New visa regulations have come into force this 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.
At Swiss Group, we keep abreast of the UAE's dynamic legal framework. So, to make your visa decision-making as straightforward as possible, 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 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 specialist 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 die, 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 (US$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.
This shake-up is designed to bolster the UAE’s already vibrant real estate sector, which in turn will boost the national economy.
The expanded Golden Visa for professionals seeks to attract more highly-skilled people with educational qualifications and professional experience across all disciplines. At the same time, the Golden Visa for exceptional talents is given to those who show UAE—government attested talent in their chosen field, regardless of qualifications, salary or professional level.
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 AED1m. However, suppose you can obtain approval for a business from the Ministry of Economy, an officially-recognised 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 AED7m, you are entitled to apply for a Golden Visa.
Swiss Group’s experts are on hand to help with the official approval process in these categories.
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 entities.
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 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.
Subsequently, as confirmed by the competent immigration authorities, all visas currently under processing will automatically be converted to the 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 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 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 labour 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 customisable 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 programmes, 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 AED 20,000 per month.
All these changes and the advanced new visa system allows for a much simpler and streamlined process, new controls and procedures compared to the previous visa application process. There are even new facilities designed to support the authority’s approach to delivering pioneering services - and better enabling it to meet the future needs of foreign applicants and residents alike.
Swiss Group remains at your service to help with all your visa queries and applications. Please find an overview on all the new visa options on our website under business publications.