UAE Cabinet approves major visa overhaul

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The UAE has confirmed major changes to the visa system, approved by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The notification on Monday, by the UAE Government Media office, formally ratifies and expands on the changes announced before the new year, aimed at strengthening the UAE's position as an ideal destination to live, work, and invest.

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.

Among the major refinements are the dropping of the requirements for sponsorship for new arrivals, an easier visa system for job-seekers, an expansion of the Golden Visa programme and the doubling of time visitors can spend in the country from 30 to 60 days.

The new Entry and Residence Scheme offers 10 types of entry visas with simplified conditions and more benefits.

Major improvements include introducing a new 5-year residence visa to attract talent, skilled professionals, freelancers, investors and entrepreneurs. More benefits are offered to facilitate family members' residence, and longer flexible grace periods that reach up to 6 months to stay in the country after the residence permit is cancelled or expired, in addition to facilitating and simplifying the requirements of all residence types.

Green Residence for Skilled Employee

On offer is a 5-year residency for skilled employees, without a sponsor or employer. Applicants should have a valid employment contract, and should be classified in the first, second or third occupational level as per the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation. The minimum educational level must be a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, and the salary should not be less than AED15,000.

Green Residence for Freelancing and Self-Employment

In line with the growing importance of flexible work models, a 5-year residency for freelancers and self-employed individuals is offered without requiring a sponsor or employer in the UAE. It requires obtaining a freelance/self-employment permit from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, the minimum educational level should be a bachelor’s degree or specialised diploma, and the annual income from self-employment for the previous two years should not be less than AED360,000, or that the applicant proves financial solvency throughout his/her stay in the country.

New Benefits for Family Members

The new system provides more benefits to family members, allowing residents to easily issue residence permits for their family members, including spouse and children. The age of children who may be sponsored has been raised to 25 years (previously 18 years), with no age limit for unmarried daughters. Children of determination are granted a residence permit, regardless of their age.

Green Residences holders are allowed to issue residence permits for their first-degree relatives, and in all cases the residency of family members shall have the same duration as the original residence holder.

Golden Residence

Substantial amendments have also been  introduced to the Golden Residence Scheme to simplify the eligibility criteria and expand the categories of beneficiaries.

The long-term 10-year residence is granted to investors, entrepreneurs, exceptional talents, scientists and professionals, outstanding students and graduates, humanitarian pioneers and frontline heroes.

The amendments allow a Golden Residence holder to sponsor his/her family members, including spouse and children regardless of their age, and to sponsor support service (domestic) workers without a limit on numbers. Furthermore, there is no restriction related to the maximum duration of stay outside the UAE in order to keep the Golden Residence valid.

There are other benefits for family members that allow them to stay in the UAE in the event of the death of the original holder of the Golden Residence until the end of their permit duration.

The executive regulations of the Federal Decree-Law on Entry and Residence of Foreigners shall come into force after ninety days from the date of its publication in the Official Gazette.

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