Traveling to Dubai during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go


(CNN) — As worldwide company and travel hubs keep on being mainly closed off to the masses, Dubai is creating entry simpler than ever for worldwide visitors.

The glitzy town, as very well as the United Arab Emirates as a total, has for several years been opening up its when-stringent residency and vacationer visa principles, but has accelerated its modifications in the confront of the coronavirus pandemic.

Past thirty day period, the region declared a UAE-broad distant working visa plan (identical to one particular announced in Dubai in October), in a bid to entice a rising worldwide pool of electronic nomads as short term operating-from-household cases come to be much more long-lasting.

The visa is staying promoted as a opportunity for distant personnel to acquire edge of the country’s minimal taxes — the UAE does not impose earnings tax on its residents — as effectively as its yr-round sunshine and 5-star way of living.

The move is a bold a person in the deal with of a mass exodus of expats leaving the UAE, wherever foreign workers reportedly make up about 90% of a 10-million powerful inhabitants. But Dubai is also tapping into a developing international craze other tourist locations this sort of as Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bermuda, Estonia, Ga and Mauritius have unveiled identical distant working visas.

Alongside the UAE-huge distant visa announcement, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, announced the adoption of multi-entry vacationer visas for all nationalities. The 5-calendar year visa enables visitors to enter a number of periods and continue being in the country for 90 days on each go to, which can be prolonged for yet another 90 days.

Prolonged-phrase desired destination for expats

Dubai sunbathers pictured in July 2020.

KARIM SAHIB/AFP by way of Getty Images

It really is the most up-to-date in a string of initiatives Dubai has lately launched to consider to cement itself as a lengthy-time period desired destination for expats.

Earlier, individuals could not go to Dubai without a work supply from a UAE-based mostly employer, with workplaces responsible for giving two-calendar year renewable residence visas and health-related insurance policies. Lasting solutions, this sort of as residency or retirement, have been not out there to expats.

But the 1st seeds for long-lasting residency have been sown in 2018, when a 5-year retirement visa was launched for the initial time.

In 2019, the nation launched “golden visas.” This intended large-profile buyers and businesspeople could use for 10-calendar year and five-12 months visas. It was prolonged to a lot more sectors, this kind of as medical professionals and engineers, in November 2020.

And in January this yr, potentially the most important announcement of all, the govt opened up Emirati citizenship to expats.

Issam Kazim, chief govt of Dubai’s Tourism Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Promoting (DCTM), told CNN in late March that close to 1,700 applications for the distant functioning visa had been received since October. “Most” of these programs have been approved and issued, he states.

In January, Kazim told CNN a further more 16,000 foreigners — lots of of them foreign employees — had opted to continue to be on in the UAE right after Dubai introduced a complimentary 1-thirty day period extension to all vacationer visas in December because of to the onset of international lockdowns. Kazim states he anticipated a lot of of these to “transform into total-time-doing the job virtual applicants in the weeks ahead.”

“Dubai’s reaction to this pandemic has only strengthened the notion of the metropolis with regards to our proposition, and this is translating into potent uptake of people choosing Dubai as a long term or semi-permanent base,” Kazim says.

‘One of my favorite cities’

Pictured in February 2021, a Dubai health worker prepares an injection of the OxfordAstraZeneca vaccine.

Pictured in February 2021, a Dubai overall health employee prepares an injection of the OxfordAstraZeneca vaccine.

KARIM SAHIB/AFP by way of Getty Illustrations or photos

CNN spoke to a number of digital nomads who have utilized for the remote doing the job visa, who cited Dubai’s way of living, its weather conditions and its relative affordability in comparison to other expat centers this kind of as Singapore or Hong Kong as prime reasons to relocate.

Peter Walsh, co-founder of an education business in Canada, says he used for the visa as he’d lived in Saudi Arabia as a teen and Dubai stays “a person of my beloved metropolitan areas.”

He prepared on functioning remotely from the UAE for up to a calendar year to start with, and probably extending right after that.

“I was initially arranging to consider out the relatives for an extended split. Possibly as a reward, get vaccinations whilst we are there,” Walsh says.

“It can be been a hard yr with Covid so acquiring a crack was my main determination.”

Walsh applied for the visa on February 16 and was issued an entry allow on March 2. From there, he has 60 times to enter Dubai. Nevertheless, with Canada introducing a 14-working day quarantine for people returning from abroad, and with comparatively superior fees for sponsoring families in the UAE, he’s not managed to make it to Dubai yet.

The tax query

For entrepreneur Deeya Khemlani, swapping 4 p.m. winter sunsets in London for year-round sunshine in Dubai is adequate to offer her on the plan.

Khemlani, just one of the founders of vogue label Izaak Azanei, has been frequenting Dubai for several years for organization, and is fired up at the prospect of splitting her time additional permanently among the two.

“The metropolis definitely delivers the finest of almost everything and it really is a wonderful locale geographically for me to get to the countries I require to be for get the job done,” Khemlani states.

Just before the British isles journey corridor shut, Khemlani experienced been traveling “again and forth” amongst London and Dubai rather generally, so experienced not finalized her application nevertheless. Nonetheless, she intends to in the in the vicinity of foreseeable future.

“Rather actually, through the winter months, Dubai is a welcome escape,” she suggests.

But although the system is becoming marketed as a shortcut to a tax-free salary, the truth is that candidates will possibly even now be taxed in their home country.

David Daly, spouse at UAE-primarily based Gulf Tax Accounting Team, states residents of other nations around the world wanting to make a tax-no cost income would need to declare themselves a non-resident of their house place very first, which just isn’t feasible although holding a total-time position there.

Face coverings are mandatory in all public places in Dubai.

Confront coverings are mandatory in all community sites in Dubai.

GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP by way of Getty Photos

The matter of double taxation then is dependent on tax agreements among every single region. Almost 120 international locations have reciprocal taxation agreements with the UAE, to make certain individuals and corporations are only taxed when.

Conscious decoupling

Tlisted here are also some caveats to consider into thought.

For the distant performing scheme, you should be earning a minimum of $5,000 per thirty day period to implement. It charges $287 per calendar year, additionally clinical insurance with valid UAE include and a processing payment for each man or woman.

For a retirement visa, applicants have to be 55 or more mature, have valid UAE well being coverage and fulfill just one of these 3 prerequisites: earn a month to month income of Dh20,000 (all around $5,500) have Dh1 million in cash price savings or have residence in Dubai well worth Dh2 million.

Murtaza Khan, companion at immigration company Fragomen, suggests there seems to be a “decoupling of visa sponsorship and employment.”

“In purchase to entice and retain the best and brightest expertise, the country’s immigration plan requirements to offer suitable solutions,” he states.

Hunting forward, he thinks there could be further insurance policies that deliver a “balanced employment marriage concerning overseas workers and businesses, relatively than the historic sponsorship-led strategy.”

The new distant operating visas will include to Dubai’s popularity as a tourist hub, he says, allowing it to grow to be recognised as a “digital personnel location” also.



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