(The Southern African Times) – The United Arab Emirates announced a new class of visas on Sunday, the latest step in a series of moves aimed at attracting talent and boosting growth.
“Green Visas” will allow expatriates to apply for work without being sponsored by an employer, targeting investors and highly skilled workers as well as top students and graduates. Green visa holders will be able to sponsor their parents and children up to the age of 25 on their permits.
The government also said it would allow people who’ve lost their jobs to remain in the country for up to 180 days, a major incentive as most visas are tied to employment contracts. And in an effort to loosen the job market, it’s allowing for the hiring of temporary workers above the age of 15.
Foreign residents make up more than 80% of the population of the UAE and have been a mainstay of the economy for decades, doing most private sector jobs and spending their money on property or shopping in some of the world’s largest malls.
Oil-rich Gulf states have long resisted offering permanent residency, let alone citizenship, to their millions of foreign workers, guarding generous privileges enjoyed by their nationals. But forced by the 2014 oil-price slump to prepare their economies for a post-fossil fuel world, they are now seeking to entice wealthy people to stay, a trend that was reinforced during the Covid-19 pandemic, when governments took steps to ensure those who lost their jobs could remain.
Both Saudi Arabia and Qatar have taken steps toward allowing some expatriates permanent residency.