New rules governing the ways people work and live in the UAE have been approved by the Cabinet.
It is one of the biggest shake-ups to the country’s immigration policy in years.
But what does this all mean, and does any of it affect or benefit you?
Here, we’ll try to break down the changes, which will come into effect by September.
No costs have yet been released.
What has happened?
The Cabinet has approved the “executive regulations” of the Federal Decree-Law on Entry and Residence of Foreigners.
This puts into motion the creation of new visa and formally approves others, such as the Golden Visa residency system, that had already been rolled out.
Many of the details were made public over the past 18 months. They now have been formally approved.
Others are new. They include a 60-day entry visas for many tourists and allowing parents to continue to sponsor disabled children when they reach adulthood.
Who is this aimed at?
The country’s leaders want to attract more skilled professionals, those with medicine and science backgrounds, the brightest students and tech-savvy minds to live in the Emirates.
Wealthy investors, entrepreneurs and company owners are sought after. Officials hope they will set down roots, invest in property and make the country their long-term home.
But the wide range of 10 visa types may benefit many residents and people who are looking to make the country home.
There are several visa types that are aimed at these groups, including Golden Visas, which were first approved in late 2020. In the first year, 44,000 visas were issued in Dubai alone.
“The golden visa for an ownership of Dh2 million on real estate will definitely be a major boost for middle and higher segments to invest in the UAE through real estate or other sources," said Vijay Valecha, chief investment officer of Century Financial Consultancy.
In the middle-income bracket are the so-called Green Visas, which are aimed at skilled workers, freelancers and the self-employed. These would grant the holder five years’ residency.
To be eligible, an applicant requires a monthly salary of Dh15,000 along with a bachelor's degree in certain skilled fields, including science, law, education, culture or social sciences, among others.
Someone who currently holds a two or three-year trade licence for freelance work may find this option attractive, but the costs have not yet been set out.
A Green Visa holder can sponsor relatives for residency for five years. Previously, this was typically allowed for two years.
There is no specific provision for lower-income and lower-skilled workers to secure special visas. But jobseeker and five-year multi-entry visas may benefit people who wish to move to the Emirates, or join family here.
In particular, this could benefit people from countries that require paid-for visas in advance of flying, such as India, Pakistan, Philippines and Bangladesh. Officials did not say how long a jobseeker visa was valid for, but previously said six months, when it was mooted before the pandemic.
Primarily, it is aimed at “young talent and skilled professionals”. Recent graduates from the world’s top 500 universities are included in this category.
“The abolishment of needing a sponsor or host for visit visa is a big step to prompt young individuals to come to UAE for job opportunities,” Mr Valecha said.
Last year, authorities allowed parents to sponsor their male children until they were 25 instead of 18.
Monday’s decision appears to affirm that and to add new provisions, allowing parents with a disabled child to sponsor them into adulthood. Parents can continue to sponsor unmarried daughters at any age.
Why are these changes being made?
The government hopes to attract more highly skilled people to live in the Emirates and build a bigger “knowledge economy”.
Scientists, coders and tech workers and just some of the professionals it hopes to attract.
Population growth is also high on the agenda.
Dubai alone wants to boost its 3.5 million residents to 5.8 million by 2040.
The country further wants to rapidly bounce back from the pandemic, welcoming back more millions tourists. Allowing people to stay more easily for longer aids all of these goals.
Does any of this affect me?
If you are a salaried employee working for a company you are likely to stay on regular two and three-year visas.
Employees may find they are eligible to secure a Golden Visa, particularly if they are nominated by a friend or acquaintance with that visa. Their status with their employer would not be affected and health insurance would continue to be provided as standard.
Who is eligible for a Golden Visa?
There is no exhaustive list of every job category.
You can apply here on the website of the Federal Authority for Identity using your Emirates ID and see if you are eligible.
Or you can be nominated directly by someone you know who already has a Golden Visa.
The list of eligible professionals and qualifications includes people in science, technology, arts, culture and the creative industries. People investing Dh1 million to Dh2 million in property also have several options.
Who pays for a visa?
Most of the new visas on the list are aimed at freelancers, self-employed people and business owners, who would foot the bill for their own visa or arrange through their own company.
Golden Visas have already processed payments in the hundreds or low thousands or dirhams.
Other costs have not been set out.
It’s important to note that a regular employee working for a company cannot be made to pay for a basic residency visa, by law.
‘Many roles take months to secure’
Louise Vine, managing director at Inspire Selection recruitment agency in Dubai, said the recruitment process for professional roles, and particular senior roles, can take months.
“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,” she said.
The duration, which has not yet been announced, will be important.
Depending on the level of the role, recruitment can take anything from a few weeks to several months, she said.
“You would need potentially three to six months to find a senior role in certain industries,” said Ms Vine.
“There are fewer jobs and also the interview process is quite lengthy, so it’s not just one interview and job done. It could be four or five interviews and case studies to prepare for, so it takes time.”