How to Study in United Arab Emirates for International Students (4 Steps)

There are over 100 universities and colleges in the United Arab Emirates. Collectively, they host tens of thousands of international students from all around the world each year.

Besides the vast availability of English-medium undergraduate and postgraduate programs, the experience of a unique blend of traditional and contemporary lifestyle is one of the many reasons why the UAE is a popular destination among international students who want to further their higher education abroad. In this article, we will be looking at how to study in UAE for international students.

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How International Students Can Study in UAE

To maximize your chance of studying in the UAE, you should do the following:

  • Figure out how you are going to finance your education in UAE. This is the most important step in this whole process and can be done through attending affordable universities in UAE, saving up money before going abroad, getting scholarships, and working while studying.
  • Then, you need to know what requirements universities in UAE require. You’ll need to prepare these documents.
  • After that, you will need to apply following the application procedure.
  • Then, you will need to apply for a student visa.


1. The Cost of Studying at UAWE

Studying in the UAE can be costly. For example, an international student would need to pay from 228,000 AED (about $62,000) to 367,500 AED (about $100,000) for an undergraduate degree from United Arab Emirates University.

Living in the UAE can also be quite expensive, especially in cities like Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Student accommodation can cost about 3,000 AED (about $800) a month; you would need another 2 to 3,000 AED for your expenses such as transportation, meals, insurance, and others.

Although studying and living in the UAE can be a costly affair, there are plenty of scholarships and financial aids available to international students; you could make use of those if you are planning to study in the UAE!


2. Prepare to Meet the Requirements of Universities in UAE

For international students to study in UAE, you need to meet their requirements. Most higher education institutions in the UAE deliver their programs in English. For non-native English speakers, applicants must have an English proficiency certificate that is acknowledged by the university before applying. Some universities will also require their students to meet a certain level of proficiency in Arabic, depending on the program of choice.

Students without any proof of the required language proficiency will most likely need to take a placement test at the university.

General Arabic and English Requirements (Undergraduate)

In general, most undergraduate program applicants need to have at least a score of 1250 in EmSAT (Emirates Standardized Test), 70 in TOEFL iBT, or 5.5 in IELTS (5.5) as proof of proficiency in the English language. Some schools may also require their students to have a certain degree of knowledge in Arabic.

For instance, United Arab Emirates (UAE) University expects its students to have the following certifications:

  • A minimum score of 1250 in EmSAT English, 525 in TOEFL ITP, 70 in TOEFL iBT, or 5.5 in IELTS and
  • A minimum score of 900 in EmSAT Arabic (1100 for College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Education, and College of Law)

International students applying to Khalifa University should meet the following minimum requirements:

  • TOEFL iBT 79 or IELTS 6.0 and
  • EmSAT Arabic 700

Applicants who do not have proof of English proficiency can take the English test administered by the university.

General Arabic and English Requirements (Graduate)

On average, the language requirements for graduate programs are slightly higher than undergraduate admission requirements.

For example, the English language requirement at UAE University is IELTS 6.0 or more, and the minimum prerequisite at Khalifa University is TOEFL iBT 91, IELTS 6.5, or 1550 EmSAT.

Please check with the university for more information on the language requirements you need to apply for the program of your choice.

Application Requirements (Undergraduate)

Upon completion of your online application, most universities will request their applicants to submit these documents online and/or by post. (Example from United Arab Emirates University)

  • Certificate of high school graduation
  • Transcripts and test scores
  • Passport copy
  • Birth certificate copy for age verification
  • Passport-sized photograph
  • Proof of English proficiency
  • An equivalency certificate from the Ministry of Education of UAE may be required if your high school curriculum does not meet the requirements set by the UAE government
  • Application fee of 200 AED (about $55)

Application Requirements (Graduate)

For graduate program applicants, you will need to submit the following documents (example from United Arab Emirates University):

  • Passport copy
  • Certificate of graduation
  • Official transcripts and grades
  • Proof of English proficiency
  • Curriculum vitae to describe your education and work experience
  • Letter of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose
  • Application fee from 200 to 500 AED (from $55 to $140) depending on your field of study

It is vital that international students prepare these in advance to be able to study in United Arab Emirates.

3. Apply

There are usually two rounds of application for undergraduate and graduate programs each year in universities in the UAE, even though the duration may vary across different institutions. Most schools also have a similar application process for their international students. Please check the application guidelines and procedures of the university you are applying to so you can plan and submit your application on time.

According to the website of Khalifa University, students who wish to enroll in an undergraduate program in the university should check that they satisfy all the minimum requirements before applying online.

If your application has successfully passed the university’s screening process (a check to see if you meet the admission requirements), you will then sit for an entry assessment in physics and mathematics. You may also have to attend an interview if it is deemed necessary by the university. Note that you should bring along your application documents for submission on the interview day.

The university will then evaluate your application, and you will be updated on the application outcome in due time.

Graduate program applicants will also follow a similar application process as above. However, the required application documents are to be scanned and uploaded to the online application system (not to be submitted by post or in-person).


4. Get a student visa

The final step of studying in UAE for international students is getting a student visa. The good news is that this final step is the easiest.

Except for nationals from the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), international students must have a Student Visa to study in UAE. Student visas are secured by accredited universities in UAE so please follow the guidelines set by your university.

Most universities will request these documents for the visa application. You should start your application early as it may undergo a security check by UAE government authorities, which will lead to a longer processing time.

  • Completed visa application form
  • Passport copy
  • Photograph
  • Letter of admission
  • Bank statements to demonstrate financial means to cover your tuition fees and living costs in the UAE
  • Proof of accommodation such as tenancy agreement or student accommodation letter

Your university will help you to get a Student Entry Permit that you can collect at the airport of your arrival. Once you are in the country, you will need to undergo a medical check at a government-approved health center.

After you receive your medical certificate, you would need to submit it to your university so that they can proceed to apply for a Student Visa (also known as Student Residence Visa) for you. Once it is ready, your university will collect your Student Residence Visa from the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA).

For more information, please refer to the government portal of the United Arab Emirates.

The student visa application can cost up to 3,000 AED (about $800). On top of the cost (1,730 AED) set by the UAE Government Services Office (GSO), universities will likely impose a service fee for helping with the application. Express service is available at an additional 1,100 AED (paid to the GSO).


Congratulations on completing all the necessary steps. Your life in the United Arab Emirates awaits!

As mentioned above, upon your arrival in the UAE, you will need to undergo a medical check. Foreign citizens entering the UAE must be free of all kinds of infectious diseases (including HIV and tuberculosis), so passing the medical test is essential for the issuance of your student visa.

Please refer to the UAE government portal for more details.

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