UAE ranks among top 10 countries for expatriate relocations, survey finds

Visa reforms, progressive policy changes and the country's post-Covid economic rebound are driving its popularity among foreign workers

Foreign workers who move to the UAE stay longer compared with those who move to other countries. Getty
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The UAE ranked number one across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, and was among the top 10 countries around the world for expatriates to relocate to, a survey by health insurance company Cigna has found.

Four per cent of expats around the world want to relocate to the UAE because of its progressive policy changes, recent visa reforms and economic rebound after Covid-19, the 360° Global Well-Being Survey showed.

The survey ranks 197 countries and the UAE is the only country in the region to feature on the list, Cigna said.


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The survey was conducted in April and May this year and polled 11,922 people aged 18 to 65 across global markets, including more than 1,000 in the UAE.

“The UAE ranks among the best in the world,” said Jerome Droesch, chief executive of domestic health and health services at Cigna International Markets.

In recent years, the UAE, the Arab world’s second-largest economy, has undertaken several economic, legal and social reforms to strengthen its business environment, increase foreign direct investment, attract skilled workers and provide incentives for companies to set up or expand their operations.

In 2019, amendments were introduced to the golden visa initiative to simplify the eligibility criteria and expand the categories of beneficiaries.

The 10-year visa is granted to investors, entrepreneurs, skilled professionals who earn a monthly salary of more than Dh30,000 ($8,167), exceptional talents, scientists and professionals, outstanding students and graduates, property investors, humanitarian pioneers and front-line heroes.

A green visa provides a five-year residency for skilled employees without the need for a sponsor or employer. The minimum educational level is a bachelor’s degree or equivalent and the salary should not be less than Dh15,000.

The UAE also introduced a one-year digital nomad visa in March 2021 that allows people to live in the Emirates while continuing to work for employers in their home countries.

Foreign workers who move to the UAE record a longer period of stay compared with those who move to other countries, the Cigna survey found.

The average length of stay for foreign workers in the UAE is 4.4 years, compared with the global average of 3.2 years, it said.

Employees in the UAE also lead the pack in terms of workplace mobility. Forty per cent of workers in the Emirates changed jobs over the past 12 months compared with the global average of 24 per cent, backed by a growing economy, flexible visa rules and increased opportunities, the research found.

About 55 per cent of employees in the UAE also wish to change their jobs in the next 12 months compared with 36 per cent globally.

Meanwhile, 53.2 per cent of residents are happy to accept a salary cut if it means they have time to do other things, compared with 42 per cent globally, Cigna said.

The UAE scored 71.7 on the work well-being index, above the global average of 69.5, according to the survey.

“Employee health and well-being has become paramount and employers need to step up to create an environment where employees feel more cared for, supported and can grow in their personal and professional capacities,” Mr Droesch said.

About 40 per cent of respondents in the UAE said they work from home full-time, 40 per cent work in an office full-time and 20 per cent now follow a hybrid working model after the Covid-19 pandemic, the survey said.

"The UAE offers more flexibility compared with work environments in Europe. We also have a lot of people working remotely in the US," Mr Droesch said.

The Emirates scored 68.2 on the overall well-being index, significantly above the global average of 62.9, followed by the US, UK, China, Spain and Australia, Cigna said.

The UAE’s overall well-being segment grew by 2.1, the highest among all countries, due to progressive policy changes, new visa regulations and increased confidence in the country’s economic growth over the past two years, it said.


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Updated: September 15, 2022, 8:51 AM