In the overhaul of UAE visa laws, there is one distinctive thread that weaves together the changes: the need to attract both investment from around the world and global talent. The sweeping changes, announced on Sunday, are set to meet both those needs. Longer visas for students and skilled professionals will attract the brightest minds to the UAE and keep them here while greater autonomy for businesses will grow the economy. The country is undergoing a metamorphosis, transitioning smoothly from an oil-dependent economy to one based on knowledge, technology and the convergence of international expertise. It marks the UAE out as a country that embraces the future and recognises the vital role that foreign residents play. More changes are expected in the coming weeks and months, although questions remain about what they will entail. Nevertheless, ahead of Vision 2021, the cabinet has demonstrated a desire to propel this country into the future.
As the UAE's international draw increases, attracting more foreign workers, many will choose to stay longer. The new rules are a recognition of their contribution, allowing them to make plans and take part in the country's long-term future. Beyond the financial benefits, the changes reflect the maturity of this young country and the tolerance, inclusivity and multiculturalism that underpin its governance. Today more than eight million foreign residents live in the UAE; many see it as their home and crave the opportunity to put down roots. Those considering moving here, who might be deterred by the potential transience and insecurity of the job market, will doubtless be reassured. It will tempt experienced professionals, who will be more likely to leave their mark on the country and imprint it with their knowledge. And it will also lure families with young children, who previously might have been unwilling to uproot them for a shorter spell of two or three years.
The rules will allow foreign residents to own 100 per cent of UAE-based companies, which will feed the country’s growing start-up culture. It will also stem the brain drain that often sees gifted graduates leave to pursue opportunities elsewhere. Questions over whether long-term visas will be extended to those in the arts and humanities and job security for Emiratis in a much tougher market remain, but it is expected that opening up the field to entrepreneurs and start-ups will improve standards through increased competition. The government will need to deliver training and advice to help the private sector flourish.
The UAE has long been a hub of commerce and cultural understanding. Increasingly, as these proposed changes kick in, it will be one of global knowledge and expertise.