Expatriation to the United Arab Emirates, which visa to choose?

Expatriation to the United Arab Emirates, which visa to choose?

8 December 2022 Expat life

Did you know? There are more expatriates in the UAE than locals. Expatriates make up over 88% of the 9.890 million inhabitants of the 7 emirates that make up the nation. Mainly Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Filipinos and Egyptians, Western immigrants in the Persian Gulf country are estimated to number around 2.5 million. If you are planning an expatriation to the United Arab Emirates, find out about the different visas available.

Living in Dubai, a new Eldorado?

Since the end of 2020, the country has welcomed 100,000 expats. With low taxes (no income tax in certain areas), easy business start-ups, luxury shops, continuous dynamism, and breathtaking activities, many expatriates who had deserted the country during the health crisis are returning. To attract foreign workers, the Emirate is going all out and has been offering two new work visas since 3 October 2022: the Five-Year Green Visa and the Jobseeker Visa. Let’s take a look at what visas are available to expatriate to the United Arab Emirates.

NB: If you are about to leave your native land, we have put together an article with all our advice on how to be an expat in Dubai.

dubai expatriation

Expatriating to the UAE, which visa to choose?

  • Work Permit
  • Student Visa
  • Investors Visa
  • Retiree Visa
  • Family Visa
  • Digital Nomad Visa
dubai investors

Work permits to expatriate to the United Arab Emirates

There are two types of work permits to be able to reside in Dubai. First of all, let us clarify that all the information below comes from the Emirati government website.

The Work Visa

This is acquired when a foreign national is employed by a company in the country. This type of visa allows him/her to live and work legally in the UAE.


In this case, the individual’s employer will act as a sponsor and enable him/her to obtain the visa. The employer may be a private entity located on the mainland or in the free zone, or one for a government-owned organisation.

NB: Free zone companies facilitate the establishment and operation of offshore companies for investors. There are more than 40 of them, 30 of which are in Dubai. In these free zones, expatriates and foreign investors can have full ownership of the companies. The “Mainland” is located outside a free zone. These companies are onshore and their licences are issued by the Department of Economic Development (DED) or any related department in the other Emirates. These companies are allowed to do business without any restrictions in the local market and outside the UAE. The disadvantage is that a foreigner needs a local sponsor before he can start his company.

These visas are valid for:

  • 2 years for a Mainland company.
  • 3 years with a Free Zone company or government entity is 3 years.

Both visas can be renewed.

The Green Visa to expatriate to the United Arab Emirates

For highly skilled people

The Green Visa was introduced in September 2021 and offers “self-residency” to people who are highly skilled in their field without the need for a local sponsor. This includes: investors, entrepreneurs, business owners, students and high-level graduates.

For freelances

It allows self-employed/self-entrepreneurs based in the UAE and abroad to self-sponsor as well. With this visa, the expatriate in the UAE can hold different jobs at the same time in the country. Its allocation is restricted to certain fields such as artificial intelligence, blockchain as well as digital currencies.

The Student visa to discover Dubai

The student expatriation visa is valid for one year and can be renewed every year until the end of the studies. For your information, some students may apply for a 5-year student visa if they achieve a 95% grade in secondary school or a minimum GPA of 3.75 at university.

These visas are managed by the universities and schools.

Investor visas

dubai golden visa

The 10-Year Golden Visa

This is a type of 10-year renewable investment residence visa. The applicant must make public investments for at least 3 years of a certain amount in the UAE.  He/she must also have financial assets of AED 10 million.

To obtain it, one of the following conditions must be met:  

  • An investment in the UAE of AED 10m or more.
  • Own a company in the UAE with a capital of at least AED 10m
  • Be a partner in a UAE company with a share valued at a minimum of AED 10m
  • Invest in all the sectors mentioned in the previous points for a total amount of at least AED 10m (as 60% of the total investments must be in non-real estate sectors).

The 5-Year Golden Visa

To obtain this real estate investor visa valid for 5 years with automatic renewal, the investor who wants to expatriate to the UAE must acquire a property in the UAE, meeting the following conditions:

  • The gross value of the property must not be less than AED 5 million.
  • When investing, the amount used must not be a loan.
  • The property in question must be held for a period of 3 years.

UAE Company Investor Visa

Valid for 3 years, subject to renewal, this visa is acquired by foreigners who own their own company in the UAE or hold shares in a company. It is also available to expatriates seeking to set up their own business in the country.

United Arab Emirates Family Visa

To obtain a UAE family visa and sponsor a spouse, children or parents, the expatriate must meet these criteria:

  • pay a refundable amount of AED 3,000 per family member.
  • must be earning a salary of at least AED 4,000. This can also be AED 3,000 plus the monthly rent.

If the expatriate wants to sponsor his/her parents, the person’s monthly income must not be less than AED 20,000. In this case, both parents are sponsored; if one of them is deceased, his/her death certificate is required.
Depending on the type of expatriate’s visa, the duration of family visas depends.  They can be issued for a period of 1 to 3 years or in parallel with the sponsor’s visa. Renewal is on a case-by-case basis.

family visa dubai

Retirement in the United Arab Emirates

To retire in the UAE, the applicant must be at least 55 years of age and must also meet one of these conditions:

  • Have an investment in real estate worth AED 2 million (in this case, it is considered a type of investment visa).
  • Hold funds of AED 1 million or more.
  • The applicant must have a permanent income of at least AED 20,000 per month.
  • Applicant can combine ownership of property and savings in the UAE to the amount of AED 2 million.

This visa is valid for 5 years and can be renewed.

The Digital Nomad Visa

Do you want to work as a digital nomad, remotely?

To obtain the Digital Nomad visa in Dubai for a period of 1 year, you must meet certain conditions:

  • A passport valid for at least 6 months
  • Health insurance with valid coverage in the UAE.
  • For employees, you must present.
  • Proof of employment from your current employer with a contract of at least 1 year validity.
  • Proof of salary of at least $5,000/month. 
  • A pay slip for the last month
  • Bank statements for three consecutive months.
  • If you are a business owner, you must provide the following documents:
  • Proof of ownership of your business for one year or more.
  • Proof that your average monthly income is $5,000/month
  • Bank statements for three consecutive months.

This is not the first time we have mentioned digital nomads, notably in Cyprus for example. The digital nomad expat is a person who can work from anywhere with an internet connection.

If you want to expatriate to the UAE, read our guide to health insurance in Dubai.

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