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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

In the battle to attract the best doctors to UAE, new residency visa marks a valuable tool

Changes will help growing health industry retain the most skilled and in demand medical professionals

Illegal residents in the UAE will be able to leave the country without a fine or entry ban under a three-month amnesty that will start on August 1. Andrew Parsons / The National
Illegal residents in the UAE will be able to leave the country without a fine or entry ban under a three-month amnesty that will start on August 1. Andrew Parsons / The National

Long-term visas will help attract the best specialist consultants and offer stability to other medical professionals already working in the UAE, experts have said.

Doctors are among key workers who will now be offered visas of up to 10 years under new measures to retain the most in-demand professionals.

The news has been widely welcomed in the healthcare industry, although some have said clarity is required on the terms of the new decade long visa announced by the cabinet on Sunday.

“The news is welcome and will engage people of exceptional talent into the country for longer periods, and provide stability to the system in general,” said Dr Sanjay Rajdev, a consultant cardiologist at NMC Speciality Hospital in Abu Dhabi.

“The uncertainty that looms due to current short- term visa has implications on people working in the UAE, along with their dependents.

“The question mark of visa renewal and job guarantee has tremendous psychological implications for those working here.”

Dubai Health Authority announced this month that international accreditation of health facilities in the emirate had increased since 2015 from 80 per cent, to 96 per cent.

With more health facilities planned around the country and plans to place Dubai as the go-to destination for global medical tourists, retaining highly skilled medical professionals has become a priority.

A relaxed visa process will make the UAE a more attractive proposition for some, doctors said.

“With the assured visa lasting for 10 years, the repeated experience of visa renewal process will be laid to rest, providing much needed durability, stability, mental peace and overall prosperity,” Dr Rajdev said.

“The UAE will benefit with retention of people with good talents and the manner in which they might contribute towards the development of society.”

United Eastern Medical Service is one provider with more than 160 doctors from different specialties from around the world to back the decision.

“The healthcare industry will be one of the first sectors to benefit from these decisions through retaining physicians,” said Mohammed Al Hammadi, chief executive and managing director.

“The new system will attract experts with competencies in different scientific specialties and will encourage students in the country to enrol in scientific and medical fields, opening new horizons to improve medical and scientific services.”

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Exceptional university graduates could also be granted 10-year visas, and students will be allowed to secure five-year visas rather than having to renew each year.

That should also encourage more students to choose long-term courses in medicine to train in the UAE.

Dr Sarla Kumari, a specialist physician and diabetologist at Canadian Specialist Hospital said the news was a big relief.

“This provides stability to not just the doctors, but also our families,” said Dr Kumari, who has been working as a doctor in Dubai for 12 years.

“This is a great relief, a positive step and gives us all peace of mind.

“I believe it will be beneficial for people who have their own set up. However, we still don’t have clarity on whether the visa would depend on the duration of the contract.”

The chairman of one of the region’s largest private providers, VPS Healthcare, said long term visas will bring added confidence to investment in the country.

“Creating a long-term residency program is a significant step in attracting talent from the region and around the world,” said Dr Shamsheer Vayalil.

“Long-term visas for entrepreneurs and students and full-ownership of companies will build more confidence in the UAE.

“These measures will also allow for the knowledge generated by the entrepreneurs and the opportunities created by the students to stay here, creating lasting prosperity and benefit society as a whole.”