The United Arab Emirates (UAE), on Sunday, September 5, announced the introduction of a new class of visas, the latest step in a series of moves aimed at attracting talent and boosting growth.

The new class of visa which is known as ‘Green Visas’ will allow expatriates to apply for work without being sponsored by an employer, and include children up to the age of 25 on their permits, according to Business Standard.

The government also said it will allow people who’ve lost their jobs to remain in the country for up to 180 days, a major boost as most visas are tied to employment contracts, according to a media briefing from officials of the emirate on Sunday.

Foreign residents make up more than 80% of the population of the UAE’s seven sheikhdoms and have been a mainstay of the economy for decades. Oil-rich Gulf states have been forced to consider longer residency for foreigners as they seek to attract investment and diversify.

The UAE has previously announced a plan to grant visas of 5 to 10 years to wealthy property investors, entrepreneurs and “specialized talents and researchers.

Also, the Gulf state, which has for several years, been Middle East’s business and financial capital, is deepening its trade ties in Asia and Africa as part of a broader plan to draw $150 billion in foreign investment and reposition itself as a global hub for business and finance.

The officials noted that UAE will work on economic partnerships with 8 countries namely; South Korea, Indonesia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Turkey, where ties with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have warmed dramatically in recent months after years of tensions of regional politics.

The UAE has been facing regional competition from neighbour, Saudi Arabia where Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is driving an economic plan to draw in foreign investment and get global firms to set up their regional headquarters in the kingdom. Most international companies currently choose to base their Middle East operations in Dubai, one of the UAE’s seven sheikhdoms.

What you should know

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.

It can be recalled that in January this year, the UAE announced the adoption of amendments that would allow the Gulf state to offer citizenship to a select group of foreigners.

In a policy that is the first among the Gulf Arab nations, it said it would grant citizenship to investors and other professionals including scientists, doctors and their families, in order to formalize a process aimed at giving expatriates a bigger stake in the economy.