UAE to relax residency visa laws, allow 100 pc foreign ownership by year end

The United Arab Emirates cabinet approved steps on Sunday that would allow for 100 per cent ownership of UAE-based businesses by foreign investors by the year-end, the state news agency WAM said.

The decision is part of a wider change to the system that would grant residency visas of up to 10 years to investors and specialists in scientific, technical, medical and research fields, the agency said.

The cabinet meeting was chaired by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai. He directed the economy minister to implement the resolution and submit a study following up its impact in the third quarter of this year, WAM said.

At present, foreigners generally cannot own more than 49 per cent of any UAE firm unless it is incorporated in a special “free zone”.

Under current laws, foreign companies must have an Emirati owning 51 per cent of the shares, unless the company operates in a free zone. Major brands Apple and Tesla are believed to be exceptions to the rule.

The new regulations also include visas for students studying in the country for five years and a 10-year residency for exceptional students.

Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of the Emirate of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum affirmed that the UAE will remain a global incubator for exceptional talents and a permanent destination for international investors.

“The UAE has been open, governed by tolerance and contributed to by all who live on its land. Our open environment, tolerant values, infrastructure and flexible legislation offer the best opportunities to attract international investment and exceptional talent in the UAE,” he said.

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