The new regulations around visas and foreign company ownership are set to have significant positive impacts on expats living and working in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). For expats looking to emigrate to UAE this is very good news and may indeed spark a flurry to relocate or set up businesses here.
Historically, the system has been far from attractive for expats and honestly quite impractical. The inflexible and rigid visa restrictions saw job seekers struggling to find suitable work due to the constraints of short term visas, not to mention the hefty fines issued for expired visas, causing unnecessary additional financial pressure. In addition, the short residency visas created a fair amount of uncertainty and inability to make the UAE a permanent home.
The proposed changes are a result of the Government’s intention to make the UAE more competitive, moving away from its reliance on gas and oil and instead shifting towards a more sustainable knowledge-based economy.
Six-month Visas for Job Seekers
One of the proposed changes is the introduction of a six-month visa for job seekers whose visas have expired but they wish to stay in the country to work.
Furthermore, individuals will no longer have to leave and re-enter the country to renew shorter term visas. This has both financial and practical benefits and will greatly improve job seekers chances of securing suitable positions.
Longer Residency for Highly Skilled Expats
Among the new proposed rules are longer residency visas of up to ten years for specialists – doctors, scientists, researches, innovators and entrepreneurs. The ability to relax and feel part of a community was near impossible with the length of visas only allowing expats to plan for the short term creating much uncertainty. Therefore, this change has the potential to allow expats to create a stable life in the UAE with the ability to make longer term plans for their future.
100% Business Ownership
Currently, individual’s looking to set up businesses in the UAE must offer an Emirati partner a substantial stake in it, unless they’re based in a free zone. However, a large amount of businesses such as shops and restaurants cannot trade in the free zone. It is these types of businesses that are most likely to benefit from this proposed change.
Improved Job Prospects
The implemented changes will alleviate some of the previous problems encountered such as pressure to find work in very strict time limits. With the new option of six months to secure suitable employment, expats have improved chances of securing a suitable job without as much pressure.
Moreover, it is expected that the new rules with help start-ups and entrepreneurs and its likely to attract more people wanting to set up businesses and of course this then opens up even more future job opportunities. It also has the potential to encourage more people to work as freelancers.
Increased Real Estate Potential
It is predicted that the introduction of a ten-year visa has the potential to increase interest in buying property as opposed to renting. Where expats could only previously think short term, the changes allow for the ability to think longer term and consider buying property to enable them to fully settle into their life in the UAE. If you had a 10 year visa, wouldn’t you be more inclined to buy a property?
It is also estimated that the ten year visa introduction, together with the change to 100% foreign business ownership is likely to spark interest with new investors, innovators and individuals looking to either set up or grow businesses in the UAE.
These are exciting times for the UAE economy. After all, these long awaited positive steps prove the UAE government is listening and adapting to the changing times, making it a far more attractive place to emigrate to.
Overall, the proposed changes are very positive indeed and as the UAE continues to improve their economy, perhaps we many see even more positive changes coming to light over the next few years.