Anyone coming into the UAE as a professional or as an investor is typically granted a residence visa of two years, which is renewable. This has now been changed to a ten-year visa for investors and professionals in highly skilled fields such as engineering, medicine and science. Students will be given a special five-year visa, while those who consistently perform well and earn top grades will be granted a ten-year visa as well.
What are the changes that have been announced?
Another very significant change is in the ownership of companies. Businesses within the UAE are divided into two main categories: mainland businesses and freezone businesses.
At present, mainland businesses can be partially owned by expatriate entrepreneurs, but must have a UAE national as a majority shareholder in the company. Freezone companies, on the other hand, can have full foreign ownership and are subject to separate regulations depending on the freezone.
With the new regulations, every business, whether mainland or freezone, will be able to have 100% foreign ownership without the need for an Emirati partner.
The UAE, and Dubai especially, has always been an attractive destination for entrepreneurs and innovators, offering an increasingly straightforward setup process for businesses, excellent facilities and services, and an environment free of corporate and income tax. The country is also a key global hub, with a short flight of 5 to 6 hours connecting it to several major cities around the world.
Why is that important?
While Dubai provides luxury homes, solid infrastructure and a standard of living that are easily comparable to most cosmopolitan cities, it still has a very transient image for many potential residents and investors, who might bring money into the economy in the short-term, but will ultimately prefer to settle down elsewhere.
This new announcement is aimed at producing more inward investment and making the UAE more of a permanent home for its expatriate community.
What does this mean for someone that wants to live and work in Dubai?The main takeaway from this announcement is security.
Investors who pour large sums of money into the UAE economy will be more secure in their investment by committing to a long-term residency option. Likewise, top professionals will be more inclined to invest their talents in the UAE. And of course, the ability to have 100% ownership and full control of a UAE-based firm is a huge incentive for all future entrepreneurs and business owners, allowing for the development of more homegrown businesses and permanently established companies.
Property investment into the UAE has steadily been on the rise, with year-on-year increases in investment by GCC nationals and a few other key nationalities. That arena will open up a bit further now as the UAE market will spark renewed interest in any potential investor who may have been on the fence before.
How will this impact the real estate market in the country?
With an eye always toward the future, the UAE is already looking at strengthening its post-2020 economy by positioning itself as one of the most secure and stable investment destinations in the region.