The visa changes introduced by the UAE Cabinet are a game changer that will reshape the field for job seekers and investors, experts said.
They have predicted the updates will ensure the UAE continues to attract global talent, motivates residents to live long term and also consolidate their investments in the UAE.
The new rules were announced on Monday and The National canvassed experts to assess what they mean.
“These are really important changes and the UAE is taking the lead across the region in coming up with an immigration system which from a regional standpoint is different from the past,” said Haider Hussain, partner at Fragomen, an immigration services firm.
“It is a game changer and we can’t see that in any of the regional dynamics at this moment in time.”
Move away from reliance on sponsors
This trend is visible in all categories - golden visas are self-sponsored for investors, professionals or those with exceptional talent. The green visa - designed for people who run businesses and are skilled employees - is also with an individual’s own sponsorship.
The new five-year multi-entry tourist visa now allows a person to stay in the country for 90 days at a stretch.
“The big change is that people from outside or from within the country can apply on their own for an entry visa or remain in the UAE without needing a sponsor," said Mr Hussain.
"The critical update is that this moves away from a sponsorship or host system to self-sponsored visas."
Previously, in order to enter the UAE, people from some countries required visit visas in advance of flying. Tourist visas were issued by airlines or by hotels.
“If somebody needed to come for an employment visa you needed an employer; for a tourist visa you needed a tourist agency,” he said.
One of the main requirements for this visa is a six-month bank statement showing $4,000 or its equivalent in foreign currencies.
It also puts to rest worries employees had about their visa status if they quit after a conflict with the employer.
“If a visa is based on your own profile and not linked to a sponsor, company or agency, it completely takes away previous concerns about cancellation of the visa if you had a dispute with your employer,” Mr Hussain said.
“When people get five or ten-year visas that are renewable, they start thinking of the UAE in a different sense.
“It is a country they want to look to the future with.”
Hunt for jobs legitimately
The job exploration entry visa announced this week addresses the grey area that existed when people came to the UAE on tourist visas and searched for jobs.
It opens a legitimate path for jobseekers to attend interviews and search for employment.
The practice has often been that people arrived in the UAE on 30 or 90-day tourist visas to look for a job and then shifted to an employment visa once they found work.
This new visa is granted to people meeting certain skill sets outlined by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation and to the latest graduates of the best 500 universities in the world. The minimum educational level should be a bachelor's degree or its equivalent
“Individuals can now come into the country on the right visa to look for a job rather than do interviews on a tourist visa,” Mr Hussain said.
“The focus here is on qualifications [as] it looks at the talent of the individual.”
This new visa also does not need a sponsor. Details will follow on how long people can stay on this visa.
Golden and green visa benefits
Another change ushered in this week is the fact more people will be eligible for the 10-year golden visa. These visas were first introduced in 2019 to allow the UAE to attract and retain even more talent.
“One of the main categories to be eligible was that professionals employed in the UAE required to have a salary of Dh50,000 and that has been reduced to Dh30,000,” Mr Haider said.
“This is an important change that will attract a lot more interest and applications."
Golden visa holders have been given benefits such as sponsoring sons up to the age of 25.
Unmarried daughters can be sponsored indefinitely by parents.
Green visas are being viewed as a second layer to the golden permit. For the five-year visa, Dh15,000 is a minimum salary requirement and a bachelor's degree.
A jobs boost across the board
Recruiters said the initiatives would provide a stimulus across the board.
“Our take is that it really does underscore Dubai’s role as a key regional and international catalyst to attract businesses,” said Micah Styles, director of Barker Langham Recruitment.
“These mechanisms for attracting and retaining talent are part of a broader vision being brought to life."
The firm recruited about 1,000 staff across the Expo 2020 Dubai from 50 nationalities covering senior managers to tour guides and pavilion staff.
Mr Styles spoke of opportunities opening up in the arts and cultural sector with world-class projects like the Natural History Museum and plans for the Guggenheim and Sheikh Zayed National Museum in Abu Dhabi.
“With the scale of new projects that are taking place there is a high demand for staff at executive and specialist roles but also in terms of visitor experience and customer service,” he said.
“One big area of development is the cultural and creative industries. The value of these industries is something that is beginning to be recognised in the UAE.”