• Jenny Hunt

UAE Overhauls Entry And Residency Visas

20th April 2022

The UAE has announced a huge overhaul of its entry visa and residency options for expatriates, which is due to come into effect in the next three months, following the UAE Cabinet’s approval of the executive regulations of the Federal Decree-Law on Entry and Residence of Foreigners, this week.


The announcement includes more categories, flexibility and increased validity of entry visas in line with specific reasons for visiting; five-year residency options; and expansions to the 10-year Golden Visa scheme.


The purpose of the entry and residency reforms are to attract and retain talent and skilled workers from around the world, which in turn will boost the competitiveness and flexibility of the job market, whilst providing an increased sense of stability for UAE residents and their families. The reforms will also strengthen the UAE's position as an ideal destination to live, work, and invest.


Top 5 updates to UAE entry and residency regulations


1. New categories and increased flexibility for entry visas

There are now 10 different categories of entry visa to better align with purposes for visiting the UAE: tourism, visiting friends and relatives, temporary work mission, explore job opportunities, explore business opportunities, medical treatment, study or training, diplomatic affairs, emergency and GCC residents.


Some of the entry visas don’t require a host or sponsor, making it easy to apply and the durations are flexible to meet the needs of the visitors and the purpose of the visit. All entry visas are valid for 60 days from their date of issuance, are available for single or multiple entry, and can be renewed for a similar period.


2. New 5-year residency visas

New, longer residence visas of five years are introduced especially for skilled professionals, freelancers, and self-employed individuals. Not only are they longer than the two or three year standard employment residence visas, but they don’t require a sponsor or employer, meaning the individual has full control of their visa and can also sponsor family members too, providing them with an increased sense of stability.


3. New benefits for family visas

UAE residents can sponsor sons until they turn 25 years old. Previously, this was restricted to 18 years, or to 21 years if the son continued to study. This removes the worry and financial burden of sons being able to stay in the UAE. (Parents can sponsor daughters into adulthood, until such time they are married.) Children of determination can be sponsored regardless of their age.


4. Longer grace period after residence visa expiry

Upon expiry or cancellation of their residence visas, expats can choose to remain in the UAE for up to six months. Previously, this grace period was restricted to 30 days, which caused anxiety for residents needing to secure new jobs to stay in the country or to arrange their departure back to their home countries in such a short space of time, to avoid incurring overstay fines.


5. Updated benefits for Golden Visa holders

Golden Residence visa holders can sponsor family members, including spouse and children regardless of their age. They can also sponsor an unlimited number of domestic support helpers, eg maids, drivers etc.


Restrictions on time limits that golden visa holders can stay outside of the UAE have been removed, previously it was six months, which, if overstepped, would cancel their residency.


In the event of the death of the Golden Residence holder, family members can remain in the UAE until the expiry of their residence permit.


The announcement of these entry and residency reforms is the latest in a line of strategic enhancements to accelerate the UAE's development and transformation into a comprehensive hub in all sectors, thus establishing its status as an ideal destination for talent and investors.


The UAE aims to double size of it’s economy to AED3t by 2031. It has updated its Commercial Companies Law and created its Investment Law to enhance its attractiveness for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), positioning itself to be one of the Top 10 global investment destinations by 2030, attracting AED550b of FDI, with one million companies operating in-country.


Among numerous strategies and development plans to boost and grow a sustainable, thriving economy in the UAE, Dubai’s 2040 Urban Master Plan, launched last month, maps out the Emirate’s strategic, sustainable urban development which reinforces Dubai’s competitiveness as a global destination by providing diverse lifestyle and investment opportunities with the aim of making Dubai the city with the world’s best quality of life, providing the highest standards of urban infrastructure and facilities.


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Establishing a presence in the UAE doesn't need to be difficult, providing you engage the right expertise at the outset. We are just like you - we have invested our own money to establish our businesses in the UAE, so unlike a sales team, we understand and can empathize with the anxieties and risks of doing business overseas and the implications of making the wrong decisions. We are best positioned to provide, on-the-ground, practical advice from first hand experience. Hence, our services are designed to give you full control of your business, protect your assets and keep your profits. After all, this is exactly what we want for our own businesses too.


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Written by Jenny Hunt, Founding Partner & Strategic Advisor to the Gateway Group of Companies, Abu Dhabi & Dubai UAE

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