The Strangest Immigration Landing Card You’ve Ever Seen, and It’s Now Being Used.

The other day I entered Abu Dhabi briefly. Apparently additional security measures were in place for immigration, and the fast track queue took about 40 minutes — even though the line wasn’t particularly long.

What was unique was they were insisting that everyone fill out landing cards. I don’t recall ever filling one of those out before, I certainly haven’t in the past few years, and the person behind me noted they hadn’t done so last week.

These weren’t cards distributed on the plane. Instead, as everyone got in line they were being told if they were a non-resident they had to go fill one out before getting back in line. Everyone was directed to a long table with a bunch of forms strewn about. The forms were in English.

I use the term ‘forms’ lightly, they were more like photocopied sheets of paper with questions clearly written by someone for whom English wasn’t their first language.

I’m not criticizing here — first of all, I don’t proofread my blog posts and second of all I am not in any way proficient in Arabic so far be it for me to criticize their English.

I just found it fascinating — the hasty photocopied page for everyone to fill out.

Here are some of the questions and statements on the document:

  • Where you was staying the country you came from?
  • Who lives with you in the same region?
  • What is you specialty or occupational?
  • In your family reside to that country?
  • What is the security situation there:
  • Name of counrties that you have visisted before:
  • What is your job in your counrty
  • Please: taking photos of the cards and documents of the person concerned

Click to enlarge:

A large Russian man was ahead of me in line. He was sent to go fill out the form, which took him about 15 minutes. He came back and decided to resume his place in line ahead of me. And this time he wasn’t alone. I decided to keep quiet about his bringing along company into the line. I didn’t want a confrontation with this large Russian gentleman in the immigration queue inside the UAE. When he got to the front of the line though he was sent back to go get his iris scan.

Some of the questions on the form I couldn’t actually answer, the questions didn’t make sense, so I left them blank. I was waved through in moments.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This is a complete joke.

    I have a feeling that the last line actually forbids you of making photocopies of that document but they didn’t know how to express themselves:-)

  2. I went through AUH last Thursday. No form necessary, but it still took ~45 minutes to get through immigration.

  3. a) They use this form very selectively when there are arrivals from some high risk countries. My guess is that you traveled from (or there was another flight that had arrived from) a country where there are currently a fair number of refugees claiming asylum in the UAE (Somalia, Yemen, Maldives, Eritrea, Syria, Iran, etc..). The questions on the form are designed to give grounds for refusing an asylum claim.

    b) Get an E-Gate card. You can get one as a US citizen even if you are not resident. No lines at any UAE airport.

  4. The form seems to have been the product of a poor translation from Arabic to English. Google Translate gone wrong?

    Is the UAE even known to have a good record of accepting asylum claims and/or being party to the relevant international agreements on refugees and asylum-seekers? The GCC countries are more known for giving such people the boot than having any willingness to host large refugee populations and integrate them. And the idea of GCC countries providing even long-term residents a path to citizenship is generally unattainable pie in the sky.

  5. “I’m not criticizing here — first of all, I don’t proofread my blog posts and second of all I am not in any way proficient in Arabic so far be it for me to criticize their English.”

    You don’t need to even defend yourself I think. You’re a blogger, so you’re not held to the same standard of “language correctness” as these guys. Maybe we’re not judging individual officer’s English per se, but surely out of that entire office, someone should know how to speak or write in proper English? Plus isn’t Abu Dhabi (or UAE as a whole) trying to position themselves as the upcoming tourist destination for Westerners?

    And as for the questions themselves… OMG….

  6. @Miles Down Under – Nothing to elaborate. If you are a citizen of the 40-odd visa-on-arrival countries (or GCC), you can get an E-Gate card without a residence permit. Just go to the office and sign up for it. No prior appointment needed.

  7. @Sean M. I think why @Miles Down Under is asking and I am asking, is “How can I apply and get an E-Gate Card?” you mention ‘Just go to the office…” – Uhhhh, what office my friend?

    and thanks Gary for the post. I am heading into UAE soon.

  8. @Mickey in PDX – There are E-Gate registration offices at all major UAE airports and these are well signposted. In Dubai T1 this is located in the departures food court area next to Emirates NBD bank. In Dubai T3 this is after the landside arrivals public exit near Exit Gate 3. Not sure of the location in Abu Dhabi Airport right now due to all the construction but it is there somewhere. You can also enroll at the Immigration Department offices in Dubai or AD as well as at the DNATA travel store on Sheikh Zayed Road.

  9. I had the same shock just last week having travelled to Abu Dhabi in recent times as well. I was surprised not just at the English (although I think they have now changed the form) but also by the fact that everybody including me (a white British man!) had to complete the form. Well done Abu Dhabi. More work for no gain since all the questions are normally asked in any case and that’s why it takes so long in UAE immigration. Qatar and Oman are so much easier since they ask the questions directly to you whilst Bahrain, Kuwait and even Saudi just have a simple short cards to complete as most countries in the world. But please don’t forget that the UAE is as much a police state as Israel (they won’t like me saying that!) and every move you make inside the country is on camera. A great place to sell data servers but not a great place to go on holiday I would suggest 😉

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