As the implementation of the long-term UAE residency visas starts this year, expat doctors and students are looking at the opportunities that come with a 10-year or a five-year stay in the country.
For doctors, 10-year visas mean a more stable career and new research avenues. Dr Ahmad Sami, specialist orthopaedic surgeon at Medcare Hospital, Sharjah, said he would apply for the visa if he fulfils the criteria.
"It provides a stable environment for research," he said. "With the current two-year residency visa, most doctors do not think about conducting long-term research because they will not be able to see their patients after a couple of years."
Dr Sami said that because of the visa, he and doctors like him will be able to consider carrying out studies that require several years of work.
"I hope this option becomes available for many others in future," he added.
Dr Sejal Devendra Surti, specialist for laparoscopic surgery at Aster Hospital, Mankhool, said the idea offered a sense of security.
"Even for people who are thinking of coming to the UAE, this news has increased their confidence since acquiring a long-term visa means job security," she said.
Dr Surti added that many of them who are currently in the country would likely be eligible as they have been working here for over 10 years now. "This will bring in more talented people and create a positive environment," she said.
Thoughts of parents and students
Some UAE students have already begun inquiring about the procedures to apply for the students' visa.
Abdulla Asrab, a 24-year-old medical graduate, recently approached immigration authorities to ask if he was eligible for the five-year visa for outstanding students.
"When I was called earlier, I was told that the decision on the visa was not yet finalised. Later, I saw on social media that the government will now begin to issue these special category visas."
Asrab said: "I had 98.7 per cent marks in my secondary school and I got 91 per cent from the Medical School at the University of Sharjah. I got an 'excellent' grade with honours and distinction. I hope this would be enough to qualify for the visa."
The Syrian national was born in Dubai and has lived his entire life in the UAE. "My parents are both engineers, and my father works here as well," he added.
For Asrab, the new visa will remove the stress of renewing his residency visa every year. "It is good for us. The five-year visa will also greatly benefit my family as I can now sponsor them," he said.
Parents of top-performing students in the UAE welcome the visa programme, saying that it gives their children the advantage to explore opportunities in the country.
Indira Dharchaudhuri, a business owner from Dubai, is a mum to 14-year-old Pritvik Sinha DC, the world's youngest author in paleontology.
A Year 10 student of Dubai College, Pritvik is also the only world science scholar in the region.
His mum said: "Pritvik is an exceptional mathematician, and has already done some strong courses from Brown and Harvard. It would be great to give a long-term residential visa to exceptional students because these kids are contributing towards the progress of this country."
"We would definitely look into that option as Pritvik is doing many things. He is researching in astrophysics, nuclear waste disposal and several other subjects. In this case, the cost does play a factor because the more critical the research areas are, the more expensive the study. A residency visa will help him carry on his research," she added.
Another parent Sundara Gopal Krishnamoorthy, a Dubai-based Indian national, said: "My 15-year-old son Sundaresh Sundara Gopal is a student of JSS Private School in Al Safa. He is in Grade 10 and has always scored top marks throughout his school career.
"We want to thank the UAE Rulers for providing this opportunity to students like Sundaresh - for coming up with a flexible residential visa that allows him to focus on his field of study. Sundaresh was born and raised here, and feels that he has as much responsibility towards the UAE as he does to India."
The implementation of 100 per cent foreign ownership and 10-year residency visas for expats and investors will start this year, though exact dates are yet to be announced.
The new long-term visas of up to 10 years will be granted to entrepreneurs and specialists working in the fields of medicine, science and research. Outstanding students will also be eligible for a long-term visa as part of the changes, in order to encourage them to settle in the UAE following the completion of their education. Those with an average of at least 95 per cent in school and a grade point average of at least 3.75 on graduation from universities in the UAE and abroad will qualify for a five-year visa for themselves and their families, according to the earlier announcement.
The decision also includes provisions for granting a 10-year visa for specialised talent as well as creative individuals in culture and the arts. All categories are required to have a valid employment contract in the fields of priority for the UAE.
REQUIREMENTS AND QUALIFICATIONS
*To be accredited by the Emirates Scientists Council
*Holders of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Medal for Scientific Excellence.
Creative individuals in culture and the arts:
*Accredited by the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development
*Must obtain a patent of value added to UAE's economy with the approval of the Ministry of Economy
*Those who have exceptional talents that are documented by patents or scientific research published in world-class journals
*Owners of leading, well-known and internationally recognised companies
*Holders of high academic achievement, professional experience, and position (example, an engineer in a rare specialty with a university degree and working in a private company in the UAE).
Doctors and specialists:
*Requires at least two of the conditions mentioned below
1. Holder of a PhD degree from one of the top 500 universities in the world
2. Holder of an award or certificates of appreciation for the work in the applicant's jurisdiction
3. Contribution to a major scientific research related to the work of the applicant
4. Published articles or scientific books in distinguished publications in the field of work of the applicant
5. Membership in an organisation related to the work of the applicant, which requires excellent work to accept membership
6. A PhD degree in addition to 10-year professional experience in the applicant's field of work
7. Specialisation in areas of priority to the UAE (additional requirement for the doctor)
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