The full range of resident Visa options in the UAE

The full range of resident Visa options in the UAE

- Jessica Ashford

In commemoration of its 50th anniversary, the UAE has announced the aim of attracting $150 billion in foreign investment over the next 10 years. This will involve the implementation of 50 initiatives including investment in technology, sweeping labour reforms and the creation of new visas to attract talented individuals capable of making large contributions to the country’s economy.

This announcement is yet another example of the UAE’s commitment to the diversification and development of its economy and ambition to be at the forefront of the emerging industries of the future.

It is also recognition of the part the expatriate population play in the success of its economy.

Expatriates in the UAE

Currently, there are 8.84 million expatriates in the UAE which constitutes 89% of the country’s population and continuing to attract talented and skilled individuals from outside the UAE is vital to achieving the country’s goals.

Visas are a key component of this, since residency in the country is largely contingent on employment visas. Hence, a wide variety of visas must be made available to entice skilled labour and new talent.

The government has recognised this and over the last 3 years has introduced several new visa initiatives tailored to differing needs and circumstances.

These have changed the landscape of the labour market in the UAE, opening it up to an array of different people and helping it to recover from Covid-19 when, in the first year of the pandemic alone, nearly 10% of the population decreased due to unemployment and the resulting loss of visas.

What types of visas are there in the UAE?

The types of visas that are available in the UAE can be divided into two categories: Those for visitors and those for residents. Within these two categories there are several different options available, depending on factors such as nationality, the period of stay in the country, the purpose of the stay, and financial, working and family status.

What is a UAE residence visa?

A UAE residence visa permits a foreign national to live in the UAE for 2 or 3, or in some cases, 5 or 10 years and is generally conditional upon on one of five conditions being met:

  1. Employment by a UAE-based company
    In this situation, an employer will act as sponsor of the individual during their period of residency in the country.
  2. Business investment
    Here, the investor obtains a residence visa under the sponsorship of his/her UAE-registered company.
  3. Property ownership
    In this instance, the residence visa will be sponsored under the property owned by the individual.
  4. Enrolment at a university
    In this situation, the visa can be obtained under the sponsorship of the university itself.
  5. Retirement in the UAE
    Obtaining a visa in this instance requires that the individual have a property investment, financial savings of a predetermined amount, or income over a set threshold.

In the first three scenarios, dependents of the visa holder, including family members, household staff and other close relatives may be added.

Is permanent residency possible?

There is no permanent residency visa in the UAE. However, in practise continued residency only requires that your visa be renewed by yourself or your employer within a 30-day grace period after its expiry to allow you to continue living in the UAE indefinitely.

More recently, with the introduction of the Golden Visa, automatic renewal of the visa occurs after expiry of the 5- or 10-year period for which it is issued.

Recently added UAE residence visas


Remote Work Visa

The remote work visa was introduced in October 2021 to address the needs of individuals who wish to live in the UAE whilst continuing to work remotely for an employer outside the UAE.

This type of visa is already available in other countries but is the first of its type in the GCC region. It acknowledges the changing landscape of working practices post Covid-19, when many companies have shifted to a remote working business model.

What are the requirements for eligibility?

You must hold a valid passport and have health insurance for the period of your stay in the country.

As an employee of another company, you must:

  • Have proof of employment with a work contract of at least one year
  • Have a salary of at least USD $5,000
  • Have a salary slip for the last month and bank statements for the last 3 months

As a company owner, you must:

  • Have proof of company ownership for at least one year
  • Have an average monthly income of at least USD $5,000
  • Have statements of the company accounts for the last 3 months

How long is the remote work visa valid for?

The visa has validity for one year and can be renewed upon re-application.

How much does the visa cost?

The visa costs USD $287 per person plus the additional costs of health insurance.

Golden Visa

This is a long-term residency visa which was implemented in 2019. It is issued for a period of 5 or 10 years with automatic renewal, and since its inception, has allowed 44,000 current Dubai residents to benefit from it.

Its goal is to attract the top talent from around the world, in particular, innovators in the fields of science, technology, engineering, medicine and business.

The initiative allows foreign nationals residency in the UAE without the usual requirement of a UAE sponsor, and it enables company owners to retain 100% ownership of their business on the UAE mainland.

What are the requirements for eligibility?

The requirements for a 5- or 10-year gold visa are dependent on the different categories. The following is the criteria for some:

Real estate investor

  • Investment in a property with a value of at least AED 2 million
  • The investment must be the full amount and not on a loan basis

Other requirements include a letter from the Real Estate Registration Department in the relevant emirate stating that the investor owns one or more properties of a value no less than AED 2 million, and proof of housing in the country, such as a house rental or home ownership contract, is also required.

Entrepreneurs

  • The minimum capital investment or project must be AED 500,000 or for any individual with prior approval from an accredited UAE business incubator
  • The investor will be granted a multi-entry visa with 6-month validity and that is renewable for an additional 6 months. The visa may include the investor’s spouse, children, a partner and three executives

Further requirements for the issuing of this visa include an approval letter from a UAE auditor stating that the value of the project is not less than AED 500,000, or a letter from an accredited UAE business incubator to establish the proposed activity within the country.

An approval letter from the relevant authorities in the emirate, stating that the project is of a technical or future nature in which leadership is achieved, is also required. Other documentation includes proof of housing in the country, a valid passport copy, and valid health care insurance that is not less than one year and can be extended.

Executive directors

    • Holding a certified degree from a university
    • A minimum of 5 years of experience
    • A current salary that is not less than AED 50,000
    • A valid work contract

    Other requirements include a valid passport copy and health care insurance that is not less than one year and can be extended.

    Students of exceptional ability

    • The requirement for these students is a 95% minimum grade from a certified public or private secondary school
    • University students must graduate with a minimum GPA of 3.8
    • The visa may include the student’s family members

    Business investment

    The investment can be made in one of several ways, including:

    • A minimum AED 10 million deposit in a UAE-based investment fund
    • The establishment of a UAE-based company with a minimum capital investment of AED 10 million
    • Partnership of an existing UAE company with a share value of at least AED 10 million
    • An investment in a combination of the areas mentioned above, provided that the portion of the investment in areas other than real estate is no less than 60% of the total

    The stipulations of the above are that:

    1. The investment sum cannot be derived from a loan
    2. The investment must be held for at least three years
    3. The individual should have financial liquidity for up to AED 10 million

    The investor’s spouse and children can be included on this visa as well as one executive director and one advisor. Other business partners may also be included provided that each partner contributes AED 10 million.

    Outstanding specialised talents

    This category encompasses any individual who demonstrates exceptional ability in the fields of science and technology, creative areas such as culture and art, and can contribute to the UAE’s economy in some way.

    The criteria for obtaining a visa within this category is recognition of the individual’s skills and accreditation by a relevant UAE government ministry.

    The criteria for eligibility in this category are:

    • For creative individuals – An approval letter from the Department of Culture and Arts in the relevant emirate
    • For inventors - The attainment of a patent of value which is approved by the Ministry of Economy and contributes to the UAE economy in some way
    • For individuals with exceptional talent in the field of science - Their work must be published in a recognised scientific journal
    • For scientists – A letter of recommendation from the Emirates Scientists Council or the Secretariat of the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Academic Excellence stating that he is a recipient of the Academic Excellence Medal
    • For business investors - They must be owners of an internationally recognised company or holders of a high academic position
    • For specialists in the fields of athletes and science – A specialised certificate in the fields specified by the authorities in the country, or a letter of recommendation letter from the General Sports Authority or one of the sports councils
    • For holders of doctoral degrees and specialists in the fields of engineering and science –
      1. A certified copy of a Ph.D. from the Ministry of Education in one of the priority disciplines
      2. A university degree from the MOE with a major in engineering or science
      3. A work contract for a profession in the engineering or science fields
    • For doctors – An approval letter from the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) in the country to practice the profession of medicine, and the meeting two of the following requirements:
      1. Ph.D. degree from one of the top 500 universities in the world
      2. An award or certificate of excellence in a relevant field
      3. A contribution to major scientific research in their respective field
      4. Published articles or books in renowned publications in their respective field
      5. Membership of an organisation related to their field
      6. A Ph.D. and 10 years professional experience in their field
      7. Another specialisation in a field of priority to the UAE

    Other requirements include having a valid passport copy, and valid health card insurance that is not less than one year and can be extended.

    Freelancer Visa

    The rise of the ‘gig’ economy’, and more recently the effects of Covid-19, have profoundly changed the way in which we work. People are increasingly viewing freelancing and working remotely as an alternative to traditional employment contracts, choosing to work this way for the flexibility and freedom it provides.

    The UAE has recognised this trend and responded by introducing the freelancer visa. It identifies the holder as a sole practitioner and negates the need for an employer to act as sponsor for residency in the country.

    It permits the holder to offer services across the UAE mainland and free zones and allows family members to also be added to the visa.

    Which types of jobs are included under the freelancer visa?

    The visa is for professions which can be broadly classified into four categories:

    • Design (clothing designer, hair stylist, interior designer, jewellery designer, make-up artist…)
    • Education (education advisor, executive coach, researcher, trainer…)
    • Media (actor, animator, artist, sound engineer, cameraman, copywriter…)
    • Technology (web developer, software developer, data and analytics scientist…)

    How much does the visa cost?

    When applying to work as a freelancer in the UAE, there are three main costs that must be considered. The cost of the visa, the work permit and an establishment card.

    The visa itself may not be required for everyone since it’s possible the applicant is already a resident in the UAE and may wish to remain in full-time employment and therefore under the sponsorship of an employer. In this case, an NOC letter would be required from the applicant’s employer in order to process the permit.

    In Dubai, the work permit costs AED 7,500 with an additional fee of AED 20 payable as a contribution towards cultural, educational and innovation projects in the emirate. For other emirates, costs may vary.

    The cost of the residence visa will depend on the emirate or free zone from which you apply. In Dubai, it can be obtained from the Dubai Development Authority for the following prices:

    From within the UAE

    Normal price: AED 4,960

    Express service: AED 6,340

    From outside the UAE

    Normal price: AED 3,330

    Express service: AED 3,900

    These prices include the visa itself as well as expenses for medical testing, visa stamping and the issuance of the Emirates ID.

    The visa is valid for 3 years and renewable upon application.

    Along with the visa, it will also be necessary to obtain an establishment card at a cost of AED 2,000. This is mandatory for the issuance of the visa and is also a required document for connecting internet and water in any office premises.

    What documents are required for the freelancer permit and how do I apply?

    To apply for the freelancer permit, you will need the following documents:

    • A CV
    • A recent photograph
    • A passport and visa copy (with at least 8 months validity)
    • A Bank reference letter
    • An NOC from your UAE sponsor (if applicable)

    If you are a non-UAE resident, you will first have to apply for a UAE residence visa from the governing body of the emirate where you intend to work or from one of the following free zone authorities that offer the permit:

    • Dubai Media City
    • Dubai Studio City
    • Dubai Production City
    • Dubai Knowledge Park
    • Dubai Design District
    • Abu Dhabi’s twofour54
    • Fujairah Creative City
    • Ras Al Khaimah Economic Free Zone
    • Ajman Free zone
    • Umm Al Quwain Free Trade Zone

    Retirement Visa

    In September 2018, the UAE government introduced the Retirement Visa to offer expatriate residents over the age of 55 the possibility of remaining in the UAE once their working lives have come to an end.

    The visa is for a period of 5 years and conditional upon one of the following criteria being met:

    • Investment in a property with a value of at least AED 2 million
    • Financial savings of at least AED 1 million
    • An active income of at least AED 20,000 per month

    These requirements were later amended in an update to the programme to make the visa accessible to more people. The hope is that this new initiative will change the perception of the UAE, and in particular Dubai, as a short term living destination into a place that allows foreign nationals to invest and make long term plans in.

    Currently the programme is open to any expatriate resident over the age of 55, including their spouse and dependents, providing one of the following conditions is met:

    • A property investment of at least AED 1 million
    • Savings of at least AED 1 million in a 3-year fixed deposit account
    • A monthly income of at least AED 15,000
    • A combination of yearly income and savings to total AED 1 million and a property worth at least AED 500,000

    At the end of the 5-year period, the visa can be renewed provided the above criteria is continued to be met. In addition, the holder may still continue to work in the UAE if they wish.

    How much does the visa cost?

    The visa itself costs AED 888.75 plus an additional AED 753 for the mandatory medical exam and AED 572.50 for the Emirates ID.

    Conclusion

    The UAE is a country that is evolving at an incredible rate, and is always striving to find ways to maintain the momentum of its economic growth. These visa initiatives, along with the widespread legal reforms that have recently been approved, will continue to make the UAE an attractive destination to live and work for the expatriate population, ensuring the country’s ongoing success and competitivity in the global market.

    How can PRO Partner Group help?

    PRO Partner Group are the experts in company formation and assisting in obtaining and maintaining UAE residence visas. Our professional team of government liaison staff, PROs and operational contact team can assist you fully with the initial review of the type of visa you are looking to obtain, to ensure you make the right choice. We can then assist you through preparation and documentation and all relevant steps to obtain the UAE resident visa.

    If you need guidance on which UAE visa is best for you and any other related company setup, restructuring, local partner or PRO support matter in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, the wider UAE, Oman, Qatar or Saudi Arabia then please do get in touch with us on +971 (0)4 456 1761 for Dubai or +971 (0)2 448 5120 for Abu Dhabi, email us at info@propartnergroup.com or complete the contact form below and we will be delighted to assist you.

    Get in touch with Jessica Ashford

    Share this article

    Expert Advice

    Book a call with one of our company formation specialists.


    Please enter a message



    Meet the Pro Partner Group team,
    a vastly skilled and experienced UAE team