Sweeping reforms to the UAE's visa and labour insurance legislation were announced by the Cabinet on Wednesday night.
Chaired by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, the Cabinet approved eight decisions that seek to enhance the country's economic competitiveness, increase tourism and retain talented students.
The decisions will affect travellers transiting in the Emirates, private sector companies and students seeking employment. So what has changed?
Students dependent on their parents for a visa are now eligible for a two-year residency visa upon graduation, giving them a chance to find jobs.
The reforms have also slackened penalties for those who have overstayed their visa and for anyone who has illegally entered the country.
Previously such offences would be met with a re-entry ban but now, residents who overstay their visa will instead be offered the opportunity to leave the country voluntarily without a "no entry" passport stamp.
A six-month visa will also be introduced for job seekers who have overstayed their visa but wish to work in the country. The temporary visa enhances the UAE’s position as a land of opportunities and a destination for talents and professionals.
As for individuals who entered the UAE illegally, they too will be given the opportunity to leave voluntarily with a "no entry" stamp for two years given that they provide a valid return ticket.
Travellers transiting through any of the country's airports will now be exempt from all entry fees for the first 48 hours. Their transit visas can be extended up to 96 hours at a cost of Dh50. Express counters have been set up in passport control halls at all airports to facilitate the process.
Those wishing to adjust or renew their visas can now do so for free and without having to do a "visa run" by leaving and re-enter the country.
A new insurance scheme was established for workers in the private sector, reducing the cost of a mandatory deposit of Dh3,000 per employee per year to Dh60. The Cabinet said the system "secures workers’ rights in the private sector and reduces the burdens on employers". Businesses are expected to save approximately Dh14 billion in guarantee payments that can be invested into the development of their business.
The insurance policy covers workers' entitlements including end of service benefits, holiday allowance, overtime allowance, unpaid wages, worker's return ticket and cases of work injury, up to Dh20,000 per worker.
Opportunities for people with disabilities
The Cabinet also adopted a resolution aimed at empowering people with disabilities and helping them find jobs. The resolution provides them with "the necessary support to obtain equal employment opportunities in various sectors in line with the Government's social development programmes for all segments of the society" a statement from Dubai Media Office read.
Similarly, the Cabinet adopted the decision to establish the Asian Paralympic Committee headquarters in the UAE to serve as a sports hub in the region and provide training courses and workshops for people with disabilities.
The UAE and Russia have granted each other's citizens visa-free travel between both counties, opening new horizons for tourism, investment and trade.
The Cabinet also adopted an agreement between the UAE Government and the International Exhibitions Bureau on the privileges and benefits accorded to official participants in Expo 2020.
Two agreements on air transport services between the UAE and Guinea, as well as the UAE and Saint Kitts and Nevis were also ratified.