The UAE Cabinet announced, on 18 April, the introduction of new executive regulations that expand eligibility to the existing 10-year Golden Residence Visa, create a new five-year Green Residence Visa, and bring in extended entry permits for tourists, visitors, jobseekers and students. The new rules are scheduled to come into effect in September of this year.
The new long-term and short-term visa provisions, approved via executive regulations under the Federal Decree-Law on Entry and Residence of Foreigners, are designed to strengthen the UAE’s position as an ideal destination to live, work and invest, and to attract and retain top talent in the country. The benefits of the long-term visas are also being extended to immediate family members.
“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”, said an official release.
Golden Residence Visa
The UAE Golden Residence Scheme, first implemented in 2019, was designed to enable expats to live, work and study in the UAE without the need for a national sponsor and with 100% ownership of their business on the UAE’s mainland.
The eligibility criteria for the Golden Visa are now being simplified, while the categories of people eligible to apply for the long-term 10-year visa have been expanded to include qualifying “investors, entrepreneurs, exceptional talents, scientists and professionals, outstanding students and graduates, humanitarian pioneers and frontline heroes”.
In addition to securing their stay in the UAE for a period of 10 years, the new rules will allow a Golden Visa holder to sponsor his/ her family members, including spouse and children regardless of their age, and to sponsor unlimited domestic staff.
The previous physical presence requirements to maintain a Golden Residence Visa have also been removed, and family members will be permitted to stay in the UAE until the end of their permit duration in the event of the death of the primary visa holder.
The new Golden Residence Visa categories are as follows:
- Scientists and researchers – Qualifying applicants are required to demonstrate high achievements and influence in their field based on the recommendation from the Emirates Scientists Council. Applicants must have a PhD or a Master’s degree in the disciplines of engineering, technology, life sciences or natural sciences, as well as substantial research achievements.
- Professionals – Qualifying applicants will be highly skilled workers with educational qualifications and professional experience in all disciplines, including medicine, sciences and engineering, information technology, business and administration, education, law, culture, and social sciences.
- Applicants should have a valid employment contract in the UAE
- Applicants should be classified in the first or second occupational level as per the Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratisation (MOHRE) classification, which is aligned with the International Standard of Classification of Occupations (ISCO) by the International Labour Organisation.
- Applicants must have a minimum educational level and must have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent
- Applicants should have a monthly salary of not be less than AED30,000 (USD8,167).
- Exceptional talents – Qualifying applicants will include talented individuals in culture, art, sports, digital technology, inventors and innovators in other fields. Awards will be based on talent only, based on the recommendation or approval of a federal or local government entity, regardless of educational qualifications, employment status, monthly salary or professional level.
- Real estate investors – Qualifying applicants will be required to purchase a property, or one or more off-plan properties from approved local real estate companies, with a minimum value of AED2 million (USD544,500). Investors are permitted to purchase property via a loan from specific local banks.
- Entrepreneurs and start-up owners – Qualifying applicants will be deemed eligible in this category if they meet the following requirements:
- Entrepreneurs should own, or be a partner in, a start-up registered in the UAE under the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) category that generates annual revenues of not less than AED1 million (USD272,250).
- Entrepreneurs or start-up owners who obtain approval for a start-up idea from an official business incubator, from the Ministry of Economy or from a competent local authority.
- Entrepreneurs who were founders – or one of the founders – of a previous entrepreneurial project(s) approved by the Ministry of Economy or competent local authorities that was / were sold for a minimum of AED7 million (USD1.9 million).
- Outstanding students and graduates – Qualifying applicants will be high-performing students in UAE secondary schools, outstanding graduates from UAE universities or the top 100 universities worldwide, according to specific criteria that includes academic performance (cumulative average), year of graduation and the university classification.
Green Residence Visa
The UAE has further launched a new five-year ‘Green Residence Visa’ aimed at attracting and retaining exceptional talents, skilled professionals, freelancers, investors, and entrepreneurs worldwide. More benefits will be offered to facilitate the residence of a holder’s family members, while grace periods allowing visa holders to stay in the UAE after a residence permit has been cancelled or expired will be extended for up to six months.
The eligibility categories for the Green Residence Visa are:
- Skilled employees – Qualifying applicants should have a valid employment contract and should be classified in the first, second, or third occupational level under the MOHRE. The minimum educational level must be a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, and applicants should have a monthly salary of not less than AED 15,000 (USD4,083).
- Freelancing and self-employment – In line with the growing importance of flexible work models, this category provides a five-year residency for freelancers and self-employed individuals without requiring a sponsor or employer in the UAE. Qualifying applicants are required to have a minimum educational qualification of a bachelor’s degree or specialised diploma and must obtain a freelance/self-employment permit from the MOHRE. Applicants must demonstrate an annual income from self-employment for the previous two years of not less than AED360,000 (USD98,000) or financial self-sufficiency throughout his / her stay in the UAE.
- Investors or partners – Qualifying applicants should be investors establishing or participating in commercial activities and requirements include approval of the investment and proof of investment. If the investor or partner has more than one licence, the total invested capital will be calculated. Approval of the competent local authorities is mandatory. This replaces the previous residence visa that was valid for only two years.
- Family members – The Green Residence Visa offers enhanced benefits to family members, allowing visa holders to obtain residence permits to family members, including spouse and children. The age of children who may be sponsored has been raised from 18 to 25 years, with no age limit for unmarried daughters. In all cases the residency of family members will correspond to the duration of the primary holder’s visa.
Long-term entry permits
In addition to these amendments to the 10-year Golden Residence Visa and introduction of five-year Green Residence Visa, the UAE Cabinet has also approved several new types of entry permits and visas for tourists, relatives and jobseekers, many of which will not require a sponsor or host.
All entry visas are available for single or multiple-entry and are valid for 60 days from their issuance date. They can be renewed for similar period(s).
- Job Exploration Visa – This visa has been introduced to enable young talents and skilled professionals to explore job opportunities available in the UAE. It is granted to those classified in the first or second or third skill level under the MOHRE. Recent graduates applying for this visa must be from one of the top 500 universities in the world, with minimum educational levels of a Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.
- Business Entry Visa – This visa has been introduced to enable investors and entrepreneurs to explore business and investment opportunities in the UAE, without requiring a sponsor or a host.
- Five-year Multiple-entry Tourist Visa – This visa enables the holder to stay in the UAE for up to 90 continuous days and may be extended for a similar period, provided that the entire period of stay does not exceed 180 days in one year. It does not require a sponsor or host, but applicants must demonstrate a bank balance of USD4,000 or its equivalent in foreign currencies during the six months prior to applying.
- Entry Permit to visit Relatives or Friends – A visitor can apply for this entry permit if he/she is a relative or friend of a UAE citizen or resident. It does not require a sponsor or a host.
- Entry Permit for Temporary Work Mission – This entry permit will be offered to those who have a temporary work assignment, such as a project-based mission or probationary testing, and will be sponsored by the employer. Applicants will require a temporary work contract or a letter from the employer clarifying the visit purpose and proof of fitness to work.
- Entry Permit for Study and Training – This entry permit is intended for those attending training and academic courses and/or participating in internship programmes. The sponsor can be a university or educational or research institution that is licensed in the UAE, both government and private entities. Applicants require a letter from the institution, setting out details of the study or training or internship programme and its duration.
The executive regulations of the Federal Decree-Law on Entry and Residence of Foreigners will come into force 90 days after the date of publication in the official gazette.