Registering For UAE Smart Gate Immigration Access

Technology has really improved the passport control process in many countries over the past several years. I’m fortunate to have dual citizenship (I have both a US and German passport), so between the two I have:

  • Global Entry, which gets me expedited passport control in the US, as well as access to SmartGates in Australia
  • My German passport gets me access to eGates in the EU and UK

I may not have the passport on the right, but I still can't be late....

Between the two passports, the time I have to spend waiting in line at airport immigration has decreased considerably. And that’s a blessing given how long immigration queues can be at times.

I’m always looking for new ways to shorten immigration queues, and earlier today decided to sign up for UAE Smart Gate as I was departing Abu Dhabi. Smart Gate allows you to use the automated machines rather than having to wait for an immigration officer, both on arrival and departure.

The following nationalities are eligible for Smart Gate access:

UAE-Smart-Gate-1

Once you’re eligible for Smart Gate, the process is really easy. You just scan your passport on the machine, enter into the gate, look at the camera, and voila, you’re through.

UAE-Smart-Gate-2

What I hadn’t realized until today is just how easy it is to register for Smart Gate. As I was departing Abu Dhabi I had a friendly immigration officer and asked him how I could sign up. He said he could do it right then and there. The whole process took less than two minutes, as he just had to enter some of my passport info into the computer, and then I had to look into the camera for a┬ápicture.

After that he walked me over to one of the automated kiosks to show me how it works. The process literally took two minutes, was free, required no paperwork, and the only question I was asked was whether I usually visit the UAE on holiday or work. It almost seemed too easy.

Bottom line

If you’re from a country eligible for Smart Gate I highly recommend signing up for it, especially given how highly variable immigration queues can be in the UAE depending on the time of day you arrive. Next time you leave the country just ask your immigration officer about it, and they should be able to register you.

Were you aware of UAE Smart Gate, and if so, have you registered?

Comments

  1. Hi Lucky,

    I knew you booked the Hainan Airlines business class to Changsha. Is there any way to enter Alaska Mileage number while booking the flight? Or prior to the flight, so there is no need to submit missing credit after the trip. Thanks.

    Best,
    Jack

  2. wait, it’s free? i had thought most accelerated immigration programs cost some amount of money. If they’re free then i definitely want to take advantage of them, so would appreciate if you could share!

  3. It’s actually even easier than that.

    Just show up at a Smart Gate as if you were already registered. Scan your passport. Your access will be denied (as expected) and you will then be directed to an agent that will sign you up on the spot and take your picture.

    In other words, you do not need to wait in line through general immigration or at a dedicated desk in order to sign up. Simply put, it might be faster to sign up AND enter the country than to wait to enter the country through the normal channel.

    And indeed, there’s no cost to use the service. The UAE has by far the most efficient and convenient program worldwide. Eligibility is also very broad – provided you’re not on any watch list, you’re basically eligible. There’s not even, afaik, any rule that states that you should be a frequent traveler to the UAE.

  4. Keep in mind that the free SmartGate program only works at Dubai T3 (maybe T1 also now) and Abu Dhabi. The paid eGate program is available in Dubai T1/T2/T3, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah.

  5. So you have to register for smart gate in each country separately?

    I have global entry. Used it first time and was out in two minutes and then spent 30 minutes waiting for my luggage to show up. All the other passengers meantime had caught up.

  6. Wait a second, you were able to actually talk to an immigration officer in the UAE?
    Whenever I face these guys they usually only wave their hand-but never talk.

  7. Regarding eGates in the EU: do you think this is something good?
    When arriving back at FRA I am happy when there are virtually no lines at “all passports”, because it is much quicker to do it the old-fashioned way than using the new mechanism.
    Just handing passport to agent, he scans it, waits like two seconds, gives back the passport, and you are on your way.
    Using the machines: try to scan the passport. If you are lucky the machine is able to read it. Enter the gate. Then you need to know that you have to stand still and look at your own picture (there is no-one telling you what to do, there is no sign telling you what to do). Then you wait longer than just two seconds till the other door opens.
    Walk out and past the agents sitting there, doing nothing.
    I must say, that the introduction of APC kiosks in the US went much smoother. Inexplicably, it indeed saves time. Plus, as usual in the US, there is staff helping you if help is needed. Not like back home where you are on your own.

  8. Luckily, the last few times I didn’t need to use our automated passport control at FRA, but could walk up to a BP officer, and thus save some time ­čśë

    Anyway, interesting to hear about how easy it can be to enter the UAE. That’s good to know!

  9. Is there any way to register for Smartgate in advance? online?

    I followed the link to SmartGate but found the site slow and could not find any link to register. So, can it only be done at the airport on arrival?

  10. Hey Lucky – just correcting one thing in your article. Note that Global Entry no longer is needed for US passports to use SmartGate in Australia. By default all 16yo and older passport holders can use it from these countries:
    Australia
    Canada
    Ireland
    New Zealand
    Singapore
    Switzerland
    United Kingdom
    United States of America

    https://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Ente/Goin/Arrival/Smartgateor-ePassport

    The list is similar for New Zealand…

    New Zealand
    Australia
    United Kingdom
    United States of America
    Canada

    http://www.customs.govt.nz/features/smartgate/whocanusesmartgate/Pages/default.aspx

    Also, AUS and NZ both have automated departures now – and they work for the same list of passports.

    You still, of course, need an appropriate visa / ETA / etc for your respective passport / entry country.

  11. No passport stamps w/the kiosks though! (Yes, I know that the EU doesn’t stamp its own citizens, but the US does, and the UAE presumably stamps visitors too)

  12. Inspired by your post just tried to register while departing Abu Dhabi. I was told it can only be done upon arrival. I will see tomorrow if that is the case when I come back.

  13. Registration works very well on arrival immigration. Only downside is you first need to wait in line to get to the counter.

  14. I was directed to the nonregistered line on arrival in Dubai as I have a Can passport and I guess I was signed up for the program as my pic/iris scan was done. I realized after my passport was not stamped when I went to get a phone card and they wanted to see the stamp? Is it an electronic stamp? Do I need to go somewhere to get it stamped?

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