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DUBAI - In the race among Gulf Countries to attract expats to create a thriving and differentiated economy, the capability to attract and retain talent will be the true differentiating factor. At the same time we know that boosting high-quality healthcare holds a leading role among the strategic objectives of countries such as the UAE and Saudi, both because of it's economic implications for the country and because it is a must-have to create attractive living conditions in the country. For these two reasons the UAE has recently announced that some professional categories, among which medical doctors, will benefit from a new Visa law entitling them to longer period visas.
Long-term visas will help attract the best specialist consultants and offer stability to medical professionals already working in the UAE. Doctors are among key workers who will now be offered visas of up to 10 years under new measures to retain the most in-demand professionals. The news has been widely welcomed in the healthcare industry. Currently, professional visas in the UAE have an average duration of three years and are mostly subject to employers' renewal of contract. This relatively short timeframe has been a determining factor for many professionals who have sometimes considered this as providing insufficient stability to make the move (often with families) to the UAE. Experts have said that this could be a key factor in giving physicians the peace of mind required to make the move, and to stay.
While this is excellent news, some uncertainty still remains as to how the new measures will be implemented. As of now, visa given to doctors in the UAE is an employment visa. This means that regardless of the duration of the visa, it is subject to expiry upon the end of the employment contract, and in a region with fluctuating economy (influenced by oil prices) we know that lots of people can loose their jobs during a downturn. On the other hand, should the new visa be a residency visa, this would allow professionals to live in the country regardless of the continuation of their contract, which would be a true game changer. While the nature of the new visa rules remain still unclear, we will have to wait until further details are relased. (PUBLICATION AUGUST 2018)