UAE provides opportunity for foreigners to visit, live and work with flexible new visa rules

ABU DHABI: The UAE’s new visa rules, which offer many features, facilities and benefits, including the renewable 5-year Green Residence visa, come into effect on Monday, October 3, according to local media reports.

The new Advanced Visa System by the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs, and Port Security (ICP) involves streamlined processes, controls and procedures, and new facilities that support the authority’s approach to providing pioneering services and meet the future needs of all categories of foreigners and residents.

Among the major changes, which were approved by the Cabinet in April, are longer visit visas for tourists, long-term residency for much sought-after professionals and easy access to the 10-year Golden Visa.

Golden visa holders who stay outside the country will not have their permits cancelled.

People who cancel their residency visas will have a six-month grace period to stay in the country. Previously, people were allowed only one month.

The visa changes represent one of the biggest shake-ups of the country’s immigration policy in years.

The new visas include a standard 60-day entry permit, rather than 30 days at present, and a five-year, multi-entry tourist visa that allows visitors to stay in the country for up to 90 days in a row.

The UAE will also introduce five-year green visas, which are aimed at skilled workers, freelancers and the self-employed, and a job exploration entry visa for degree holders that does not require a sponsor or a host.

Parents can sponsor their male children until the age of 25, up from 18, allowing them to remain in the UAE after school and university.

The new visa system also allows entry into the country for an array of purposes with flexible visit periods and easy renewal for up to one year, without a sponsor requirement, enabling visitors and job seekers to achieve their ambitions.

The Advanced Visa System is a significant restructuring of the country’s current immigration policy and aims to boost the number of residents. It comprises many residency types and the addition of new ones to cover all segments of investors, entrepreneurs, scientists, specialists, high-achieving students and graduates, humanitarian pioneers, frontline workers and skilled labour in all fields, in addition to streamlining procedures.

The UAE is home to people representing over 200 nationalities including nearly 300,000 migrant workers from Sri Lanka.

Green Visa

The fresh visa policies offer many features, including a renewable five-year Green Residence Visa, which also permits its holders to get residence permits for family members and flexible grace period of up to six months to stay in the country after expiry or cancellation of residence visa.

The UAE’s Green visa is a type of residence visa, that allows its holder to sponsor himself/herself for five years, eliminating the need of a UAE national or employer to sponsor his/her visa. Green Visa  distinguishes between work permits and residencies. That means, the residence permit is not linked to a company work permit.

The Green visa provides more benefits to family members, compared to the regular residence visa. Benefits include getting residence permits easily for family members, including spouse, children and first-degree relatives, the ability to sponsor their male children up to 25 years (previously 18 years), with no age limit for unmarried daughters, children of determination (those with special needs) are granted a residence permit, regardless of their age, longer flexible grace periods that reach up to 6 months to stay in the UAE after the residence permit is cancelled or expired. It will be granted to three categories including freelancers/self-employed people, skilled employees, and investors or partners.

Company directors, executives, engineers, professionals and technicians in scientific, technical and human fields will be among the UAE workers who can apply for the five-year green visa.

Green visas will be available to people with bachelor’s degrees who earn Dh15,000 ($4,084) or more a month as part of sweeping changes to attract new talent to the UAE and encourage residents to stay longer.

The visa offers a five-year residency without the need for an employer or a sponsor and allows holders to bring first-degree relatives to the country for the duration of their stay.

Investors and business partners in a commercial business, freelancers and highly skilled workers are eligible for the green visa.

The green visa was approved by the UAE Cabinet, as per Decision No 65 for 2022.

UAE authorities have identified three categories of people who can apply for a green visa – high-skilled workers, investors/business partners holding a commercial licence and freelancers/self-employed.

People outside the country who want to apply for a green visa can ask for a 60-day entry work permit to come to the UAE and complete the application on arrival.

Green visa for skilled workers

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) has nine different skill levels of jobs, in line with the International Standard Classification of Occupations issued by the International Labour Organization. These levels are:

Level 1: Legislators, managers, and business executives

Level 2: Professionals in scientific, technical and human fields

Level 3: Technicians in scientific, technical and humanitarian fields

Level 4: Writing professionals

Level 5: Service and sales occupations

Level 6: Skilled workers in agriculture, fisheries and animal husbandry

Level 7: Craftsmen in construction, mining, and other craftsmen

Level 8: Operators and assemblers of machinery and equipment

Level 9: Simple professions.

If applying under the skilled workers’ category, the applicant should be classified in the first, second or third level.

The worker should have a valid work contract in the UAE with a Dh15,000 salary and a bachelor’s degree in certain skilled fields, including science, law, education, culture and social sciences.

Green visa for investors and business partners

The green visa for investors is given to those establishing or participating in commercial activities. It replaces the previous residence that was valid for two years.

The Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Port Security can grant the green visa after it receives approval of the investment from the relevant local authority and proof of investment from the investor or business person.

If the investor has more than one licence, the total invested capital will be calculated.

Green visa for freelancers/self-employed

Freelancers or self-employed people can obtain a five-year work permit without a sponsor or a contract, even if the person is outside the country.

To be eligible, the freelancer should have at least a bachelor’s degree and provide his/her yearly income for the last two years for an amount not less than Dh360,000 or prove his or her solvency during the five-years duration.

They should also have a freelance/self-employment permit from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation.

Can the holder of green visa sponsor people?

The green visa holder can sponsor residency for first-degree relatives for five years.

The duration of residency for the first-degree relatives (spouse, sons, daughters and parents) will be the same as that of the holder of the green visa.

Previously, this was typically allowed for two or three years.

Dependents are granted a 30-day grace period from the date of expiry or cancellation of their visa to obtain a new residence permit. If the green visa holder fails to renew or cancel the visa of his dependents, the dependents could be liable to pay an overstay fine.

The green visa may become invalid if the holder remains outside the UAE for more than 180 days.

Golden Visa

A 10-year expanded residency is offered under the Golden Visa for which investors, entrepreneurs, individuals with exceptional talents will be eligible. Golden visa holders can sponsor family members and children and also enjoy the benefit of 100 per cent ownership of their businesses.

Several amendments have now been made to the scheme, allowing more categories of people to get the coveted 10-year visa.

More skilled professionals can get the long-term residency, with the minimum monthly salary requirement dropping from Dh50,000 to Dh30,000.

Investors can get the Golden Visa when purchasing a property worth at least Dh2 million, even with a loan from “specific local banks”. Off-plan properties are allowed from “approved local real estate companies”.

The eligibility for the Golden Visa has been expanded to include managers, CEOs, specialists in science, engineering, health, education, business management and technology. The pathway for the coveted 10-year visa category has been smoothened for highly skilled and specialised residents, investors, entrepreneurs, scientists, pioneers, leading students and graduates.

The ‘Advanced Visa System’ offers new advantages to holders of the long-term residency, including the Golden Visa being valid despite staying out of the country for more than six months; no cap on the number of sponsored domestic workers; and family members being able to stay in the country during the visa’s validity period even after the sponsor (holder of the Golden Visa) dies.

Potential Golden Visa holders can get a six-month, multiple-entry visa that can help them with issuing the long-term residency. According to the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Port Security (ICP) website, the permit can be “extended for a similar period to facilitate the completion of procedures for obtaining a golden residency”.

It includes the following categories:

  • Investors (public investments/real estate investor)
  • Entrepreneurs (owner and founder of a project)
  • Specialised talents (doctors/scientists)
  • Creative specialists in culture and art
  • Inventors
  • Specialists in priority scientific fields
  • Athletes
  • Ph. D holders
  • Specialists in the fields of engineering and science
  • Outstanding students (high school/university students)

The fee for the service is Dh1,150. People from around the world eligible for the long-term UAE residency can apply for the entry permit on the ICP website. Issuance fees will be refunded only if the application is rejected by the ICP.

Tourist Visa

Tourist visas will now allow visitors to stay in UAE for 60 days, an increase from the previous 30 days. People who are not eligible for visa on arrival or a visa-free entry for citizens of GCC countries can apply for a tourist visa. Females under the age of 18 are not eligible to apply for this type of visa unless they are travelling with their parents.

The visa can be arranged through the national airlines ― Emirates, Etihad Airways, Fly Dubai and Air Arabia ― provided you are flying with them.

Licensed travel agents and hotels in the UAE can also arrange a tourist visa provided you book and maintain a reservation with the specific hotel.

Travel agencies in the traveller’s home country can also arrange a visa through a tourist package in collaboration with a licensed tour operator in the UAE.

Multi-entry tourist visa

A five-year multi-entry visa for tourists, allows visitors to enter several times during a calendar year or stay for 90 days at a time and extend it for another 90 days.

The entire period of stay should not exceed 180 days in one year.

This visa does not require a sponsor but it does require proof of having a bank balance of $4,000 or its equivalent in foreign currencies during the six months before applying.

Visa to visit relatives or friend

People can apply to visit a relative or a friend who is a resident in the UAE after providing a document proving the relationship and reasons behind the visit.

No host or sponsor is required but this visa requires a deposit.

Job exploration entry visa

This visa is introduced with the aim of attracting young talent and skilled professionals to explore job opportunities. It does not require a sponsor or a host.

It is granted to those classified in the first or second or third skill level per the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation and to the latest graduates of the best 500 universities in the world. The minimum educational level should be a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.

Business exploration entry visa

This visa allows easy entry for people to explore investment and business opportunities without requiring a host or sponsor in the UAE. This type of visa requires a deposit.

Medical treatment entry visa

This visa is available through the sponsorship of a licensed medical establishment in the UAE.

The person should provide a certified medical report and a letter from the sponsored establishment to explain the reason behind the visit.

The patient granted the visa should have an escort under the same visa type. Medical insurance is required with a deposit.

Study or training entry visa

This type of visa is sponsored by educational, training or research entities and internship programmes for a specific time.

It requires a letter from the host including the studying or training programme and its duration.

Transit visa

The UAE issues two types of transit visa: one for 48 hours which is free of charge, and another for 96 hours for Dh50. Both are issued only by one of the four UAE-based airlines or shipping companies and are not extendable.

This special entry permit is for transit travellers, sailors and flight crews. The person should have a valid passport and a ticket.

Transit visas are sponsored only by UAE-based airlines and must be processed and approved before entering the UAE.

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