In November 2018, the UAE Cabinet approved a new long-term visa system for investors, scientists, doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs and innovators, executives, and students of outstanding academic qualification with the aim of attracting more foreign direct investment and top employee talent to the UAE. Alongside the changes was the introduction of a new five-year retirement visa available for expatriates aged 55 or above.

The changes mean that individuals who meet certain criteria will be eligible for a 5- or 10-year renewable residence visa. Currently, residence visas in the UAE are only available for a 2-year period, extending to a 3-year duration in free zones.

In addition, investors in a property worth AED 5 million or more will now be granted a five-year visa subject to additional requirements. Those who have public investments of AED 10 million or more, and those who have public and real estate investments worth a minimum of AED 10 million (provided that non-real estate investments comprise a minimum of 60 percent of this) will be granted renewable residency visas every 10 years. In all cases, the amount of money invested will need to be wholly owned by the investor (and not loaned) and supporting documents will need to be provided. In addition, any investment will need to be retained for at least three years. The long-term visa could also be extended to business partners, provided that they each contribute AED 10 million.

Scientists, doctors, and engineers may be eligible for a 10-year visa provided that they meet certain criteria — for example, with regard to their education, contribution to research, published articles, organization memberships, etc.

Entrepreneurs and innovators who meet the minimum threshold with regard to previous project values—or who have the approval of an accredited business incubator in the UAE—will be granted a five-year visa and may be eligible to upgrade this to an investor’s visa provided that they meet the additional requirements.

For executives, those who own internationally recognized companies, provided that they themselves have high academic achievement, professional experience, and position, will also be eligible for a five-year visa.

Five-year visas will now also be granted to outstanding students with a grade of at least 95 percent at the secondary school level and who meet certain requirements with regard to their university grade. The student’s family may also be entitled to have the visa extended to cover their residence in the UAE.

Finally, expatriates aged 55 or above will be eligible to secure a five-year retirement visa if they meet certain criteria. They will be required to either own property worth at least AED 2 million, have savings worth at least AED 1 million, or be in receipt of an active income of more than AED 20,000 per month.


The visa changes are intended to maintain the UAE’s position as an optimal business environment and make the region more attractive to top talent. It remains to be seen how the new system will impact business in the UAE and how many people will be eligible to meet the criteria.

Written by Anna Marshall and Samir Kantaria of Al Tamimi & Co. and Roger James of Ogletree Deakins

© 2019 Al Tamimi & Co. and Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak and Stewart, P.C.