passport 

Another document that should not be confused with the Emirates ID is the UAE passport. The latter is issued only to UAE citizens and confirms the right of citizens to international travel, as well as serves to confirm their citizenship outside the UAE.

In other words, this document is similar to the foreign passport of Russian citizens and is used for the following purposes:

  • Obtaining visas at foreign embassies or consulates,
  • Legal entry to the territory of other countries and exit from such countries,
  • Seeking consular assistance and protection at UAE diplomatic missions abroad,
  • If necessary, confirming one’s citizenship and identity during international travel.

Thus, unlike the Emirates ID, which is used for internal use and identification of citizens and residents of the UAE, the passport plays an important role in the context of international relations and provides identification and rights of UAE citizens outside the country.

Personal data protection in the UAE 

Since the Emirates ID contains personal data, an important issue is how personal data protection is ensured in the UAE.

The UAE has the Federal Decree-Law No. 45 of 2021 on personal data protection, which provides a framework for ensuring the confidentiality of information and the protection of individuals’ private lives in the UAE.

In particular, the Law establishes:

  • Conditions for processing personal data,
  • General obligations of companies that have personal data in their possession to ensure their confidentiality and security,
  • Prohibition of processing personal data without the owner’s consent, except in certain cases,
  • The right of the owner to demand correction of inaccurate personal data, as well as limitation or cessation of processing of their personal data,
  • Requirements for international transfer and exchange of personal data.

Thus, UAE legislation provides strict measures for the protection of personal data of individuals during their processing both within the country and abroad, including when issuing Emirates ID.


Obtaining an Emirates ID is an integral part of the process of living in the UAE. This document must be obtained by all UAE residents, regardless of the reasons for residing in this country, whether it is employment or business setup in the UAE.

In this regard, it is important to note the importance of the correct approach to the issuance of Emirates ID, which will ensure proper functioning in society, in conducting business, and in interacting with government bodies.

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