Residence Visas for the Middle East – Signs the Freeze Has Begun to Thaw

Last month, we published an article in response to many news stories which had began to circulate regarding the changes in residence visas, and how this could potentially affect expats in the Middle East.

In this article

Last month, we published an article in response to many news stories which had began to circulate regarding the changes in residence visas, and how this could potentially affect expats in the Middle East.

On the surface, these news stories seemed to portend a steep decline in the availability of jobs for expats in many Middle Eastern countries. We, however, predicted that this wouldn’t be the case, based on our industry position and experience in the sector. This month we’re glad to see an upturn in the tone of these articles. Read why in this latest update.

The Saudi Arabian Green Card Scheme

In early May, the Saudi government announced plans to unveil a Green Card scheme for expatriates. They have 3 months in order to finalise the exact details of who will be able to apply for these, and what the costs of an application will be. Any successful expats who are issued the Green Card will be able to opt for a renewable, or even permanent residency status within Saudi Arabia.

Although this is being branded as a “Privilege Iqama”, it remains to be seen just how privileged an applicant would need to be in order to qualify. It is being aimed at highly-skilled individuals, as well as those who are able to invest in business within the Kingdom. This will in turn bolster the economy and available skill sets.

Those who do qualify will be able to take advantage of many benefits, such as a levy on expat taxes which are currently payable by all expats in Saudi, as well as the dependant tax. There will be more flexibility on who the permit holder can sponsor to join them within Saudi, obtain visit visas for family and hire personal staff. Business and travel will also become easier, with the ability own real estate, invest in companies and enjoy a smoother journey in and out of the Kingdom by using special arrival desks usually reserved for Saudi citizens.

However, holders of these permits will still be unable to take up positions within the private sector which are reserved for Saudi citizens. The previously announced Saudization regulations will still be enforced in these cases. Whatever the guidelines will be, it is certainly a step in the right direction and great news for expats.

Extended stays for potential UAE expats

With the largest expat community in the world, the UAE relies heavily on overseas talent. Whilst the country is keen to invest heavily in its own citizens, there is no obvious decline in its issuance of residence visas. Business is growing quickly in the region and over 8,000 new jobs were created in April this year alone.

This month, the UAE government has announced a new short-term visa scheme to aid expats who are wishing to either invest in or emigrate to the Emirates. There are 3 classes available, designed to allow multiple visits, extended stays and more freedom within the country whilst the visa holder explores their options and puts things into place for the move.

This is a game-changer for those wishing to experience life in the UAE. As part of the visa scheme, an Emirati ID will be issued to the individual, making their journeys to and from the country easier as well as allowing them to complete contracts and paperwork only permitted with a valid ID, such as opening bank accounts and signing rental leases.

There is no question that there is a clear intention to attract expats to the region with this landmark legislation. Processes such as finding a residence and setting up life in the UAE no longer needs to be rushed on arrival. There’s a real desire to ensure that relocation is successful and that real talent is retained.

Will this continue to be a positive for expats in the Middle East?

As we previously predicted, the jobs market in the Middle East continues to grow. As we handle documents on a daily basis for people making the move, as well as deal with many recruiters hiring for positions in the region, we notice any market changes quickly. This however certainly hasn’t been the case and with all of the changes being implemented to make things easier, we are confident that the market will only see growth and improvement going forwards.

Since Emiratization and Saudization were announced, there has been a real fear that this would result in an exodus of foreign workers from the UAE and Saudi Arabia. This hasn’t been the case and has only focused on filling the holes in the local employment markets while boosting opportunities for their own citizens. These changes are ancillary to the long-term success of the countries and their ability to attract foreign talent, allowing continued economic growth.

What processes are involved if I want to make the move?

If you’re moving overseas, you will likely need your documents legalised. Wherever your documents were issued, and wherever you’re planning to move to, we can help. Simply visit our site and request a personalised quotation based on your requirements.

You can also give us a call directly on +44 (0) 330 088 1142. send us a message via WhatsApp on mobile, use our live chat system or e-mail us at Our friendly team of specialists are on hand to answer all of your queries.

While you’re here, why not keep up to date with all the latest comings and goings by following us on social media?

Ashraf Vachhiat
Ashraf Vachhiat

Ashraf is the Marketing Technologist at Vital Consular, which means he handles all the technicalities involved in bringing this blog to life! He also enjoys creating in-depth articles around current affairs which impact the travel and relocation industry. In his free time, Ashraf relishes travelling as much as possible, and is always looking for quirky spots to take some great photos.

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