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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Explained: What UAE’s new visa means for foreign workers

What is UAE's Green Visa, UAE launches Green Visa for foreign workers: The new category comes as a part of a wider array of measures introduced by the Arab world to boost the economy and reduce reliance on oil.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: September 7, 2021 2:24:16 pm
Under the green visa, foreigners will be allowed to work in UAE without being sponsored by an employer. (Representational image via Reuters)

UAE’s new Green Visa for foreign workers: The United Arab Emirates has announced a new class of visas intended to ease the restrictions faced by foreigners in pursuing employment opportunities in the country.

The new category, referred to as “green visa”, comes as a part of a wider array of measures introduced by the Arab world to boost the economy and reduce reliance on oil. Besides UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have recently opened up their countries to wealthy investors with reforms to their paid permanent residency programs and property ownership rules.

What does the new visa say?

Under the green visa, foreigners will be allowed to work in the UAE without being sponsored by an employer. This will be a marked change from the norm which requires a prospective worker to be sponsored via an employer, who, in turn, applies for a work permit from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation.

The green visa will enable visa holders to sponsor their parents. Additionally, it will increase the cap on the age of children who can be sponsored by the holder from 18 to 25.

The program will also allow the holder a grace period of up to three months to look for a new job if they lose their old one. Under the previous policy, a worker had only 30 days to leave the country if fired.

The country’s Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani al-Zeyoudi said that the visa targets “highly skilled individuals, investors, business people, entrepreneurs, as well exceptional students and postgraduates,” according to an AFP report.

However, there is no clarity on when the visa will come into effect. Details of how to apply for it too remain to be seen.

Why now?

Though expatriates make up over 80% of UAE’s population, residency regulations and work permits for them remain tightly controlled. However, this is slowly changing, with the government warming up to the idea of easing regulatory hurdles for wealthy expats and investors. The recent coronavirus pandemic has furthered the woes of Middle Eastern economies already struggling from low oil prices.

The UAE is also competing with regional economic rival Saudi Arabia which recently announced reforms aimed at upping its status as an industrial hub. According to a Bloomberg report, the Saudi government has said that from Jan. 1, 2024, it will no longer sign government contracts with foreign companies that base their Middle East headquarters outside the country. Under Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, the country had also unveiled the ambitious Vision 2030 plan aimed at opening up the country to foreign talent.

This is not the first time UAE has announced changes to permit provisions in recent years. In 2019, the UAE launched the 10-year “golden visa”, aimed at welcoming rich residents and highly skilled workers into the country. Saudi Arabia and Qatar too had launched similar schemes.

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