In a rare move to relax immigration rules, the United Arab Emirates announced a new visa for scientists last year. Now, a government official has revealed that the country has already handed out thousands of these “golden visas.”
People eligible for the visas include scientists, doctors, and investors. Experts say the policy is intended to boost research as the oil-rich Persian Gulf state seeks to diversify its finances by pursing a knowledge economy.
The new visas are valid for 10 years rather than the UAE’s usual 3 years. The government promises that the renewal process will be straightforward and quick.
Mohammad Al Marri, who heads the UAE’s General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners’ Affairs, disclosed at a public panel discussion that more than 2,100 people have so far received the new visa. “If you live in a society, and you don’t feel you belong, you cannot give back your best,” he said during the Feb. 5 event.
“If a faculty member is on a three-year visa, then their heart isn’t in it,” says Senthil Nathan, a former deputy vice chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology in Abu Dhabi and the managing director of Edu Alliance, a higher education consulting firm based in the UAE. “The government has understood the need to give expat professors more time.”