UAE targets middle-income earners with long-term visas

Graduates in education or social sciences on Dh15,000 salaries eligible for five-year Green Visa

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Middle-income earners are set to be the biggest beneficiaries of the UAE’s new visa system, experts have predicted, encouraging existing residents to set down roots.

Five-year Green Visas will be available to people earning Dh15,000 ($4,084) or more per month, as part of sweeping changes to attract new talent to the Emirates.

That brings teachers, young professionals and ordinary working families into a broader long-term visa regime originally aimed at high-net-worth individuals.

Khatija Haque, chief economist and head of research at Emirates NBD, said the government move would encourage existing expats to settle for longer and foreign workers to move here.

It includes five-year visas for people who have a bachelor’s degree and are on much lower incomes than the initial golden visa scheme was targeting
Khatija Haque, chief economist, Emirates NBD

“The most interesting thing about the package was that it included new five-year visas for people who have a bachelor’s degree – and are on much lower incomes than the initial golden visa scheme was targeting,” she said.

“You’re potentially attracting a much more middle-income component and broadens the number of people that can be included in these longer-term visa schemes.”

Graduates in education, social sciences or culture, among other fields, will be able to apply for the Green Visas. The visas are part of the broader residency regime that offers at least 10 visa types. It was approved by the Cabinet on Monday and comes into effect in September.

“It does make the UAE a very attractive place destination for people in Europe, people in other parts of the world,” Ms Haque told Bloomberg TV.

“These regulations will perhaps make it easier for people who want to come and try their luck.”

Several of the visas do not require residents to be sponsored by an employer.

Business Extra podcast: What are the UAE's new visa rules?

Business Extra podcast: What are the UAE's new visa rules?

“You could come in as a freelancer, you could come in as an investor, you could come in as an entrepreneur. These are avenues which weren’t open just two years ago.”

The Emirates aims to recover from the pandemic, boost its population and attract bright new talent.

About 76 per cent of UAE employers plan to expand their workforce in 2022, according to a survey in February by jobs portal and market research company YouGov.

Dedicated jobseeker visas will benefit new graduates, among others. The duration has not yet been announced. Prior to the pandemic, when it was first mooted, it allowed for a six-month stay.

“It gives people a purpose to come here and it helps the government understand they are on a mission to find a job, rather than being here as a tourist,” said Louise Vine, from recruiter Inspire Selection.

Many of the visa changes, including golden residency, were announced during the pandemic and were in effect when the Cabinet rubber-stamped them this week.

Others are new, including a 60-day entry visa – up from 30 days – that will benefit tourists and jobseekers. Parents will be able to sponsor male children until the age of 25, allowing them to remain in the UAE after school and university.

Multi-entry five-year visas will benefit frequent visitors from countries that do not have a visa-on-arrival arrangement, such as India, Pakistan and the Philippines.

At the other end of the scale, there are now at least several paths to achieving a Golden Visa.

A skilled professional with a university education earning more than Dh30,000 ($8,100) is eligible to apply for 10-year residence.

Impact on property market

An investor buying a property for Dh2 million or more can obtain the 10-year Golden Visa.

Property agents believe the visa decision will fuel the property boom seen in the past year, and attract foreign buyers worried by rattled markets in Europe.

Total transactions during the first three months of 2022 stood at nearly 18,000, with a sales value of about Dh43 billion ($11.7 billion), compared with about 10,000 in the same period last year.

Andrew Cummings​, head of prime residential, Middle East, at property broker Knight Frank, told The National: “Monday’s announcement is a further step in opening up Dubai to foreign investors and will likely lead to a significant influx in buyers, bolstering an already active market.

“The changes to enable off-plan investors to also gain residency will have the biggest impact, and we are likely to see a increasing demand for off-plan properties, with buyers no longer being restricted to having to have a title deed of a ready property in hand.”

Lewis Allsopp, chief executive of Allsopp & Allsopp, said: “Dubai and the UAE is no longer a temporary place to stay but rather a country to call home, to make a life for a family and to thrive in a professional capacity.”


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Updated: April 20, 2022, 1:42 PM