Live the Dream – Dubai Start Up Advice Series by Alpha Pro Partners
To be able to live and work in Dubai, you will need a specific permit or visa. Without a relevant visa you won’t be able to open bank accounts, get a driving licence or apply for a tenancy contract etc.
Although through a visit visa you maybe able to get a temporary mobile phone SIM card and even open non-resident bank account, in the long term it is more appropriate apply for a residency visa when doing business in Dubai rather than operating from a temporary visa. Also bear in mind that if you are on an employment visa and you also run a business, there may restriction on what you can do when running a side business.
In this guide, you will find plenty of information on which types of visas are open to you, and how you can apply for them.
Business visas and employee visas for UAE split into various types and categories. These are as follows:
An investor visa lasts for three years and will offer you temporary residency. This type of visa is recommended for foreign business people looking to invest in the UAE, or who wish to spend some time setting up their own business. You will need to deposit at least AED 10,000 into a UAE bank account to be able to trade and relocate to the UAE.
If you decide to work for a company or wish to be an “employee” of your business, then you can apply for an employment visa. Keep in mind that there are a number of additional steps required during this application. One example is the requirement of getting various documents legalised and attested in your home country and presenting it during the application process. Examples of documents can include certain education certificates. When applying for an employment visa, you are in essence being sponsored by the company applying for your visa, therefore they may be required to ensure that you follow certain rules and restrictions. Any breach in these rules may result in your visa being cancelled by them and therefore ensure that if you decide to get a visa through employment, that there is no restriction from your employers if you decided to run a side business.
Long term Visas
The UAE government announced sweeping changes to long-term visas for entrepreneurs and investors in May 2019. As of that date, would-be residents became entitled to 5 year, 10 year and permanent stay visas, all of which are designed to help encourage long-term residency and inspire investors. The 10 year scheme was launched earlier in January of the same year.
Two of the first business people to benefit from the new scheme included Khushi Khatwani (Khushi Group, Al Nisr Cinema Film) and Vasu Shroff (Regal Group). Both Indian entrepreneurs claimed 10-year visas for their long-term contribution to the UAE.
A 5-year visa is a long-term residency permit you can obtain if you intend to stay in the country for an extended time. Unlike some other types of visas, you may be able to claim a 5-year stay without the need of a sponsor. If you are an entrepreneur overseeing a project worth more than AED 500,000; for example, there will be minimal paperwork. The same applies if you have invested in property worth at least AED 5,000,000. Fees for the 5 year visa will cost only AED 650.
Ten-year visa types, as with the above, may be subject to you obtaining a sponsor. A sponsor is someone who will support your application so that you can apply to live and work here. Are you publicly investing more than AED 10,000,000, or are you specialised as a doctor, scientist, inventor or creative talent? You may also be able to apply and receive a visa without need for sponsorship. Fees for the 10 year visa will cost only AED 1,150.
Permanent Residency or ‘Gold Card’ Visas
As with the above, these types of visas will enable you to stay in the UAE permanently. It is often referred to as a ‘gold card’ in some cases. These are ideal if your business is set to be permanently based on the UAE and/or you want to settle with your family permanently. When this was announced, the UAE identified 6,800 expats from over 70 countries with a combined investment of AED 100 billion. Eligible persons include investors, entrepreneurs, specialised talents, researchers and outstanding students.
Tourist visas are required if you are visiting UAE for certain nationalities. If you are not eligible for visa-free travel, or if you cannot apply for a visa after arriving, you will need to obtain a tourist permit. They can be valid for either 30 or 90 days. To apply, you must contact a UAE hotel, airline or touring company and they will apply on your behalf for a fee.
If you wish to study in the UAE or have children or relatives who wish to study in the UAE, you can also apply for a student visa. However, you must have been accepted by a UAE university first. Be sure to provide passport data, recent photographs and proof of your funding. You are also required to fill out a form supplied by the institution which has offered you a place.
Dependent Visas for Spouses and Children
Dependent visas, or family visas, can be offered to spouses and children of people with resident visas in the UAE. Residents may be able to sponsor their spouses, children and other relatives to stay in the UAE. Thanks to changes in the law, you can now sponsor your family to stay with you in the UAE regardless of your profession, however you will need to have a minimum wage requirement.
Visa deposits for overseas workers have changed dramatically in the UAE. Previously, you were required to pay a deposit of at least AED 3,000 per employee. Now, however, a yearly scheme, covered by insurance means you will pay a nominal insurance fee per employee of AED 60. These changes were made to help simplify the work application and funding process for employees and employers alike.
General Documentation You May Need
To apply for any visas or long-stay in the UAE, you will need to provide specific documentation and information. While the documents you need may vary depending on the visa you apply for; there are common documentation expected of you when you apply for most visas. These can and often will include:
- A valid passport (for at least six months)
- A round-trip airline ticket
- Proof of birth and nationality
- Proof of marital status (e.g. a marriage certificate)
- Proof of education, or evidence of acceptance to a UAE college or university
- Signed confirmation of a job offer from a UAE employer
- Proof of investments in UAE
- Proof of health insurance (required for ID applications and employment visas)
- Proof of fingerprints and biometrics (required for ID application; supplied by you at a Registration Centre in UAE)
- Full-colour photographs of applicants (passport-sized)
- Full payment for visas / IDs applied for
- Proof of approval from a relevant bank or financial institution (required for investor visas, for example)
- You may also need details and documents from a sponsor
Note that some of the documents stated above may originate from your home country and therefore may need to be legalised and attested in your home country first. Always keep plenty of photocopies of your documents as well as passport sized photos.
To apply for an Emirates ID card, you must complete an online application and clear fees upfront. You must then attend a Registration Centre in UAE to confirm your documents and set your biometrics.
This article is written in general terms and therefore cannot be relied on to cover specific situations; application of the principles set out will depend upon the particular circumstances involved and we recommend that you obtain professional advice before acting or refraining from acting on any of its contents.