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The UAE’s new visa rules explained

To make your visa decision-making as straightforward as possible, here's what the UAE's new visa regulations changes mean

The new rules expand accessibility to existing visas for the UAE and add new entry permits for visitors, job seekers, relatives and tourists Reuters
The new rules expand accessibility to existing visas for the UAE and add new entry permits for visitors, job seekers, relatives and tourists

The new visa regulations which came into force in the UAE in October – known as the Advanced Visa System – bring new opportunities for entrepreneurs, investors and visitors. 

The system represents a significant restructuring of the country’s current immigration policy, created with one aim – to bolster the number of residents.

The rules expand accessibility to the existing 10-year Golden Visa and the five-year Green Residence Visa.

They also add new entry permits and visas for visitors, job seekers, relatives and tourists.

There’s a fresh raft of long-term residence visas with additional benefits aimed at attracting investors, entrepreneurs, highly skilled workers and self-employed people.

The new long-term visas will bring greater benefits for family members living in-country while offering longer, flexible grace periods of up to six months after expiry or cancellation of residency.

Green Residence Visa

Green Residence Visas, valid for five years, now include three categories: self-employed, skilled workers, and investors or partners – and there’s no longer a requirement for a sponsor or employer.

Eligibility criteria is simpler, and there are greater benefits. 

For example, a Green Residence Visa now allows residents to sponsor their children until the age of 25 – up from 18 previously. Unmarried girls and children of determination can now remain under the special long-term residency arrangement for as long as the visa is valid, irrespective of age. 

There is, however, a requirement to prove a monthly salary of AED15,000 ($4,084), and applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree.

Golden Visa holders no longer need to return to the UAE once every six months to retain visa validity. Picture UAE Visa

Golden Visa

The previous regulation that a Golden Visa holder had to return to the UAE once every six months to retain visa validity no longer applies. 

Golden Visa holders can sponsor their children, irrespective of age, and limits on the maximum number of ‘support staff’, such as housekeepers, cooks or drivers, have now been removed. 

Should the main Golden Visa holder die, their family members are now permitted to remain in the UAE for the remaining duration of the visa’s validity. 

Golden Visa residency is now extended to include specialists, scholars and those with exceptional talents.

Eligibility has also been extended to investors, executive directors, entrepreneurs, scientists and professionals, athletes, creative specialists in culture and art, outstanding students and graduates, humanitarian pioneers and ‘frontline heroes’ (health workers). 

Certain criteria needs to be met, depending on who is applying.

Real estate investors can apply if they buy a property or an approved off-plan property valued at AED2 million or more, including purchases made with loans from specific local banks.

People who show UAE government-attested exceptional talent in their chosen field, regardless of qualifications, salary or professional level, can apply, as can owners of or partners in a UAE-registered SME startup with annual revenues of more than AED1 million.

Anyone who has founded and sold a business for more than AED7 million, can also apply, or if you get approval for a business from the Ministry of Economy, an officially recognised business incubator or a competent local authority.

Business Exploration Entry Visa

This new visa allows straightforward entry for people to explore investment and business opportunities in the UAE without requiring a local host or sponsor. This visa requires a deposit, thought to be AED1500-2,000. 

Job Exploration Visas

This specific new visa category perhaps best underlines the reasoning behind the sweeping changes – an appreciation that people want and need more simple visas and need to be able to come to the UAE legally and safely to look for work, without needing an local sponsor or host.

These renewable visas are issued for single or multiple-entry and are valid for 60 days from issuance.

The job exploration visa aims to attract bright young talent and skilled professionals, but they will only be issued to those in the first, second or third skill levels defined by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation. And new graduates applying must have attended one of the best 500 universities in the world, with a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent.

Study and Training Visas 

These are intended for people coming to the UAE to do vocational training, academic studies and/or internships.

A sponsor is required, which can be a licensed university, educational or research institution, or a governmental or private entity. A letter from the entity clarifying study, training or internship details is also required.

Landscape, Nature, Outdoors
Visitors for business, job-seeking or pleasure can get a standard 60-day entry permit, rather than the previous 30-day offering. Picture: Reuters

Visitors

Visitors – whether for business, job-seeking or pleasure – can now take advantage of a standard 60-day entry permit, compared to the previous 30-day offering. 

There is also a new five-year, multi-entry Tourist Visa that lets visitors stay in the country for up to 90 days.

It’s worth noting that applicants of this visa need to prove they hold the equivalent of a minimum of $4,000 in the bank during the previous six months before applying.

Standard Employment/ Investor Freezone Visa

The previous standard three-year visa validity (for free zone-related visas) is no longer available, not for investors, nor employees, nor their dependents.

The new standard visa will be for either one or two years only for all types of new visas, visa renewals and/or visa transfers.

All visas currently under processing will automatically be converted to the new two-year visa. However, all UAE residency visas and related Emirates ID documentation issued before October 4 2022 with three years’ validity will remain valid until the expiry or renewal date.

The UAE has also lifted a three-year limit on the duration of fixed-term employment contracts within the private sector. This is good news, as the new amendment to UAE employment law will give both employees and employers more stability.

It will also boost the attractiveness of the UAE’s labour market to business owners and talents alike. 

Michael Lane is managing partner at Swiss Group Legal, part of Swiss Group

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