Global Alerts

UAE – Immigration Reform Law Means Significant Changes

The immigration reform signed into law by the UAE Minister of the Interior will restructure the country’s short-term visa programs and also includes changes to processing fees.

New Short-Term Visas

Following the reform’s implementation, the UAE will offer three types of short-term visas for business travelers, as indicated below:

  • The multiple-entry visa will allow stays of a maximum period of 30 days within an overall validity period of up to 180 days. It should be noted that this visa differs from the current multiple-entry visa as it allows for stays longer than 14 days.
  • The short-term business visit visa has been created to replace the current Entry Service Visa (ESV). This short-term visa will allow for a single entry stay of up to 14 days. Applicants should note that this visa does not permit holders to work for third parties while in the UAE.
  • The long-term business visit visa (single or multiple) is a reformed version of the current 90-day Mission Work Permit (MWP). Similar to the MWP, this long-term visa will require pre-approval from the Ministry of Labor, however, it will not be renewable beyond its initial 90-day maximum validity.

For neighboring residents outside of the UAE’s land borders who travel frequently between countries, a special entry permit will be available. It will be valid for multiple entries for no more than 90 days. Holders may make stays of up to 24 hours per each entry and will not be permitted to work, but rather may only engage in business activities.

Multiple-Entry Visit Visa for Tourism & Changes to Study and Medical Treatment Visas

The newly created visit visa for tourism will allow for multiple-entry and for both short (for a maximum stay of up to 30 days) and long-term visits (for a maximum stay of up to 90 days).

The study visa is now valid for a 90-day stay and may be extended only once for an additional 90 days. Medical entry visas will now allow holders multiple entries into the UAE and accompanying family members to join.

Stricter Notification Requirements

In the event of absconding employees, UAE employers are required to notify immigration officials or their local police station within ten days of the sponsored foreign employee’s abandonment of his/her position.

Possible Changes

Although the below changes are not yet official, employers and foreign workers should be aware of them in case they are confirmed:

  • In-country changes of status options: If confirmed, this change will allow visa holders to changes from visitor to work status from within the UAE.
  • Payroll Compliance Monitoring in Free Trade Zones: If this change is implemented, companies operating in a UAE Freezone applying for an Employment Entry Permit (EEP) for foreign nationals may be subject to a wage protection system (the UAE Central Bank’s Wage Protection System (WPS)) as are companies in Mainland UAE.
  • Standard Qualifications Evaluations: This change entails the UAE adopting nationwide standards for professional qualification evaluations. These would apply in the Freezones as well as in Mainland UAE.

Increased Processing Fees

Almost all government processing fees for residence permits and visas have already increased in Mainland UAE. UAE free trade zones are expected to also amend their fees shortly.

Employers and foreign nationals should be aware of these changes, however, also note that UAE officials haven’t yet provided the public with practical implementation details for these reforms, including expected implementation dates.

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