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Dubai: Plans to overhaul visa laws, allowing skilled workers to get 10-year residency permits, hinge on whether or not the visa will need to be sponsored by an employer, as is currently the case, or not, an employment expert has said.

On Sunday, the UAE cabinet announced that in the third quarter of 2018, it would launch a new system of entry visas for investors and skilled professionals, providing them with a long-term visa, lasting up to 10 years.

State-owned news agency WAM said the move was intended to lure top talent from around the world and boost foreign investment in the UAE.

Samir Kantaria, a partner and head of employment and incentives at law firm Al Tamimi & Company, told Gulf News on Monday that given the limited information provided by the initial announcement, it would appear that not all professionals will be eligible for the 10-year residency visa.

“From the information coming out it appears that the visa would be on offer to professional individuals working in medicine, science and engineering fields, so it remains to be seen if there is further scope…for other professional categories to be included,” Kantaria said.

However, a central issue remains unaddressed, according to the lawyer.

“The key question is whether the visa will need to be sponsored by an employer, as is current practice, or if the visa will operate independently from the employer, allowing the holder to move jobs freely without the need to cancel visas when changing jobs,” he said.

“If the latter is the adopted approach, this would be a major shift in the residency sponsorship policy of the UAE government which has to date, largely, linked residency with employment.”

By the end of the year, the government is expected to allow 100 per cent foreign ownership of local companies. Under current laws, companies outside of a freezone must have an Emirati partner who owns 51 per cent of the shares.