Last month the United Arab Emirates announced it would ease restrictions on foreign business ownership and residency rights in a move to increase investment and attract fresh talent.
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The changes — expected to be implemented by the end of the year — will allow full foreign control of businesses outside of economic free zones and long-term residency visas of up to 10 years for skilled professionals and students.
Universities expect an influx of new talent once residency visas for students are extended from one to five years — and for academically “exceptional” students, as long as 10 years.
Cedwyn Fernandes, pro-vice chancellor of Middlesex University in Dubai, predicts their number of students to rise by at least 10% (from the current 3,200) in the first year of the new visa policy — a combination of more students coming from overseas and young expatriates deciding to stay in the country for higher education.
The new policy would mean students could complete a three or four-year course in just one visa process.
Maria Antonenko from Russia has just finished a four-year course at Middlesex Dubai. “Every year I had to apply,” she says. “It’s such a headache. You have to do the medical test every time … you also need to pay.” Visa renewal is not cheap, costing around AED 4,000 ($1,088) each year.
Antonenko’s visa expires in September, but she is determined to stay and work in Dubai. “Our results come out at the end of July,” she says, “and it’s difficult to apply to jobs without them … that gives me a month and a half. It’s scary, I don’t want to leave Dubai.”
“The employability options provided by an international dynamic city like Dubai are a major factor in students choosing Dubai as a study destination,” Fernandes explains. “Providing visas beyond the study period will provide a greater opportunity to find jobs after graduation.”