The UAE government has unveiled significant plans to loosen the strict residency rules for expats as the country moves to further attract foreign residents and overseas investment. Typically, expats are only given visas that are linked to their employment, and long-term residency has been traditionally difficult to obtain.
New UAE visas
But now, under a new visa, to be imminently rolled out, foreign nationals will be able to work in the UAE without being sponsored by an employer, via a ‘Green Visa.’ Those with the new Green Visa will also be able to sponsor their parents and children up to 25 years old. Green Visas are work permits with residency “for pioneers, entrepreneurs and other professionals,” said Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Trade at the launch of the programme. There are also freelance visas soon to be made available that will allow people to work on an independent basis. Green visa holders will be given 90-180 days’ grace period once their visas expire, unlike the current system of 30 days’ grace period, to exit the country.
Under the new rules, eligibility for the Golden Visa, which was launched last autumn, will be expanded to include managers, CEOs, specialists in science, engineering, health, education, business management and technology. “The measures have been introduced to enhance the competitiveness and flexibility of the UAE labour market, facilitate sector growth, spur knowledge transfer and skills development, and create greater stability and security for residents,” a government statement said. The move announced on Sunday is part of the UAE’s 50 initiative, the first of 50 new projects that will begin in the next era of growth for the country.
Reaction to Green Visa
Business leaders in the country are hailing the move announced this week. Speaking to Khaleej Times, a UAE national newspaper, Lewis Allsopp, CEO of Allsopp & Allsopp, said: “Not only will these projects encourage expats to reside in Dubai for a long time but the knock-on effect these will have on the economy and growth of the country will entice foreigners to make the move.” He added: “I expect this will have a very positive effect on Dubai’s property market. The market is already stabilising and maturing, with these additions brought in by the UAE leadership, it creates a home away from home for expats and encourages professionals to lay roots in the country rather than see Dubai as a temporary measure.” Meanwhile, Nigel Green, deVere CEO and founder, and long-term international advocate of the UAE has said it will “further galvanise the country’s reputation as a global business hub.”
Previously, he has noted: “Recognised as one of the world’s most important financial centres, the UAE will likely become one of the top 10 international business hubs to rival and more assertively compete with others including London, New York and Hong Kong. “The country already has a helping hand in this sense, thanks to having an independent regulator and judicial system, pro-business government, global financial exchange, dynamic business community, many HNW individuals, world-class infrastructure, exceptional digital and telecommunications, English as the number one business language, along with the enviable location and time zone.”
Ultimate expat destination?
The UAE is often described as the ultimate expat destination, with non-Emiratis making up around 80% of the population – one of the highest concentrations of expats in the world. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the Emirates to which most expats choose to relocate. This is because they offer the best, most diverse and dynamic lifestyles opportunities with amazing shopping malls, world-class restaurants, bars, night clubs, sports facilities, social events, hotels, and beach clubs. Other major ‘pull factors’ include a tax-free environment, almost perfect weather for eight months of the year (the summer is incredibly hot), top schools and universities, some of the world’s best connected and operated airports and airlines, low crime and high standard of living.