What Entrepreneurs Need To Know About The UAE's Latest Overhaul Of Entry And Residence Schemes For Foreigners

The new UAE system of entry and residence aims at positioning the country as the ideal destination to live, work and invest.

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With the aim to simplify the eligibility criteria and expand the categories of beneficiaries, substantial amendments have been introduced to the UAE's Golden Residence Scheme, a 10-year residence granted to investors, entrepreneurs, exceptional talents, scientists and professionals, outstanding students and graduates, humanitarian pioneers, and frontline heroes.

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The changes have been announced following the UAE Cabinet's approval of executive regulations of the Federal Decree-Law on Entry and Residence of Foreigners, which are aimed at strengthening the UAE's position as an ideal destination to live, work, and invest.

For entrepreneurs specifically, these changes include the establishment of more flexible requirements for them to obtain the Golden Residence. As per the new executive regulations, an entrepreneur should own, or be a partner in, a startup registered in the country in the category of small and medium enterprises, and generates annual revenues of not less than AED1 million.

In addition, obtaining approval for a startup idea from an official business incubator, the UAE Ministry of Economy, or the competent local authorities is sufficient to obtain the Golden Residence in this category.

Moreover, if the person is a founder (or one of the founders) of a previous entrepreneurial project(s) that was sold with a total value of not less than AED7 million, he/she will be entitled to Golden Residence. Again, the approval of the UAE Ministry of Economy or the competent local authorities is required for projects or ideas.

Other amendments introduced by the UAE cabinet include allowing a Golden Residence holder to sponsor his/her family members including spouse and children regardless of their age, and to sponsor support services (domestic) laborers without limiting their number. Family members will also now be allowed to stay in the UAE (until the end of their permit duration) in the event of the death of the original holder of the Golden Residence.

The restriction related to the maximum duration of stay outside the UAE in order to keep the Golden Residence valid has also been removed.

Besides the changes in the Golden Residence scheme, the UAE cabinet has also introduced new five-year residence tracks to attract talents, skilled professionals, freelancers, investors, and entrepreneurs.

This includes the Green Residence for freelancing and self-employment, which provides a five-year residency for freelancers and self-employed individuals without requiring a sponsor or employer in the UAE. Applicants for the same would need to obtaining a freelance/self-employment permit from the UAE Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, have a bachelor's degree or a specialized diploma at the minimum in terms of the educational levels, and have an annual income from self-employment for the previous two years that's not less than AED360,000, or prove that he/she has financial solvency throughout his/her stay in the country.

The new system also provides more benefits to family members. A resident may easily bring his/her family members, including spouse and children. The age of children has been raised to 25 years, (previously 18 years), and there is no age limit for unmarried daughters. Children of determination are granted a residence permit, regardless of their age. The Green Residence holder is also allowed to bring his first-degree relatives, and the residency of family members shall be the same duration as the original residence holder in all cases.

A new Business Entry visa has also been launched, which shall provide easy entry (without requiring a sponsor or host) to encourage investors and entrepreneurs to explore business and investment opportunities in the UAE.

More information on the aforementioned schemes and others can be found by seeing the full announcement on WAM here; the executive regulations of the Federal Decree-Law on Entry and Residence of Foreigners shall come into force after 90 days from the date of its publication in the Official Gazette.

Related: Let's Get To Business: The UAE Ranks First On The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor's Global Entrepreneurship Index 2022