MENAPolicy Updates

UAE Makes Sweeping Changes to Visa Rules to Attract Capital, Talent, and Long Term Settlers

This fall, a broad set of changes are coming for potential investors, entrepreneurs, and freelancers wanting to invest in or move to the United Arab Emirates. The country’s cabinet approved the executive regulations of the Federal Decree-Law on Entry and Residence of Foreigners on Monday and the changes will take effect in September this year.

In its initial press release on the amendments, the UAE government said the new “system of entry and residence aims at attracting and retaining global talents and skilled workers from all over the world, boosting the competitiveness and flexibility of the job market and fostering a high sense of stability among UAE residents and families.”

While the amendments relate to a broad range of visa types, this article focuses on the salient changes that affect, in particular, investors, entrepreneurs, and the self-employed.

The new system is divided into two broad categories;

  • Golden Residencies, which have a validity of ten years;
  • Green Residencies, which have a validity of five years.

None of the visas in either category impose any minimum physical presence requirements.

Golden residence for property investors

The ten-year Golden Residence for property investors requires an investment of no less than AED 2 million (some US$545,000), a minimum investment figure sharply reduced from the previous AED 5 million.

The property investor may employ the debt facilities of certain banks in the UAE or an approved local real estate company. 

Golden Residence for business investors and entrepreneurs

Investors looking to participate in a new startup registered in the UAE or investing in an existing SME generating more than AED 1m per annum will also be eligible for ten-year golden residencies. They will need to invest at least AED 2m in one or more businesses.

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Founders of successful businesses are also eligible to apply for the Golden Residence Visa if they can demonstrate that they have previously sold a company for no less than AED 7m (US$1.9m).

Green Residence for freelancers and self-employed

Freelancers and self-employed persons may use the Green Residence route to obtain a five-year residence permit without a sponsor in the UAE.

A freelancer or self-employed person must apply for a permit from the Ministry of Human Resources and must have attained at least a bachelor’s degree or specialized diploma. Applicants need to show an income of no less than AED 360,000 (US$98,000) for the two previous years or otherwise be able to prove financial solvency throughout their stay in the country. 

Green Residence for entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs who invest 500,000 AED ($136,000) in a new or established business are eligible to apply for the five-year Green Residence visa. Previously, this was a two-year residence permit. 

Changes to provide added stability for families 

While the UAE has attracted ambitious, young professionals for decades, it has struggled in the past to retain talent because of limited prospects for long-term residency. Recent years, however, have seen the Emirates move to make it easier for families to settle permanently. Monday’s raft of amendments included a number of policies that will give more families the confidence to settle in the country.

“The most intriguing aspect of these changes,” says Dubai-based Mary Tadrous, Client Relationship Manager at Bayat Capital, ” is that eligible dependents can be included regardless of age. The law grants a better solution for families. In addition, the sponsor’s visa does not affect the family’s status in case of death, and this grants a great tool and safekeeping for families.” 

She also points out that one major improvement to the rules is that residents will no longer need to physically visit the country every six months, a policy change she characterizes as a “gamechanger.”

David Bonellie AuthorSubscriberParticipant

David is a South African blockchain and crypto analyst working on innovation and business strategy consulting from Dubai. He also helps clients with investment migration.

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