UAE changes expat, foreign investment rules for growth

DUBAIThe United Arab Emirates (UAE) altered rules governing expatriate residency and foreign ownership of companies to stimulate investment, moves that could prove controversial in a country where foreigners outnumber citizens.

The changes were approved late on Sunday, UAE Prime Minister and Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Al Maktoum said on Twitter. The Cabinet backed 100% ownership of businesses by “global investors” and residency visas for investors for as long as 10 years, according to his tweet. The changes will take place by the end of this year.

In his tweet, he said visas for some doctors, engineers and their families would be for up to 10 years.

Like in most other Persian Gulf states, a majority of the UAE’s population of nine million consists of expatriate workers and families who are expected to leave once their employment ends. Unable to set roots in the country, many send earnings abroad. In 2017 alone, expatriates remitted 164.3 billion dirhams (RM180 billion), according to WAM.

A relaxing of residency rules would follow legislation in neighbouring Qatar last August that granted some foreigners the right to remain indefinitely. The decision was taken amid a crisis in relations between Qatar and a bloc of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia.

Seven emirates make up the UAE, whose capital is Abu Dhabi. — Bloomberg