The Dubai International Financial Centre has invited its clients to nominate individuals for the new long-term residency visas approved by the UAE Cabinet last year in one of the first signs of the policies coming into effect.
"DIFC is always looking after the best interests of its community," a DIFC spokesperson told The National. "This is a great opportunity to give talent within the financial services sector the security to stay in the UAE and be a bigger part of its future."
In an email sent on Wednesday to the more than 2,000 entities registered within the free zone, the DIFC asked senior executives to identify and nominate people within their organisations who are eligible as “investors, entrepreneurs, high calibre and outstanding individuals” by April 3. The nomination can also be extended to the direct family members of the eligible individuals, which include their spouse and children. Successful applicants will be eligible for either a five or 10-year visa.
The new long-term visas, which can be renewed automatically, were announced in May last year. They allow expatriate residents to live, work and study in the UAE without the need of a national sponsor and with 100 per cent ownership of their business.
In January, the UAE issued the first long-term visas to 20 finalists for the Mohammed bin Rashid Medal for Scientific Distinction. Wider implementation of the new system began on February 3.
It is unclear if other free zones have also asked for nominations. Abu Dhabi Global Market declined to comment on whether it has similar plans.
Company representatives at DIFC are required to fill in an online form and, after review, the relevant documents will then be submitted to the Federal Authority for Identity & Citizenship.
"At present, DIFC is ... strictly collecting nominations," said the DIFC spokesperson.
Sam Instone, director of financial advisory firm AES International, and one of the DIFC's email recipients, said: “It presents a really good opportunity for us to provide something of real benefit and value to members of our organisation."
Those nominated must be eligible based on the Federal Authority’s specified list of criteria and provisions. For investors, they must either have invested in real estate with a minimum capital of Dh5 million or in general investments with a minimum of Dh10m.
For entrepreneurs, the main criterion is that they “own an established and successful business with a minimum capital of Dh500,000 in a field approved by the Ministry of Economy”.
Individuals with “special talents” and “researchers in the scientific and knowledge fields” are eligible under seven categories with specific conditions. These categories include doctors and specialists, scientists, innovators, intellectual elite and senior executives.
The fourth group labelled “high calibre and outstanding students” applies to school and university students inside and outside the UAE who have obtained high marks and GPAs.
Mr Instone said the visas help provide a thriving SME environment and entrepreneurial culture in the UAE. For companies, the visas can help attract and retain talent, he said.
“For existing corporates, the investors and entrepreneurs are particularly interesting. It also means the administrative burden would be reduced significantly. At the moment we go through that visa cycle every two years,” Mr Instone said. “It would provide better long-term planning and stability for lots of families.”