Australian passport holders can zip through Dubai Airport like a local, by registering their passport with Dubai’s Smart Gate system for automated processing at the border on arrival and departure.
Once enrolled, you won’t need to line up in the regular passport lanes: you’ll instead be able to self-process through the same channel used by citizens and residents of the United Arab Emirates, getting you out of the airport and into your hotel quick smart, or up to the lounge without delay.
Here’s what you need to know.
Dubai Smart Gate: registering your passport
Unlike the similarly-named SmartGate system in Australia which Aussie passport holders can use without pre-approval, Dubai’s own ‘Smart Gate’ program requires registration before use, but that’s possible on your first visit to Dubai: you don’t need to be a regular visitor to sign up.
When touching down in Dubai, simply proceed through ‘normal’ passport control one last time, and when you reach the immigration official, just ask them if you can register, which they can do on the spot.
If you’re clear to enrol, you’ll be asked to briefly stare at a camera for an iris scan, and a sticker will be attached to the back of your passport, highlighting that you’re now eligible for Smart Gate:
On this occasion, your passport will be stamped as normal, but when using Smart Gate to exit Dubai and on future trips, you won’t receive any more stamps: an easy way to conserve space in your passport, particularly if you’re running short of pages.
Registration is valid until your passport expires and works across all three terminals at Dubai Airport for both arrivals and departures when flying with any airline.
You can also sign-up at dedicated Smart Gate Registration counters, but this potentially means lining up twice: once to register, and once to clear passport control, so heading straight for a regular passport desk can often be faster, especially if you have fast-track pass from your airline as a business class or first class passenger.
Just note, Smart Gate registration at Dubai Airport doesn’t unlock automated processing channels at other Emirates within the UAE, such as Abu Dhabi, because each Emirate uses its own passport control system, for which you’ll have to register separately.
Along with Australian passport holders, Dubai’s Smart Gate system is also open to travellers from New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, the UK, the USA and a number of other countries too.
Dubai Smart Gate: crossing the border electronically
Here's the easy part: once your passport is registered, the next time you head through passport control at Dubai Airport, follow the purple signs towards “Smart Gates” – then at the barrier, insert your passport into the scanner.
When that’s done, you’ll be prompted to step forward and focus your eyes on a screen labelled “look here”, for both an eye scan and a photograph, which are captured at the same time.
If everything is clear, the gates will open, and you’re through. The rules of your stay are the same as if your passport had been stamped, which for Australian citizens, provides for a visit of up to 30 days visa-free per entry.