In recent news, the government officials announced that the United Arab Emirates plans to launch 50 new economic initiatives under ‘Projects Of The 50’ to boost the country’s competitiveness and attract 550 billion dirhams ($150bn) in foreign direct investment within the next nine years. The project aims to accelerate the UAE to be among the ten most prominent global investment destinations by 2030. Among some of the initiatives of the project that was revealed, investing in technology and creating new visas to attract residents and skilled workers stood as two predominant ones.
The modification in UAE residency rules come alongside the several measures the oil-rich country has been taking since last year to attract investment and foreigners with the aim of recovering the economy from the effects of the pandemic outbreak. According to leading financial institutions in the UAE, the residency rules are also modified to seize the growing economic rivalry with Gulf neighbour Saudi Arabia to be the region’s trade and business hub. The regional competition began when the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, initiated an economic plan to attract foreign investment and get global firms to set up their regional headquarters in their country.
Foreign residencies make up more than 80% of the population of the UAE’s seven sheikhdoms. They have also been a mainstay of the economy for over decades. This is one key reason that has forced Oil-rich Gulf states to consider longer residency for foreigners in their plans to create foreign investments opportunities and diversify.
Focus of the modified UAE Residency Rules
Since many years after its independence, the Emirates has tied employment to residency status, giving employers outsized power and forcing people to leave the country once they lost their jobs immediately. Let alone citizenship; the oil-rich gulf-states have also long resisted offering permanent residency to their millions of foreign workers. They have been doing this as a means of guarding the privilege enjoyed by their nationals.
The new residency rules modifications will be focusing on easing these rigidities and allowing more flexibility for foreigners in terms of residency. The latest modifications will give residents up to 180 days more time to remain in the country, seek other jobs after termination, and allow youth over 15 years of age to gain employment. The new residency rules will also enable foreigners to easily join their families in the federation of seven sheikhdoms.
New Classes of Visas
Included in the new residency reforms are new classes of visas – the green and freelancer visas, again introduced as the latest steps in the series of moves aimed at attracting talent and boosting economic growth. The new ‘Green Visas’ will allow expatriates to apply for work without being sponsored by an employer and include children up to 25 years on their respective permits. The freelancer visa, aimed and self-employed expats, will allow them to sponsor themselves. Workers in the UAE and foreigners in specialised fields such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and digital assets or currencies are eligible for the freelancer visa.