Visa regulations in the UAE and what they mean for expats

By Robert Half on 6th October 2022

There has never been a better time for expats to consider working in the UAE. UAE visa regulations mean that moving to Abu Dhabi or Dubai offers a plethora of new opportunities for living and working than ever before.

In 2019 the UAE introduced the 10-year residency visa. More recently in October 2022, longer visits for tourists became available along with a five-year green visa aimed at skilled professionals and freelancers without the need of sponsorship. The new 10-year 'golden visa' was also introduced for professionals who have made outstanding contributions to the country as well as exceptional students.

These government initiatives, along with several others, is part of a new push to attract and retain skilled professionals to the UAE. Huge investments in tourism, finance and construction industries have led to good economic growth for the region and created an undercurrent of optimism for business leaders.

The thriving startup culture has also helped to drive growth further, fueling fierce demand for skilled talent.

Related: Five reasons to move to Dubai

Our latest Salary Guide research shows that demand is still high for skilled expatriates in the UAE region — it remains a hiring priority for UAE business leaders. This is especially true in the finance, accounting, legal and technology sectors. The new visa regulations offer an attractive lure for expat specialists within these sectors who may be thinking of moving to the UAE.

New UAE visa regulations for expats

•  100% foreign ownership

Until mid-2019, foreign investors were only permitted to own 49% of a company registered in the UAE, but government reforms now facilitate 100% ownership across 13 sectors to encourage more investment. 

This particular initiative has already proven successful, as shown by Uber’s recent acquisition of UAE competitor, Careem, and Amazon’s acquisition of Professionals thinking of moving to the UAE may find they have more opportunities for internal relocation with their current employer.

 Freehold ownership of land and properties

Abu Dhabi has introduced a new freehold law which allows foreign investors to buy property within designated investment zones, where previously, only UAE and GCC nationals could buy.

A rule was recently amended by royal decree to help entice large corporates to establish offices within the region. It could provide an additional influx of stable, long-term job opportunities for expats via current employers.

•  10-year Residency UAE Visa

The 10-year residency UAE visa was introduced to provide more long-term residency options for a selection of expatriates. The ‘golden card’ UAE visa application is open to investors, entrepreneurs, chief executives, scientists, and outstanding students. 

The introduction of this UAE visa application means that expats can look forward to a more settled, long-term career in the region. Applicants must meet certain UAE visa requirements to gain the new card, which can be renewed on a rolling basis.

•  10-year Golden UAE Visa residency system

The 10-year Golden Visa has been awarded to thousands of people in the UAE. This visa focuses on the recognition of highly skilled people, professionals who have made great contributions to the country and individuals who have been crucial to economic growth. As long as the applicant can meet the requirements every 10 years, then the golden visa will be renewed.

You can read more on the 10-year golden visa requirements to find out whether you could be eligible - they are typically given to entrepreneurs, researchers and exceptional students. 

•  5-year Green UAE Visa

The new Green UAE Visa can be used by professionals for up to 5 years and is a great option for investors, self-employed individuals, business partners and skilled workers. This allows for a 5-year residency in the UAE without the need for sponsorship and also allows them to bring immediate relatives into the country with them for the duration of their stay.

There is a 60-day work permit for anyone looking to apply for a Green Visa so that the application can be completed once they have arrived in the country.  

•  A new version of the UAE passport

The Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Ports Security have released a new version of the UAE passport. It now has enhanced security using polycarbonate and intricate spectrum patterns, a security thread and a 3D marking showing date-of-birth. You can apply for one through IPC's website or app.

Related: How does the recruitment process in the UAE work?

Considering your career prospects in the UAE?

If you’re thinking of moving to the UAE, you can find your UAE visa requirements by visiting the Emirates website and entering your information.


If you want to see what's out there, you can browse our latest jobs in the UAE, upload your CV, or talk to one of our experts today.

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