Is Dubai still a paradise during the pandemic?



With a remote work visa, year-round sunshine, a 5-star lifestyle and low taxation, Dubai is considered to be the ideal destination for many expats in Covid-19 pandemic.

As global economic and tourism hubs remain largely closed to the public, Dubai is making it easier for international travelers to enter than ever before.

 This lavish city, as well as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in general, for many years it loosened up its once very strict immigration and tourist visa regulations. When the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, the changes are promoted more strongly.

Dubai is still a paradise during the pandemicDubai is still a paradise during the pandemic / ph: pexels

 Last month, Dubai announced a remote work visa program, available across the UAE, similar to the one that was announced in Dubai in October 2020, aimed at attracting digital nomads around the globe in the midst of  "work from home" scene becomes more popular and permanent.

 Visas being marketed are an opportunity for remote workers to take advantage of Dubai's low taxes as well as year-round sunshine and 5-star lifestyles.

The move is a bold move in response to the mass migration wave of foreigners out of the UAE, where foreign workers are believed to make up about 90% of the 10 million population.

 Along with the announcement of remote visas across the UAE, the application of multiple tourist visas for all nationalities is also announced.

Accordingly, the 5-year visa allows tourists to enter multiple times and stay for 90 days per visit, which can be extended for another 90 days.

This is the latest content in a series of initiatives that Dubai launched recently to strive to strengthen itself as a long-term destination for expats.

 Previously, people could not move to Dubai to live without a job offer from an UAE-based employer, with a 2-year extendable residency visa and health insurance.

 Permanent options, such as residency or retirement, are not available to foreigners.

 However, the first seeds for permanent residency were sown in 2018, when the 5-year retirement visa was first introduced.

 In 2019, the emirate introduced a "golden visa", which allows famous investors and entrepreneurs to apply for a 5 or 10 year visa.  It was expanded to more disciplines, such as doctors and engineers, in November 2020.

In January 2021, the UAE decided to grant citizenship to select foreigners, becoming the first Arab country to formally grant citizenship to foreigners in order to bring greater benefits to the economy.

It is reported that around 1,700 remote work visa applications have been received since October 2020.  Most have been accepted and offered.

 In January, 16,000 foreigners chose to stay in the UAE after Dubai announced an one-month free extension of all tourist visas in December 2020 due to the global shutdown.

It is hoped that many of these will "transform into a full-time remote workgroup in the coming weeks."

The UAE is currently one of the countries with the fastest rates of Covid-19 vaccination in the world.  The government says more than half of the eligible population has been vaccinated.

 With more digital nomads applying for remote work visas in Dubai, the emirate's relative lifestyle, weather, and affordability compared to other international hubs like Singapore or Hong Kong were the main reasons for them to choose to move here. 

 However, while the remote work visa program is being touted as a shortcut to earning tax-free wages, the reality is that applicants will likely still be taxed in their home country.

 The problem of double taxation depends on the tax agreements between each country. Nearly 120 countries have reciprocal taxation agreements with the UAE to ensure individuals and businesses are only taxed once.

In addition, for the remote work program, a person must earn a minimum of 5,000 USD / month to sign up.  The cost is US $287 / year, plus valid UAE health insurance and processing fee per individual.

 For the retirement visa, the applicant must be 55 years of age or older, possess a valid UAE health insurance and meet one of the 3 requirements: have a monthly income of 20,000 Dh (approximately 5,500 USD);  1 million Dh to save cash;  owns real estate in Dubai worth 2 million Dh.

It is said there appears to be a "separation between visa sponsorship and employment". In order to attract and retain outstanding talent, the UAE's immigration policy needs to make the right choices.

 In the future, it is expected that it is possible to come up with other policies that provide a “balanced employment relationship between the foreign worker and the employer, rather than the previous funding-based approach.

 The new remote work visa program would enhance Dubai's reputation as a tourist hub, allowing the city to be known as a "remote worker's destination".

Is Dubai still a paradise during the pandemic?

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