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GCC: Employment and Immigration law update October 2019

Recent changes demonstrate the GCC’s priority to improve its existing employment and immigration frameworks, in a bid to appeal to laborer’s, employers and even non-residents. In this alert, we highlight the latest employment and immigration developments across the GCC.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

The Emirate of Dubai has officially launched its first-ever long-term cultural visas for artists, authors and innovators effective as of 1st October 2019 as part of the Government’s new drive to unify the Emirates’ cultural offerings

The intention behind the move is to drive forward a new direction for Dubai’s mission in becoming a global cultural hub. The government will also be establishing seven “Schools of Life” cultural centers to equip the youth of Dubai with life skills in art, innovation and creativity.

A new free zone will also be established in Al Qouz to support the facilitation of the cultural visas. Further details about the long-term cultural visa, including its duration, conditions and complete eligibility criteria are yet to be confirmed.

It is important to be mindful of the fact that whilst opening the doors to creative professionals, the UAE does have in place specific licensing requirements for ‘social media influencers’ (including artists and public figures) who promote brands, products and services through their social media platforms. A license from the National Media Council is mandated for such activities.

Additionally, the UAE has also announced the launch of the region’s first ‘Virtual Company License’ which will allow investors worldwide to conduct business in Dubai digitally without the need for acquiring a residency visa

The joint initiative by Dubai Economy, Dubai International Financial Centre, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, Smart Dubai and the Supreme Legislation Committee focuses on three vital sectors: technology, services and creative industries.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)

Key developments in the KSA include the following:

  • Effective 27 September 2019, the KSA has formally launched its much-anticipated tourism visa, welcoming international visitors from across the world to visit the KSA as part of a new visa scheme to boost tourism and appeal to foreign investors.

  • Effective 14 September 2019, the KSA implemented a standardization of validity periods of visitor visas, including commercial and work visit visas, and a unified visa fee. This forms part of a wider strategy to standardize and streamline the immigration system for employers in the KSA.

  • The government has announced a fee-waiver on expats working in the industrial sector as they aim to develop the sector economically over the next five years.


Key developments in Oman include the following:

  • The Omani authorities have advised anyone travelling to Oman by road to apply for an e-visa in advance, instead of waiting for a visa-on-arrival.

  • The Royal Oman Police (ROP) has started working on an initiative to register private companies in the e-Visa system, which will soon allow employers to obtain work visas electronically, as part of its aim to develop its technology to expand the scope of electronic visas in the country.


A key development in Bahrain has been the introduction of the Wages Protection System (“WPS”).

  • Bahrain’s implementation of the WPS was subject to several delays but the Labour Market and Regulatory Authority (the “LMRA”) announced that the WPS will be implemented in Bahrain as of September 2019

  • the WPS regime in Bahrain will operate on a phased basis, targeting large, medium and small-sized companies, followed by domestic workers (employer sizes have not been formally defined).

Composed by Sheher Bano

Research from: Khaleej news,, The National, The Gulf News .

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