UAE Swings Focus Toward Incentivizing Remote Workers, Boosting Economy

Due to the global onslaught of the Coronavirus pandemic, economies of every shape, size, and potential sector have seen a blow to their overall numbers. With more than 135 million globally confirmed COVID-19 cases and counting, it should be no surprise that many countries have turned to remote work to maintain steady operations during these trying times.

The United Arab Emirates has turned its focus toward promoting more remote workers within the region through federal cabinets, legislation, and advanced and accessible remote worker visas. Through its recent adoption of remote work visas, the UAE Cabinet, which includes His Highness Sheikh Saud of Ras Al-Khaimah, will endeavor to fundamentally reshape the post-COVID world in the region.

Let’s take a longer look at how the UAE will look to remote workers even in a post-COVID world.

Remote Workers: Visa Development by UAE Cabinet

For a region that is beholden to tourism, the COVID-19 pandemic and its corresponding fallout have been staggering, to say the least. Since 2013, the UAE has been one of the leading tourist destinations in the entire region. Specific emirates like Ras Al-Khaimah, lacking natural oil reserves, would create their economy around the tourism sector. When travel stopped completely due to COVID-19, so too did these primary driving economic forces.

With vaccinations on the horizon and new vaccinated flying options available, it appears that the United Arab Emirates is once again attempting to open its doors to normalcy again. This mission would begin under the guidance of the United Arab Emirates Cabinet deciding to implement a system to provide professionals residing in the Gulf State to work remotely for companies abroad.

Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, took to Twitter to unveil the new worker visa, adding that the cabinet would be approving multi-entry visas for all nationalities. The VP said of his decision, “We are working with clear objectives to boost our economic status (…)”

Despite clear reasons for a depressed market, the UAE’s real estate and retail sectors managed to stay relatively strong even during the height of the pandemic. Looking at the realty market, places like Dubai are priming their market with foreign workers to support the growing demand in the surging markets there. Conservative estimates have since concluded that the UAE could watch its retail sector grow over 13% in the coming year.

Becoming a Global Destination

According to the most recently released numbers, the United Arab Emirates hosts the fourth largest economy in the entirety of the Middle East, following behind only Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran. Home to a diverse array of economic sectors, the UAE hasn’t just become one of the biggest global destinations in the world by accident. In fact, coupled with this burgeoning remote worker program, places like Dubai and Ras Al-Khaimah will seek to establish themselves as long-term destinations for expats, entrepreneurs, and global brands.

The path to the UAE’s present placement within the Middle East’s economic hierarchy was carved out beginning in 2018 when a five-year retirement visa was first introduced to the region. A year later, the United Arab Emirates would adopt both 10-year and 5-Year Visas, predictably serving professionals like doctors and engineers first. The biggest news, however, would come in 2021 as the UAE opened up Emirati citizenship to the expats that had been turning to the region in droves.

We can look back to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when the UAE and Dubai were offering one-month extensions on tourist visas at the beginning of December 2019. The reaction from the expats was powerful, resulting in many of the applicants converting into full-time workers rather than opting to depart from the region. Issam Kazim is the Chief Executive of the Dubai Tourism Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, also known as DCTM. Kazim said of Dubai’s decision to open up even more visas due to the pandemic, “(It) has only strengthened the perception of the city with regards to our proposition.”

Further bolstering the UAE’s dead-set return to normalcy has been its massively effective vaccination efforts. According to reports published by CNN, the UAE is one of the ‘fastest’ countries to implement vaccination drives leading to more than half of its population attaining vaccination while comparable countries lag elsewhere on the planet.

Individuals interested in pursuing a new remote visa must apply with proof of an offer from a UAE-based business as well as a minimum income of $5,000 per month. Out of pocket expenses for the new visa sits at $287 per person, per year.