UAE unveils new visa rules

By Anayat Durrani

The United Arab Emirates has announced a major overhaul of the country’s visa residency program that broadens the eligibility criteria for the 10-year Golden Residence Visa and 5-year Green Residence Visa, and has new long-term permits to enter and stay for visitors, tourists, students and workers.

“Over the past decade the UAE has become one of the most popular jurisdictions worldwide for the relocation of individuals. For many high-growth entrepreneurs, securing a UAE resident visa is a strategic milestone,” says Yann Mrazek, managing partner at UAE multi-services advisory firm M/HQ.

The UAE Cabinet, headed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the vice president, prime minister, and ruler of Dubai unveiled a new set of executive regulations on April 18 to attract and retain top talent in the nation.

“With no taxes applied on individuals, straight forward administrative requirements and low processing costs, coupled with excellent accessibility, high-quality of life, political stability and sunny weather year-round, the UAE is indeed a very attractive proposal as a residency jurisdiction,” says Mrazek.

Visa changes to UAE investors

Long-term visas will be granted to investors, entrepreneurs, startup owners, scientists, professionals in various fields, outstanding students and graduates, humanitarian pioneers, and frontline heroes. Benefits will extend to immediate family members too. Parents will be able to sponsor their male children until the age of 25, instead of the previous 18 years, which will allow them to stay in the UAE after completion of school and university. There is no age limit for unmarried daughters or children with disabilities.

“The 10-year permanent visa program in particular - immediately available via the so-called 'Exemption' route to individuals deemed 'strategic targets' by the government and meeting some specific characteristics - is a 'magic touch' few countries internationally can match,” says Mrazek.

First implemented in 2019, the UAE Golden Visa residency program will allow expats to live, work, and study in the UAE without a sponsor and with 100 percent ownership of their business in the UAE. The rules for the Golden Visa have been eased to welcome more people from diverse professions to apply. Other benefits for family members include allowing them to remain in the UAE in the event of the death of the Golden Visa holder.

“The golden visa program enables expats to have long term residency in the UAE and is a stimulus to promote the settling in the UAE of individuals who could be entrepreneurs, scientists, high talent and individuals who contribute to the growth of the UAE,” says Rupert Connor, a partner at Abacus Financial Consultants based in Dubai. “It allows the individual to have a longer term residency as the standard is two or three years, renewable, visas for expats.”

New residency options in UAE

The Green Residence visa, formerly a two-year visa has been extended to five years and targets exceptional talent, skilled professionals, freelancers, self-employed residents, investors, and entrepreneurs.

“[It] allows a six-month visa, perhaps suitable for digital nomad, HNWI, expats, retirees, influencers, remote workers etc., to allow them to stay longer term in the UAE,” says Connor.

The new entry and residence scheme offers 10 types of entry visas with lessened requirements and more benefits. For example, new visas do not require a host or sponsor, are more flexible, include multiple entry, and are valid for 60 days.

“The new rules allow 60 day tourist visa's instead of 30 days which allows individuals to have longer term stays in the UAE whether as a tourist or a job seeker,” says Connor. “As a byproduct it would ensure that candidates who wanted to stay in the UAE longer have the flexibility to stay and go through the interview processes which often can take longer than 30 days.”

The announced changes will take effect in September.

“The UAE immigration framework is constantly being broadened and fine-tuned,” says Mrazek. “The recent announcements are consistent with the objective of the UAE to cement its position as one of the most popular jurisdictions worldwide for the relocation of individuals.”

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