Every year, the UAE government sets the benchmark by introducing innovative and unique laws and reforms to ensure that the country maintains the lead.
But 2022 has been the most exciting year for both Emiratis and expatriates as the government introduced several historic reforms.
These measures altered the course of the country, bringing new regulations that not only brought positive changes to the lives of the UAE residents but also made the country even more attractive for foreign investments.
Starting from a change in the official weekend at the beginning of the year to a new long-term visa and major labour reforms, these new initiatives have been unprecedented.
Below are the four major initiatives announced this year that we explore on the occasion of the UAE National Day:
Longer weekend, a shorter workweek
Starting January 1, 2022, the UAE reduced the workweek and also changed the weekend for the public sector. The workweek was shifted from Monday to Thursday from January 2022, with Friday being a half day. Working hours for government employees were from 7:30am to 3:30pm on Monday through Thursday, and until 12pm on Fridays. However, Sharjah transitioned into a four-day workweek from January 1 with Friday, Saturday and Sunday forming the new weekend.
The UAE’s Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) made it mandatory for firms with 50 or more employees to have two per cent of the company’s skilled staff must be Emiratis. This must increase by 2 per cent every year, to reach 10 per cent by 2026. In case of failure to achieve the target, a monthly fine of Dh6,000 will be levied from January 2023 for every Emirati who has not been hired. This works out to Dh72,000 annually. The fine will be increased by Dh1,000 on an annual basis. The amount of fine increases for the bigger entities with 100 or more employees.
New expanded visas
A significantly expanded Golden Visa scheme, the new five-year Green residency, a multiple-entry tourist visa and job hunting entry permits are among the several residency reforms that were introduced this year. These are the largest entry and residency reforms adopted in the UAE.
Under this initiative, investors, and entrepreneurs can apply for a business visa without requiring a sponsor or a host. Also, the new five-year tourist visa doesn’t require a sponsor and allows the visa holder to stay in the country for 90 days and it can be extended for another 90 days.
A temporary work visa was introduced for foreign workers for probation testing or project-based work.
- Visa for study/training: This visa was aimed at people or students who want to attend training, study courses and internship programmes. This visa can be sponsored by both public and private sector educational and research institutes.
- Family visa: Previously, parents could sponsor their children under 18 years only. Now male children can be sponsored till the age of 25. Disabled children also get a special permit, and unmarried daughters can be sponsored for an indefinite time.
- Job visa: This was introduced for people who are scouting for better opportunities in the UAE. This visa does not require a sponsor or a host and it will be granted to bachelor's degree holders or its equivalent, fresh graduates of the best 500 universities in the world as well as those classified in the first, second or third skill levels as per the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation.
- Green visa: This was introduced for skilled workers, self-employers, freelancers etc. the five-year visa allows holders to bring their families without a sponsor or employer. Other requirements include a Bachelor's degree or equivalent and a minimum salary of Dh15,000.
- Golden Visas: The UAE has announced a 10-year Golden Visa for a wide range of professionals and investors. This includes property investors for investing Dh2m in real estate as well as for scientists, skilled workers, exceptional students, exceptionally-talented artists and entrepreneurs.
The UAE Government has removed the cap of three years on fixed-term employment contracts and allows the employer and employee to agree to whatever length of term they wish.
Starting from October, the validity of free zone visas issued in the UAE has been reduced from three years to two.
The grace period to exit the UAE after a residency visa cancellation has been increased from 30 days to between 60 and 180 days in most cases, depending on the category of the visa.
Starting from February 2022, employees can opt for part-time work besides their main job under the new Labour Law, without having to seek their employer’s permission. All they need is a temporary work permit and ensuring they do not work over 144 hours every three weeks to avoid burnout and ensure wellbeing.
Employees can also switch jobs easily as the new law prohibits employers from withholding employees' official documents and forcing them to leave the country after the end of the work relationship. Instead, employees will be allowed to stay in the country and move to another job. Employers shall also bear all recruitment costs, without deducting anything directly or indirectly from the employee.