The UAE presented a new visa scheme titled the “Green Visa” on Sunday as part of the celebrations of the country’s golden jubilee.
The “Green Visa” distinguishes between work permits and residency visas.
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Previously, the country tied residency status for expats with employment, where the employer acted as the expat’s sponsor and people requiring to either leave the country or find new employment to stay in the country if they lost their jobs.
The “Green Visa” targets highly skilled individuals, investors, entrepreneurs and top students and graduates. It will also ease visa restrictions for freelancers, widows, and divorced people, among other things.
This is a move to incentivize more foreigners to take up residence in the UAE where expats make up more than 80 percent of the population and are a key driver of economic growth in the country.
“In Green visas, the person [holding the visa] is going to be self-dependent and he is not going to be attached to companies and he can sponsor parents and children up to 25 years instead of 18 years,” said Thani al-Zeyoudi, the minister of state for foreign trade.
The benefits of the “Green Visa” include being able to sponsor children until the age of 25 instead of 18. Previously a parent could sponsor their daughter’s residency visa until she is married, however, sons were only allowed to be sponsored until the age of 18.
The new ability of being able to sponsor parents is also significant. Previously, there were strict conditions under which people could sponsor their parents, including a minimum salary and a rental contract for an apartment big enough for the family.
Other new changes include the extension of business trip permits from three months to six months and extending the grace period for leaving the country after losing a job or retirement to 190 days instead of 30.
Freelance visas will be granted to owners of independent businesses, or self-employed individuals.
“Freelancers will have special dedicated visas…This is to attract experts, retirees and specialised people to niche sectors,” added al-Zeyoudi.
The full criteria, including how to obtain the Green visa and when it will be available, have not yet been revealed.