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Relocating to the UAE - the changing landscape

Blue sky thinking in this small Arab Sheikhdom seems to be the order of the day.

In these times of COVID19 a liberal more open and flexible attitude exists which aims to attract and retain the best talented people whether they be in industry sciences or the arts. Martyn Crespel looks at the residency options.

The raft of announcements keeps coming thick and fast and frankly there is no precedent in the Gulf region.

Citizenship by invitation (as good as) is unheard of and breaks with many taboos but could in theory lead to more investment and greater economic returns.

People and business are seizing the opportunity to relocate to a more favourable environment now more than any other time whether to escape the constrains of a European lockdown and the uncertainty of when things will return to normal if ever they do but also to take advantage of an open for business attitude and an increasingly more liberal landscape.


Here are some of the current options for residence with or without work sponsorship:


Aim: To attract talent and investment into the country

Eligibility: Investors skilled (in need skills) workers the medical profession inventors scientists intellectuals and artists among others.

This newly announced program would include spouses and children. Applicants and their families would be able to retain their current citizenship(s)/nationalities.

There are quite specific requirements to qualify based not only on qualifications but also on what the country is looking for. Doctors should be specialised in areas that the country considers in short supply and scientists for example should have a proven track record.

Nominations can be made via the courts of the rulers or crown princes of the seven emirates or via other official channels or the federal cabinet. It is too early to say exactly what the procedure will look like.


Golden Visa

In the last few years Saudi Arabia has had such a scheme and 73 individuals benefited from its scheme in 2019 with so called premium residency visas.

Here in the UAE the ongoing quest for competitive edge has led to more innovation and its Golden Visa scheme is proving a winner. Some 7000 plus visas are on offer and around 2500 were in issue as of the end of 2019.

Aim: As with Citizenship to attract talent and investment into the country

Eligibility: Investors and other sought-after individuals who are being offered five- or 10-year residency visas.

Investors will have to invest at least AED 5 million (US$ 1.4 million) for the five-year visa and double that for 10 years.


Freelancer License

Aim: This is suited to someone wanting to start their own consultancy. Probably for someone looking to develop ideas in anything from tourist and recreation consultancy to painters and calligraphers. In fact there are 48 categories that qualify for this treatment.

This license is only applicable to Abu Dhabi applying will lead to residence visas and there is no requirement to rent office space. It is accessible at AED 530 and applicants can even sponsor family members.

Eligibility: There are of course some requirements such as proof of expertise a university degree and some sort of certificate of experience or proof of accreditation.

Dubai also has a freelancer visa which allows people to trade solely there but this is much more expensive and there are easier ways to structure this. Having said that a more traditional route by setting up a company in a number of Freezones would achieve the same thing as they also come with a visa.


Virtual Working Programme

What could be better during any lockdown than the ability to still travel! This scheme allows you and your family to relocate to Dubai from most jurisdictions and continue remote working for the organisation you already work for.

It is a straightforward process aimed for start-ups and entrepreneurs and there are certain eligibility criteria. It is valid for one year and can be renewed if you apply again. It is a very cheap option to get yourself here and with any international health cover that is valid in UAE that's about it in terms of requirements.


Retirement Visa

This starts to get interesting. A five-year renewable retirement visa is now available. Applicants need to be over 55 years old and there are some criteria that includes income health etc. It is available for the applicant and spouse and children. On the financial side you would need to buy a property of no less than AED 2 million (or own real estate that is valued at no less than this figure and your bank account should have at least AED 1 million in it). There are some combining factors here that need to be reached split between property value and bank account for added flexibility. It is even possible to rent a property if the total deposit in a local bank meets the criteria.

Opportunities and a bit of careful thought allow most to settle here and it requires thought and professional support to make sure you choose the right way. PraxisIFM is well established in the UAE and working with a select number of partners we are able to cover all routes to residence here and in the other emirates.


For further information contact Martyn.


Please note that this article is intended to provide a general overview of the matters to which it relates. It is not intended as professional advice and should not be relied upon as such. Any engagement in respect of our professional services is subject to our standard terms and conditions of business and the provision of all necessary due diligence. © Praxis 2023