Abstract

All expatriates, in order to lawfully reside and work in the UAE, must be sponsored by a locally licensed and registered entity for UAE work permit and residency visa purposes. Such sponsorship is both employer and location specific, entitling the employee to work only for their sponsoring employer and at the premises under which their visa has been obtained.

The UAE's employment regime is inextricably linked to the immigration regime which itself is fairly static (very limited exceptions apply).

However, as of 3 February 2019, Cabinet Decision No. 56/2018 on the Regulation of Residence Permits for Investors, Entrepreneurs and Individuals with Specialized Talents came into force, offering residence visas for investors, entrepreneurs and those individuals with specialized talent without the need for a sponsoring employer, widening the previously strictly adhered to rules surrounding residency in the UAE.

Cabinet Decision No. 56/2018 is enacted with a view to enticing global foreign investors to invest in the UAE and therefore create a brighter economic future for the region.

This commentary will take a look at the intricacies involved in obtaining one of these exceptional residence visas, being referred to locally as the ‘Golden Visa'.

Analysis of Cabinet Decision No. 56/2018

The card is classified into three main categories:

Category 1

The first category is for investors in public investments and offers the eligible applicant a 10-year visa without a sponsor. The investment may take many forms, such as:

  • a deposit of at least AED 10 million in an investment fund inside the country;
  • establishing a company in the UAE with a capital of not less than AED 10 million; or
  • partnering in an existing or a new company with a share value of not less than AED 10 million.

Category 2

The second category is for mixed/diverse investments' holders, which is mainly labeled under “property and stocks”. Investors in this field are also potentially entitled to a 10 year residency visa without a sponsor. However, the total investment amount may not be less than AED 10 million and investment in property may not exceed 40% in total. In other wordings, investing in sectors other than real estate must not be less than 60% of the entire investment. Cabinet Decision No. 56/2018 provides professionals in the fields of medicine, science, research and technical backgrounds to apply for and obtain a 10-year residence visa for themselves and their families. As it currently stands, expatriate employees in the UAE are only able to obtain either two or three-year visas depending on where their employer is based.

Category 3

The third category is addressed to investors in the real estate field. As a condition, their gross investments' value must not be less than AED 5 million. This category of ‘Golden Visa' allows eligibility for a five-year visa without a sponsor. Provisionally, for the three groupings, the invested amount must derive from a loan of any kind and the investment property should be retained for at least three years. Two committees will be formed as part of Cabinet Decision No. 56/2018 and they will evaluate candidates for the long-term visas according to the criteria set out above.

What next?

To date there has been in excess of 600 ‘Golden Visas' granted in the UAE with the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs aiming for 6,800 by the end of the year. In conclusion, the long-term visa system looks set to provide a degree of certainty and longevity for prospective investors, entrepreneurs and talented individuals to both migrate and commit to the UAE on a long-term basis. Cabinet Decision No. 56 /2018 officially coming into force is a welcome development and we look forward to seeing how it will work in practice.

Originally commissioned by the Lexis Nexis Middle East.