New UAE visa regulations have come into force last month (October 2022) – known as the Advanced Visa System – which bring exciting new opportunities and different eligibility and length-of-stay rules worth bearing in mind as an entrepreneur, investor, or even just as a visitor.
The Advanced Visa System represents a significant restructuring of the country’s current immigration policy, created with one simple aim – to bolster the number of residents.
Here’s a handy, updated guide on what the changes mean.
In short, the new rules expand accessibility to the existing ten-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.
On top of the above, 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 deliver greater benefits for family members residing in-country while offering longer, flexible grace periods of up to six months after the expiry or cancellation of residency.
Green residency visas – valid for five years – now include three categories – for the self-employed, for skilled workers, and investors or partners – and there’s no longer a requirement for a sponsor or employer. It also offers simpler eligibility criteria and 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 as long as the visa is valid, irrespective of age.
There is, however, a requirement to prove a monthly salary of AED15,000, and applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree.
Golden Residence Visa
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), with certain criteria to be met. Swiss Group can advise on these eligibility parameters in more detail.
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 pass away, their family members are now permitted to remain in the UAE for the remaining duration of the visa’s validity.
Real estate investors can obtain a Golden Residence visa upon purchase of a property valued at AED2 million ($544,500) or more, including purchases made with loans from specific local banks.
A further expansion to the Golden Visa scheme is the inclusion of purchases of off-plan properties (also valued at more than AED 2 million) from approved local real estate companies.
Golden Visa for entrepreneurs
You’ll now be entitled to apply for a Golden Visa if you own or are a partner in a UAE-registered SME start-up with annual revenues of more than AED1 million. However, suppose you can obtain approval for a business from the Ministry of Economy, an officially-recognized business incubator, or a competent local authority. In that case, you can also apply for Golden Residence.
Also, if you founded and sold a business for more than AED7 million, you are entitled to apply for a Golden Visa.
Business Exploration Entry Visa
This new visa allows straightforward entry for people to explore investment and business opportunities in the UAE without requiring a host or sponsor in the UAE. 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 simpler visas and need to be able to come to the UAE legally and safely to look for work – without needing an in-country 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 with a few provisos. They will only be issued to those classified in the first, second, or third skill levels defined by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation.
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
Similar to making international visitors’ job-seeking easier, the new visa landscape includes a special new category for study and training. Intended for people coming to the UAE to undertake vocational training, academic studies, and/or internships, but details and a sponsor are required.
A student’s sponsor can be a licensed university, educational or research institution – or government or private entity.
This permit requires a letter from the entity clarifying study, training, or internship details.
Visitors – whether for business, job-seeking, or pleasure – can now take advantage of a standard 60-day entry permit rather than the current 30-day offering.
There’s also a new five-year, multi-entry tourist visa that allows visitors to stay in the country for up to 90 days. It’s worth noting that this visa requires applicants to prove they hold a minimum of the equivalent of a minimum of US$4,000 in the bank during the last six months before applying.
Standard Employment / Investor Free Zone Visa
As of October 4, 2022, the previous “standard” three-year visa validity (for free zone-related visas) will no longer be available, neither for investors, employees, or 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.
Subsequently, as confirmed by the competent immigration authorities, all visas currently under processing will automatically be converted to a new two-year visa. Note that all UAE residency visas and related Emirates ID documentation issued before October 4, 2022, with three years validity will remain valid until the expiry/renewal date.
Furthermore, the UAE has lifted a three-year limit on the duration of fixed-term employment contracts within the private sector, as per the latest announcement from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE). This is great news, as the new amendment to UAE employment law will provide both employees and employers more stability. It will also boost the attractiveness of the UAE’s labor market to business owners and talents alike.
Golden Pension Plan and Unemployment Insurance for Expats
On a new note this month, the UAE has announced a national bonds initiative, allowing companies with a large employee base to provide financial care for employees, with a range of customizable solutions. Companies will be able to contribute a fixed sum or monthly deposits from, or on behalf of, the employee.
Benefits for employees include affordable monthly contribution rates, competitive profit rates, visibility on end-of-service benefit amounts, profit returns and winnings, entry into National Bonds rewards programs, and transparency on profit calculation and holdings.
The UAE has also launched an unemployment insurance scheme for government and private sector employees. For three months from the date of unemployment, compensation will now be paid on a monthly basis, calculated on 60 percent of the employee’s basic salary and subject to a maximum of AED20,000 per month.