A visa programme designed to attract international investors and top global talent has been rolled out in Abu Dhabi.
The “Thrive in Abu Dhabi” initiative will offer 10-year visas and a path to citizenship to expat professionals, students and investors.
Among the eligible candidates are investors willing to contribute to the expansion of financial services and to the emirate’s sustainable development. The scheme is also looking to expats to invest in the local property market, encouraging them to make Abu Dhabi their “forever home”.
The move comes at a time when expat populations in GCC countries are falling. A report from rating agency S&P showed that population in the region fell by an average of 4% in 2020. The principle cause was an exodus of expats due to the pandemic and falling oil prices, according to S&P.
An additional factor is the drive among some Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, to reduce their expat population and promote more of its own population to senior positions. In Oman, the expat population fell by 12% in 2020.
The combination of workforce nationalisation and subdued non-oil sector is likely to result in a continued fall in foreigners in the region, states the S&P report.
“These changes could have repercussions for the regional economy and pose additional challenges to diversifying away from its heavy reliance on the hydrocarbon sector in the long run, if not met with economic and social reforms that foster human capital,” added S&P.
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