Changes to Foreign Ownership and Visa Rules Announc

Residency system amended

“The UAE will remain a global incubator for exceptional talents and a permanent destination for international investors. Our open environment, tolerant values, infrastructure and flexible legislation are the best plan to attract global investment and exceptional talents to the UAE,” stated Shaikh Mohammad.

He also directed the Ministry of Economy, in coordination with the concerned parties, to implement the resolution and follow up on its developments, and to submit a detailed study in the third quarter of this year.

At a meeting of the Cabinet of the Council of Ministers of the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”), the UAE Government decided to allow foreign investors to own 100% of their businesses in the UAE and approved sweeping changes to the current UAE visa system.

The changes were announced yesterday evening (20 May 2018), on Twitter, by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and the Ruler of Dubai.

 

  • What Are The Changes That Have Been Announced?

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.

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.

  1. 10-year residence visas

The system will grant investors and talents up to 10-year residency visas for specialists in medical, scientific, research and technical fields, as well as for all scientists and innovators.

It also grants five-year residency visas for students studying in the UAE, and 10-year visas for exceptional students.

The Cabinet also issued instructions to conduct a review of the residency system with a view to extending residency permits for those sponsored by their parents after completing their university studies to facilitate their future residence in the UAE.

 

    2. When will these changes come into effect?

According to Sheikh Mohammed’s messages, the new changes will be implemented starting with the third quarter of this year. Previous reports suggested that the new investment law should be published by the end of the year. It remains to be seen whether the visa changes will be provided for in the investment law or will be implemented earlier through Cabinet decision or similar legislation.

When implemented, these changes are likely to significantly alter the business environment in the UAE and have a tangible impact on the majority of UAE based businesses and (at least) certain categories of residents. While many questions remain unanswered for now, it is likely that more information will become available in the near future. If you are concerned or have any questions as to how the proposed changes will affect your business in the UAE, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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