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UAE introduces new residency guidelines to attract foreigners

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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.

The new ‘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. 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.

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 five to 10 years to wealthy property investors, entrepreneurs and “specialized talents and researchers.”

The United Arab Emirates 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 UAE, which has spent years as the Middle East’s business and financial capital, will work on economic partnerships with eight countries, officials said in a media briefing on Sunday. They include 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 Gulf state 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.

The UAE is seeking 550 billion dirhams ($150 billion) of inward foreign investment over the next nine years and aims to be among the 10 biggest global investment destinations by 2030, UAE Economy Minister Abdulla bin Touq said. It will focus on investments from countries including Russia, Australia, China, and the U.K.

One of the most notable inward investments in recent years was Uber Technologies Inc’s acquisition of UAE-based ride-hailing company Careem in 2019 for $3.1 billion. That deal sparked interest from regional and international venture capital firms, and appetite for backing Middle Eastern startups has picked up over the past few years, buoyed by the rapid adoption of mobile technologies in the region.

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