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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 17 July 2018

Changes to Abu Dhabi's residency regulations expected 'within weeks'

The changes will encourage expatriates to invest in the UAE capital and will increase their social stability

The changes to residency regulations will encourage expatriates to invest in Abu Dhabi. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
The changes to residency regulations will encourage expatriates to invest in Abu Dhabi. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

A series of amendments to Abu Dhabi’s residency regulations are being prepared by the emirate’s executive council and the UAE Cabinet.

The changes will encourage expatriates to invest in the capital and will increase their social stability, reported state news agency Wam. The amendments are expected within weeks.

While details of the changes have yet to be released, the announcement comes a month after Ahmad Bin Ghannam, acting executive director of international economic relations at Abu Dhabi’s Department of Economic Development, said the ministry was working on incentives to attract foreign investors that included changes to corporate ownership laws.

“What you can expect is further opening of ownership in the emirate of Abu Dhabi in co-ordination with the [UAE] Ministry of Economy,” he told the media during an event in Dubai.

The federal Ministry of Economy is working on a long-awaited UAE investment law expected to dramatically change the commercial landscape of the country, particularly in the non-oil sector, by allowing 100 per cent foreign equity ownership in certain sectors. The law was expected to be ratified in the first quarter of 2018.

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Under current laws any foreign company in Abu Dhabi must have an Emirati partner who owns 51 per cent of the shares, unless opening in the free zone.

Some of the expected changes include amendments to residency regulations for retirees, longer residency visas, new types of visas and longer student visas — which are currently issued one year at a time.

“The aim is to protect the local investor in a way that does not weaken the opportunities, efficiency and competitiveness of all categories of investors,” Wam said.

Ziad Salloum, a lawyer and partner at Salloum and partners, said opening up ownership to expatriates would benefit Abu Dhabi’s economy as a whole.

“There may be companies who might be concerned about coming into the country and finding a suitable partner to build their business.”

However, he said “there are a lot of firms who have been doing business in the UAE for decades and many ways to mitigate concerns. For example, they can agree with the Emirati on the percentage of shareholding each partner will have and agree in advance over how the company will be managed but that’s not to say that opening up the laws might not benefit the country as a whole, clearly the rulers see a significant benefit to this.”