The introduction of a one-year residency permit for remote workers in the UAE will help attract more talent to the region and boost business opportunities, experts said.
On Sunday, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, announced that overseas remote working professionals could live in the Emirates while continuing to serve their employers in their home country.
Bernard Lee, chief executive of GlassQube Coworking, a workspace operator that has four locations in Abu Dhabi, said the visa was extremely attractive for international corporations and small and medium-sized enterprises.
"Essentially it could lower the cost of setting up teams and a large office base here," Mr Lee said.
“Instead, companies could send in exploratory teams, even one or two employees, that are fully protected as domestic residents.
“By doing that they have a chance to really see what the business landscape has to offer them without investing large sums of money upfront.”
For it to be truly attractive, Mr Lee said the cost of the visa would have to be “materially less than setting up a branch LLC” in the country.
“It will be interesting to find out what the costs are, once more details come out,” he said.
Murtaza Khan, managing partner for the Middle East and Africa at Fragomen, an immigration consultancy, said the move caters to people whose nature of work allows them to adopt the “work from anywhere model” that has become more prevalent in the Covid-19 age.
“This provides a legal way for foreign nationals to live and work in the UAE, but where their actual job or place of work in the true sense is outside of the UAE,” he said.
He said a remote working programme launched in Dubai in October had already proven successful.
“The scheme has already helped attract many remote workers to Dubai, not only by providing this pathway for a visa, but by the overall proposition of the UAE as a destination, in terms of the quality of life and high-quality infrastructure.”
He said the time zone for people coming from western Europe made it manageable for remote working, and in recent months, his consultancy has seen interest from North America too.
“This will have a knock-on impact on the economy in terms of the spend of foreign nationals residing in the UAE," he said.
"But more importantly it attracts the talent, and often those in the generation belonging to the gig economy – specifically technology."
As this influx of talent arrives in the country, Mr Khan said they are able to further connect with the industry and possibly explore opportunities available to them, such as establishing a main office.
In a tweet on Sunday, Sheikh Mohammed wrote that the UAE's development is continuous and change will not stop.
"Our teams continue day and night to consolidate our international economic and political position and establish a quality of life that is the best in the world for our people and all those residing here," he said.
Louise Vine, managing director of Inspire Selection, a recruitment firm, said the availability of a residency visa for remote workers opens doors for companies based overseas who want a presence in the UAE.
“[They can explore opportunities] without having to get a full trade licence, office space and workforce,” she said.
“It will, therefore, increase the number of opportunities to candidates and consumers, giving them more choice.
“Sales managers or key account managers are likely to be employees to take advantage of this new visa.”
If a company has historically had an office here but had to close during the pandemic, Ms Vine said the new Cabinet decision meant they could still do some business locally.
“Rather than shutting the door on doing any business face to face in the UAE, companies could now allow the opportunity for one or two key workers to remain in the country, legally,” she said.
“Whereas previously, someone may have either visited from overseas on a renewable tourist visa, they can now avail the benefits of being a resident.”