The UAE will significantly expand its 10-year golden visa system next month to attract foreign professionals and encourage them to settle for longer.
The change means any medical doctor will qualify for the long-term visa.
In addition, a wide range of scientists and data experts will be able to easily secure long-term residency, as will all PhD holders.
The list includes people with backgrounds in computer and electrical engineering, biotechnology and those with AI and programming expertise.
Pupils who leave high school with top marks would also be eligible – along with their families. Students leaving universities with a GPA of 3.8 will also be included.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, announced the nationwide move on Sunday. It will come into effect from December and the application website is here.
"We want to keep those who are talented here so we can continue together our journey of development and achievement," he said.
The original scheme brought in last year was aimed at top investors, company executives and scientists.
Some wealthy expat business owners with long-standing investments and contributions were approached or invited to apply.
Dr Ramanathan Venkiteswaran, medical director of Medcare and Aster Hospitals and Clinics, said his teams were thrilled by the news.
"Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, doctors have been at the frontline of battling this deadly virus," he told The National.
"The extended visa will provide opportunity for doctors to continue to serve the people, striving for excellence in all fields of patient care."
Dr Amgad Farouk, a consultant urologist who works for Medcare's Al Safa hospital, said the move would "attract many more doctors to Dubai and create a medical hub for any health issue".
In the UAE, a person's residential status is typically tied to their employer through a residency visa. It is cancelled once the two part ways and the former employee typically has 30 days to secure a new visa or find another job.
Boost for R&D industry
Long-term visas mean the person has far greater flexibility, can plan ahead, more easily sponsor their family and has piece of mind about their status in the country.
Dr Boutheina Tlili, associate professor of electrical engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology's campus in Dubai, said the decision was a boom for the research and development industry.
"The number of students in research will surge with this 10-year-visa and universities here will soon catch up with universities in Europe and the US," she said.
She said securing visas for post-doctoral candidates has been problematic at times.
PhD and post-doctoral students would often be given a one or two-year visas but their research would take much longer.
"We would not know if the student would be able to stay in the country and there was no stability," she said.
"Now, this gives us more stability to plan ahead for research. Now, students can stay back and complete their research."
Dr Tlili, 55, who is originally from Tunisia and made Dubai her second home 17 years ago, also hopes to take advantage of the 10-year visa and then retire in the UAE.
At present, her employer renews her residency visa every three years.
"I have been mentoring female engineers in the UAE for years and want to continue to contribute to the community here," she said.
Last month, Dubai brought in a scheme to attract remote workers from around the globe to the emirate. Officials hope the country's tax-free status and year-round sunshine will appeal to skilled workers whose companies have moved to long-term home working.
The scheme does not require employees to work for a locally-based company, which has long been a feature of the visa system.
The coronavirus pandemic has also put the spotlight on the contributions of medical personnel and other crucial frontline workers.
In September, the government opened a database of professionals of all nationalities that were deemed crucial to tackling the pandemic or any future crisis.
About 80,000 doctors, nurses, hospital workers and others were added to the 'frontline heroes' register.
As part of the programme, frontline heroes are awarded various benefits including help with living costs and school fees, where needed.