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Five things you should know about the new UAE visa laws

Earlier this year, the UAE cabinet announced major changes to the UAE visa system, which will result in simplified requirements and more benefits for visitors and residents. The Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Ports Security (ICP) has approved the rules and procedures of the New Visa Scheme, officially called the UAE Entry and Residence Scheme, featuring 10 types of visas.

Visitors and residents alike can benefit from the scheme, which is an implementation of Cabinet Resolution No. 65 concerning the executive regulation of the Federal Decree-Law No. 29 of 2021 concerning the entry and residence of foreigners. A quick overview of all the changes is provided below to make it easier to keep track of all the changes, which came into effect as of October 3, 2022.

Changes to the Golden Visa

The Golden Visa, a long-term visa issued for a period of 10 years, with the aim to attract foreign investment, highly skilled workers and retaining talents, has been updated as a part of the new Visa Scheme. The eligibility requirements of applicants has expanded to investors in real estate, owners of successful startups, graduates from one of the top 100 universities worldwide and more. In addition, Golden Visa holders can sponsor an unlimited number of support service laborers, and the duration of stay outside the UAE would not nullify the Golden Visa. It is also worth noting that the Golden Visa shall also be renewable upon expiry for a consecutive period. Additionally, individuals who receive the approval to obtain a Golden Visa are now entitled to an entry permit extending for a period of 6 months with multiple entries allowed throughout the duration.

Implementation of the Green Visa

Also included within the New Visa Scheme is the Green Visa - a 5-year residency visa aimed at self-employed individuals, freelancers, investors or partners in commercial entities, as well as highly skilled workers. The Green Visa allows its holder to reside in the UAE, as well as sponsor dependents and first-degree relatives (including unmarried sons until the age of 25) without the need for a sponsor or employer. Children of determination are granted a residence permit, regardless of their age. Moreover, the grace period after the residence visa expiry or cancellation in the UAE for expats has been extended from 30 days to 6 months.

Changes to employee's residency visas

Residence permits for employees in the UAE will now be issued for a maximum period of 2 years, rather than 3 years which was previously facilitated in many free zones across the country. This has already been announced by a number of free zones including DMCC, DDA, and DIFC, notifying entities that all visa applications, new and renewals alike, shall be converted to 2 years.

Changes to the Tourist Visa Duration

The New Visa Scheme has also amended the previous tourist visa rule, allowing individuals with a standard short-term tourist visa to remain in the UAE for 60 days, rather than the previous 30 days period. This remains subject to the visa application process and the approval of the ICP.

Entry Visa for Tourists without Sponsor Requirements

Additionally, a five-year visit visa for tourists has been included in the Scheme, and a sponsor is not required for this type of tourist visa, which will allow tourists to enter and re-enter the UAE and remain for a maximum period of 90 days, throughout the entire visa duration. Moreover, the stay may be extended, provided that it does not exceed a period of 180 days per year.

Furthermore, a job exploration visit visa has also been implemented, with the aim to attract young talents and skilled professionals seeking job opportunities in the UAE. The eligibility criteria is restricted to fresh graduates from one of the top 500 universities in the world, with a minimum educational level of a bachelor's degree or equivalent. Besides, a new business entry visa will allow investors and entrepreneurs to explore business opportunities in the UAE, without the need of a sponsor. Also falling under the "no sponsor" category are relatives and friends of UAE residents and citizens who are looking to visit the country.

An entry permit will also be granted for individuals having a temporary work mission or project-based business trips, provided they are sponsored by an employer. Similarly, visas will be issued for study and training purposes for individuals looking to attend training or educational courses or internships in the UAE. The study and training visas shall be sponsored by the UAE-based educational institutions or public and private entities licensed in the country.


Emirates, GDRFA sign biometric data agreement to expedite processing at Dubai airport

he agreement improves passenger traffic procedures for Emirates customers transferring to connecting flights as well as for those arriving in Dubai

Dubai airline Emirates is now helping passengers speed up their airport experience by consenting to the use of biometric data.

The carrier has signed an agreement with the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai (GDRFA), to improve passenger traffic procedures inside Dubai International Airport Terminal 3 for travellers transferring to connecting flights, as well as those who arriving in Dubai.

Passengers can experience ease through Terminal 3 check-in, lounges, boarding and immigration, by using biometric recognition technologies and the GDRFA biometric database to identify travellers at multiple points in the airport. Additionally, artificial intelligence (AI) systems recognise unique facial features and link to their passport for instant identity verification.

Emirates said that international passengers will be able to avail of the service in 2023 by providing official consent through the airline's app, at the self check-in kiosks, or in person at the check-in desks.

"Dubai is one of the world's most aspirational destinations, and 2022 has already seen more than 8 million tourists arrive to the city. We continue to support our key partners with best-in-class services as we strive for excellence, and innovation in positioning Dubai as the world's leading business hub and tourism destination," said Lieutenant-General Mohammed Al-Marri, Director General of GDRFA in Dubai.

"Emirates continually invests to improve customer experience and we thank the GDFRA for extending the bridges of cooperation, communication and coordination to add value to Emirates' services and allow our international passengers to Fly Better," added Adel Al Redha, Emirates' chief operating officer.

Furthermore, Emirates customers can use its app, check in online, drop off the luggage earlier at the airport or availing of the self check-in kiosks in the emirate.


UAE announces new family law for non-Muslim expatriates

The UAE has announced new laws for non-Muslim expatriates covering key family matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and child custody.

The federal-decree law on personal status will come into effect nationwide on February 1, 2023.

The new legislation will set down procedures for formalising marriage contracts before courts and finalising divorces, whether initiated by one or both parties.

"It organises the procedures for settling the financial claims after divorce, and the arrangement of joint custody for the children," a statement from the UAE Government Media Office said.

The new family law will also regulate procedures for inheritance, wills and proof of paternity.

The legal reforms are in line with the UAE's efforts to develop its legislative system, put the Emirates in step with international practices, and enhance its status as an attractive destination for talent from around the globe.

"The provisions of the decree-law apply to non-Muslim foreigners residing in the country unless someone adheres to the application of his country's law," the media statement added.

"Moreover, non-Muslim foreigners may agree to implement other legislation on family or personal status in force in the UAE instead of the provisions of this decree-law."

Law promotes equal rights

Dr Hasan Elhais from Al Rowaad Advocates in Dubai said the new law shall apply to all non-Muslims in the UAE, unless they insist on implementing the law of their native country.

"According to this law, women are granted equal rights in regards to providing witness testimony, inheritance, the right to file for divorce, and joint custody of the children until they are 18 years old. Subsequently, the children will have the right to choose between their parents," Dr Elhais said.

"This means that women's testimony in court will be equal to that of a man."

He said that in regards to custody, it is granted equally to both parents unless one parent submits a request to the court seeking to exclude the other based on the best interests of the child.

"In this case, both parents will be able to file requests to court which will then decide what is best for the child," the legal expert added.

He said civil marriage contracts are addressed by this law and must meet a set of conditions that include the need for spouses to be at least 21 years old, and for a declaration form to be completed in front of a judge.

To file for divorce under the new law, one spouse must inform the court of their desire to end their marriage, without having to justify, explain or blame the other spouse.

They can request a divorce without proving that any harm was done during their marriage.

The decree extends many of the family law reforms introduced in Abu Dhabi in November 2021 to the rest of the country.

Equal legal rights for men and women, joint custody and the expediting of divorce procedures were among the changes announced last year.

A dedicated family court for non-Muslims was opened in the capital in line with the legal reforms.

The court hears all cases related to marriage, custody, divorce, paternity, inheritance and personal status.

More than 1,000 Emirati couples took part in civil marriage ceremonies within the first six months of the court's opening.


UAE: New visa screening center opens at shopping mall

Ahead of the UAE's National Day, Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) has opened a new disease prevention and screening centre at Al Wahda Mall in the heart of the city.

The general public can now get their visa screening done while they go shopping or having fun with family or friends at malls.

"This is a new era of having visa screening centres in settings of a mall, which makes it accessible to the population compared to the previous concept of having stand-alone centres," said Dr Khadija Al Marashda, acting director, disease prevention and screening centre, Seha.

The network of Seha's disease prevention and screening centres include 12 stand-alone buildings and two facilities at shopping malls.

Earlier this month, a visa screening centre was opened at Mushrif Mall. There are also mobile vans for visa clinic screenings, which visit employees at their workplace. And plans are afoot to open more visa screening centres at other malls in the city.

"We have a vision to expand this concept in other malls as well. The idea is to make the services easily available to the public. We are adapting the concept of going to the clients rather than them coming to our centres," Dr Al Marashda said.


UAE visa update: Entry permit rules changed

Extensions for UAE entry permit rules changed by Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customers and Ports Security.

The UAE's Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customers and Ports Security has changed the way visitors can apply for entry permit extensions in the country.

According to reports in Arabic newspaper Emarat Al Youm visitors can now apply for visit extensions directly through the government website or smartphone application.


Saudi Arabia extends duration of stay for single-entry visit visas

Saudi Arabia will now allow people with single-entry visit visas to remain in the kingdom for up to three months, compared to a month in the past.

The Council of Ministers announced on Tuesday that it had also approved the extension of the duration of stay for transit visas to 96 hours without any fee, with a validity of three months.

A session of the Cabinet chaired by King Salman at Al Yamamah Palace approved the changes in the visa system.

The Cabinet decision will be applicable to the single-entry visit visas for all purposes.

Before the changes, single-entry family visit visas had a duration of stay of up to 30 days, while multiple-entry visas allowed the holder to remain in the kingdom for 90 days.

Last month, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah extended the Umrah visa, which was previously limited to 30 days, to 90 days. The ministry said pilgrims should have a valid entry permit, whether it is a travel or Umrah visa, to enter Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom had also recently updated its entry rules to make the country more accessible to visitors.

A decree signed by the country's Minister of Tourism in September will allow GCC residents to apply for e-visas through the dedicated online portal, www.visitsaudi.com/visa, and makes it easier for travellers from the UK, the US and the EU to enter Saudi Arabia.


Health insurance coverage mandatory for visit visa renewal

RIYADH - Saudi Arabia's Health Insurance Council has said that the payment of new health insurance premium is required for the renewal of visit visas.

"When requesting to extend the visit visa, a new insurance coverage for the extended period must be issued and to be linked to the website of the General Directorate of Passports (Jawazat)," the council said in a statement on its Twitter account.

Health insurance coverage can be obtained through licensed insurance companies in the Kingdom such as Tawuniya, Bupa, Medgulf, GulfUnion, Arabian Shield Cooperative Insurance, Arabia Cooperative Insurance, Al-Etihad Cooperative, Al-Sagr Cooperative Health Insurance, AXA Cooperative, Allied Cooperative Insurance Group (ACIG), Al- Rajhi Takaful, Walaa, and Saudi Enaya.

The Council of Ministers on Tuesday approved the extension of the period of stay for single entry visit visas to three months. The duration of the stay of transit visas has also been extended to 96 hours without any fee.

The Council had approved the changes in the structure of the visa system in this regard. The Cabinet decision will be applicable to the single entry of visit visas for all purposes.

According to the amendments in the visa structure, validity of the transit visa for visit will be three months and the duration of stay is 96 hours, free of charge. At present, single-entry family visit visas are valid for 30 days, while multiple-entry visas are valid for 90 days.


Second phase of public transport trial run soon in Eastern Province

DAMMAM - The Eastern Province Mayoralty announced the imminent launch of the second phase of the trial run of the public transport bus project for the metropolis of Dammam and the Qatif governorate.

The first phase began on Oct. 1 by the Saudi Public Transport Company (SAPTCO), the operator of the public transport service.

Mayor of the Eastern Province Eng. Fahd Al-Jubeir said that the second phase of the trial run will include receiving passengers on the second track - Northern Khobar; the seventh track - Dammam King Fahd Airport, and the eighth track - Dammam Second Industrial City. The stations and assembly points for passengers are permanently fixed for these routes.

Al-Jubeir said that a number of stations are ready for operation while the rest of the stations are under various phases of implementation along these tracks.

A mobile application has been prepared specifically for the project called Eastern Province Buses that can be downloaded from Android and Apple stores and through which the beneficiary can book tickets and know the bus routes, especially the nearest bus to the beneficiary's location.

The mayor said that the project includes eight tracks linking major centers of the metropolis of Dammam and Al-Qatif governorate, with a total length of more than 400 km. Currently, there are 77 standard buses, with 35 seats, and three doors, to cover all the routes.

Al-Jubeir said that the buses meet the requirements of comprehensive access for people with disabilities, in addition to all security and safety requirements.


Saudi launches e-service for government fee payment

The Ministry of Finance, represented by the National Center for Government Resources Systems (NCGR), launched the electronic payment service for government services fees from within and outside Saudi Arabia. The service will be implemented in cooperation with the Digital Government Authority (DGA).

This will be through a collection system for government agencies, which allows the beneficiary to complete the process of paying his service fees through the platform of each government agency that works for the service through bank payment methods such as Mada, Visa, MasterCard, and Sadad.

DGA Governor Eng. Ahmed Al-Suwaiyan said that this service comes within the framework of improving the customer experience and supporting the digital transformation process within the framework of building an integrated digital society through digital products of high quality and efficiency, which contributes to supporting the digital economy and raising the level of satisfaction of beneficiaries of digital government services provided to them.

Deputy Minister of Finance for Revenue Tariq Al-Shohaiban said that this service comes within NCGR's product system aimed at supporting government efforts to promote digital transformation in governmental financial transactions to achieve the goals of the Kingdom's Vision 2030 by providing the best services and solutions to the beneficiaries.

This will be in accordance with the best standards and features that contribute to saving time and effort in shortening the previous payment steps into a single step and at one place through the website page for government agencies, and through which payment can be made from inside or outside the Kingdom.

This service includes many government agencies, including the Ministry of Interior represented by the Absher platform, the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources, and other government agencies.

For his part, the CEO of NCGR Eng. Yousef Al-Harqan said that the centre seeks, through the launch of this service, to provide more efficient and effective digital government services in line with the strategic directions of the digital government in enhancing the efficiency of government performance, and raising the satisfaction rate of beneficiaries, which will contribute to raising the quality of life in the Kingdom.


Residency, visit visa curbs eyed; fees to increase

KUWAIT: Informed sources said it was agreed between members of the parliamentary interior and defense committee and Interior Minister Sheikh Talal Al-Khaled Al-Sabah to hold a meeting at the end of the month to discuss the new residency law, new mechanisms to grant visit visas and the rules of issuing residency permits.

Sources said Sheikh Talal told MPs he is ready to attend the meeting, adding the government's amendments to the new residency law are ready and will be sent to the National Assembly soon, where they will be discussed by the interior and defense committee.

The sources said the minister told MPs that restricting residencies is the title of the new law, and fees will be tripled. Amendments to visit visas will be issued in January along with doubling existing fees, with fewer categories able to obtain visas. Sheikh Talal said strict security campaigns will continue against residency violators, adding that isolating areas that are full of expatriates is highly possible to hunt for violators.

Sheikh Talal told MPs that the new residency law includes a five-year residency permit, as it was in the draft law that was sent to the previous Assembly, but this permit is not for investors, businesspeople or children of Kuwaiti women. But he said this item is left for MPs to discuss with the government in case they want to amend or cancel it.


Kuwait to issue dependent visas for children under 5

KUWAIT: The interior ministry is scheduled to start looking from Monday into applications for family visas for children under five, provided that both parents have valid residency permits in the country. Several months ago, Kuwait slapped a total ban on visas for expats until it had reviewed all the procedures. Authorities only allowed the issuance of commercial visas to facilitate business for local companies. The new move will be the first step to ease restrictions on the issuance of visas.

Under the new directive, the immigration department will look into applications by expat couples who want to bring their children under five to live with them in the country. The new decision stipulates that the parents of such children must have legal residency permits in the country and draw a monthly salary of at least KD 500. Parents of children under one year of age will be exempted from the salary condition. Those categories of professionals who are already exempted from the salary condition, like doctors, engineers, judges and others, will also be exempted.

Meanwhile, five MPs on Monday submitted a draft law proposing penalties for people who dress or look like the opposite sex. The bill, filed by five Islamist MPs, stipulates a jail term of up to one year and a fine of KD 1,000 for men and women who appear or behave like the opposite sex. The penalty is doubled in case of repetition. The bill also states that people connected to the violators, like teachers, trainers, managers, etc who do not inform authorities about them will receive the same sentence. Islamist MPs, who bagged close to 15 seats in the 50-member National Assembly, have vowed to focus on morality issues.

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