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September 14, 2021

Following the launch earlier this year of 5-10-year visas for entrepreneurs, investors and specialised talents, the UAE has further announced the introduction of a new class of visas, marking the latest in a series of steps to liberalise its stringent residency rules with the aim of attracting talent, boosting economic growth and diversifying its oil-focused economy.

Green Visas offer foreign workers more flexibility

Called the Green Visas, these will offer more flexibility to foreign skilled workers making it easier and more attractive to reside in the country. It will allow expats to apply for work within the UAE without being sponsored by an employer, making it easier for freelancers to remain, as well as allow parents to sponsor their children’s visas up to the age of 25.

Furthermore, those who lose their jobs can now remain in the country for up to 180 days giving them an extra three months to seek other jobs. Since the UAE’s independence, the state has tied employment to residency status, meaning employers force people to leave the country once they lose their jobs.

Attracting talent and investment post-pandemic

These lifting of visa restrictions on foreign workers follows an exodus of foreign workers from the country during the pandemic with the country keen to retain both talent and investment.

While the once oil-rich Gulf state of the UAE resisted allowing permanent residency and citizenship for its foreign workers which make up around 90% of the population, the xxxx has forced the country to consider longer residency for foreigners in order to both attract investment and to diversify.

The country has plans to lure foreign talent over the next decades in order to accelerate its economic and social reforms to rebrand the country in a post-pandemic, non oil-buying world.

UAE’s golden visa programme

The Green Visas follow the introduction of a raft of reforms last year by the government to draw more and people and capital to the country following the exodus of foreign workers.

It was announced that the powerful UAE passport would now be offered to “investors, doctors, specialists, inventors, scientists, talents, intellectuals, artists and their families” allowing them and their families to acquire the Emirati nationality and passport under certain conditions.

This move to grant citizenship to select individuals further followed enhancements of its Golden Visa programme, which offers 10-year residency to certain professionals and degree holders.

Eligibility for a 10-year residency visa is as follows:

  • Investors in public investments – To make at least AED10m which can be deposited in an investment fund within the country; used to establish a company in the UAE; used as funds to partner with an existing company; or a mix of all three.
  • Persons with specialised talents including those in the field of science and knowledge (doctors, specialists, scientists, inventors) and creative talents in the field of culture and art. The visa extends to the spouse and children.

While eligibility for a 5-year residency visa includes the following:

The following categories are entitled to apply for a 5-year residence visa in the UAE.

  • Investors in a property in the UAE – To invest in a property to the value of no less than AED5m which must be retained for at least three years
  • Entrepreneurs – Must have an existing project with a minimum capital of AED500,000 or have the approval of an accredited business incubator in the country. The entrepreneur is allowed a multi-entry visa for six months, renewable for another six months. The long-term visa includes the spouse and children, a partner and three executives.
  • Outstanding students – Those with a minimum grade of 95% in public/private secondary schools and/or university students within and outside the country with a distinction GPA of at least 3.75 upon graduation with the long-term visa including families of the outstanding students.

The UAE also recently announced a digital nomad visa.