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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 13 November 2018

Mercy laws are a marker of a mature society

The landscape of the UAE is changing as reforms acknowledge difficult circumstances

Widows and divorcees will soon be able to apply for a one-year visa without a sponsor for themselves and their children
Widows and divorcees will soon be able to apply for a one-year visa without a sponsor for themselves and their children

When they arrived in the UAE, most never envisaged facing the future alone. And in the past, when a woman was widowed or divorced, she would find herself trapped in legal limbo with her visa status in question. But from tomorrow, women will no longer be at the mercy of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Visa changes proposed earlier this year for widows and divorcees will be implemented from tomorrow, giving them a year’s grace period to secure their circumstances. Students who reach adulthood will also be able to stay up to an additional two years after they graduate, giving them a window of opportunity to find a job. For these vulnerable segments of society, the reforms will come as a welcome reprieve, particularly for those facing challenging circumstances beyond their control. It also serves as a marker of a maturing and benevolent society, one which recognises that even those who plan their futures can find themselves compromised and confounded by the unexpected.

The landscape of the UAE is changing. Together with proposed retirement visas and the extension of residency visas to 10 years instead of the standard three, such reforms will play their part in transforming society, encouraging residents to stay longer and feel more secure in putting down roots, whether that is via employment or investing in homes or property. There are long-term implications as these changes come into effect, both for the economy and for the demographics of the UAE, both of which will see a greater scope of diversity, backgrounds and age ranges in those who choose to live here. That is the marker of a truly balanced, multicultural, cosmopolitan society, a standard the nation has long held proud and will continue to reflect.