In a push to boost the economy, the United Arab Emirates on Sunday announced a massive plan to ease stringent residency rules for expatriates as the country seeks to overhaul its finances and attract foreign residents and capital.
Generally, foreigners are only given limited visas tied to their employment, and long-term residency is difficult to obtain.Thus, the Emirates has announced a new visa allowing foreigners to work in the country without being sponsored by an employer, via ‘green visa.'
Now, those holding the new "green visa" will be able to work without company sponsorship, and can sponsor their parents and children up to 25 years old, officials said.Green visas are work permits with residency for pioneers, entrepreneurs and other professionals. Freelance visa will help people work independently.
Green visa holders can sponsor their sons' visas till they turn 25. Usually, sons can be sponsored only till they turn 18.Green visa holders can also sponsor their parents.The government also said it will allow people who’ve lost their jobs to remain in the country for up to 180 days, a major boost as most visas are tied to employment contracts.
"It targets highly skilled individuals, investors, businesspeople, entrepreneurs, as well exceptional students and postgraduates," said Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani al-Zeyoudi.
Resource-rich Gulf countries such as the UAE are increasingly seeking to diversify their economies and reduce reliance on oil.The coronavirus pandemic has also impacted tourism and businesses in the UAE, whose economy was already slumping in recent years due to low oil prices.
In 2019, the UAE launched the 10-year "Golden visa" to attract wealthy individuals and highly skilled workers, the first such scheme in the Gulf.Similar programmes have since been launched in other resource-rich Gulf countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Riyadh said in June 2019 that it will offer permanent residency for 800,000 riyals ($213,000) and a one-year renewable residency costing 100,000 riyals, allowing expats to do business and buy property without a Saudi sponsor.
Doha also flung open its property market to foreigners, with a scheme giving those buying homes or stores the right to longer-term or permanent residency permits.Foreigners account for 90 percent of the 10 million population in the UAE, the Arab world's second-largest economy after neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
Further, the UAE is seeking 550 billion dirhams ($150 billion) of inward foreign investment over the next nine years and aims to be among the 10 biggest global investment destinations by 2030, UAE Economy Minister Abdulla bin Touq said. It will focus on investments from countries including Russia, Australia, China, and the U.K.
One of the most notable inward investments in recent years was Uber Technologies Inc’s acquisition of UAE-based ride-hailing company Careem in 2019 for $3.1 billion. That deal sparked interest from regional and international venture capital firms, and appetite for backing Middle Eastern startups has picked up over the past few years, buoyed by the rapid adoption of mobile technologies in the region.