UAE employment visas in 2024
Foreign professionals who wish to live and work in the United Arab Emirates must apply for a residency visa and a work permit (labor card). A residency visa can be obtained after fulfilling any one of the following conditions: i) UAE business registration ii) investment in a UAE resident company iii) purchasing UAE real estate or iv) employment in a UAE company. A valid employment contract is mandatory for any of the below visa applications, except for the investor visa.
- Foreign entrepreneurs may apply for long term entrepreneur visa. This visa is issued for 5 years to investors who can prove their prior investments and a minimum investment of about US$140,000 (Dh 500k);
- Entrepreneurs can stay in the UAE for up to 6 months at a time during the 5-year period. People with the entrepreneur visa may also qualify to apply for the investor visa, if they fulfill all conditions.
- A foreign worker can apply for an electronic work permit and a residence visa. Labor cards and residence permits are issued for up to 2 years by local mainland companies, and for up to 3 years by free zone companies;
- Documents to be presented include i) an employer sponsorship letter ii) an employment contract iii) copies of the applicant’s professional/academic credentials and iv) a medical certificate;
- Employees with approved visas can apply for residence visa for their family members if their salary is i) at least 3,000 AED per month with accommodation paid by a sponsor or ii) more than AED4,000.
- For businesspersons investing more than USD 1 million (Dh 5m) in property in the UAE, a 5-year investor-visa is applicable;
- In case the investment is through a business in public works, the minimum requirement is USD 2.8 million (Dh 10m) for a 10-year renewable investor visa.
- The minimum requirements need to be fulfilled in the form of assets – they cannot be in the form of loans. The visa allows a stay of six months at a time during its validity.
Specialist Talent Visa
The 10-year specialist talent visa is for people involved in the STEM fields or any creative field deemed priority by the UAE government. Multiple criteria apply for a specialist visa:
- For STEM specialists, the applicants must have a PhD with 10 years of experience, a recognition award from their country, published research, noteworthy accomplishments in their field of research, and membership in corresponding professional associations.
- For specialists involved in creative fields, the applicants first need an endorsement from the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development and a patent from the Ministry of Economy to be able to apply for the Specialist Talent visa.
- The visit visa requires sponsorship from a citizen, resident or investor. Two types of visit visa are available (i)The short-term visit visas which are valid for 30 days and (ii) The long-term visas are valid for 90 days.
- Foreign tourists of certain countries can obtain either their visa on arrival. All other nationalities must submit a visa application prior to entering the UAE;
- Documents requested for visa approval include i) Passport copy ii) clear photograph iii) proof of residence and iv) proof of funds for high risk countries.
- The processing time for visas is normally 3-4 working days subject to immigration approval and the application.
Important UAE visa considerations
UAE recently approved measures to increase the Emiratisation rate for private sector.
- Mainland registered private sector employers with more than 49 skilled employees are required to hire UAE nationals and will be required to increase Emirati employees by a minimum of 2% annually until 2026. Refer to the table below for clarify. A skilled employee is defined here;
- The deadline for compliance with this new targeted increase is 1 January 2023. Non-compliant companies will be subject to fines of AED 6,000 per month. Other sanctions will additionally apply.
|Number of skilled workers
|Number of UAE nationals be hired each year
|One UAE national
|Two UAE nationals
|Three UAE nationals
|151 and above
|One UAE nationals for every 50 skilled workers