As the world recovers from Covid-19 and its devastating effects, there are also lessons to be learnt and retained. One that is getting a great deal of attention is what the pandemic taught us about work. Norms were shattered. Remote work demonstrated its huge potential, but, suddenly deprived of it, so did the old collaborative environment of the office.
The principle tying all of these findings together is the importance of flexibility. This applies outside work, too. Forced to be at home, families were brought closer together, well-being was prioritised and life felt as stable as it could among such uncertainty. Many are understandably keen to keep these new arrangements in place.
The UAE’s economy is the perfect place to implement this flexibility. Since its establishment in 1971, the UAE has gained a reputation for welcoming the world and its creativity. This openness and dynamism is an economic necessity, as well as a cultural trait. From the hydrocarbons industry to the tourism sector, the Emirates will always draw on the contribution of many people with many different talents to realise its vast economic potential.
How the government goes about this is an ever-developing process, one that has seen particular revision in recent years. New visa rules that came into force on Monday demonstrate once again that the UAE is still gearing up to welcome more foreign workers and, crucially, for longer.
Immigration law has been going through a wider shake up in the past few years. In 2020, golden visas were introduced, designed to enable exceptionally skilled foreigners to live, work and study in the UAE without the need for a national sponsor. It also gives recipients the right to 100 per cent ownership of businesses on the UAE’s mainland. They are valid for 10 years, and are given to people whom the authorities deem of particular significance. A recent example includes healthcare workers who served during the pandemic.
In June, new labour laws allowed workers to remain in the country for a longer period of time after their employment is terminated. Now, former employees will have up to 180 days to find a job before they overstay their visa.
Monday's news is as significant. Green visas are now available for skilled workers, defined as people who earn more than Dh15,000 a month and who have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent education. The biggest plus is a five-year residency, which will allow for more flexible working, particularly for freelancers, and create more investment in the UAE's economy. More certainty makes buying property, for example, more attractive.
The new visa recognises that there is more to sustaining a vibrant expatriate workforce than just working conditions. It also gives holders the right to bring first-degree relatives into the country for the entirety of their stay. Emily Roberts, principal consultant at Dubai recruiter Genie, told The National that: “A key benefit of the green visa is the advantage for families as there will be the extension for male dependents to be sponsored up to the age of 25 as previously it was restricted to the age of 18.”
As the UAE reopens apace after the pandemic, new employment laws are being drawn up to support the trend and make it happen as efficiently as possible. If programmes such as the golden visa work to attract a smaller, more targeted group of people in line with what the government deems as crucial sectors, the new green visa is more about letting the process of migration and a vibrant economy take its course, which has worked so well for the country throughout its history, and not losing sight of the importance of well-being in the process.