What is the UAE's blue visa and who can apply?

The UAE has announced a new long-term residency visa. Known as the blue visa, it will grant a 10-year residency to people who have made “exceptional contributions” towards protecting the nation's environment.

Announced on Wednesday by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, the decision aligns with the country’s long-term goals of making the UAE more sustainable.

The new visa is the latest to be introduced in the UAE, following in the footsteps of the golden visa which also offers a 10-year residency. A number of other visas, such as the green and remote working visas, have also been issued in recent years (details further below).

One of the country's leading recruiters said the visas offering long-term stays in the UAE had been a big success so far.

"The biggest benefit [of a ten-year visa] is that it has made it possible to live here without needing to be under the sponsorship of a company," said David Mackenzie, group managing director of recruitment agency Mackenzie Jones.

"It gives you so much freedom."

The newly introduced visa will also go some way to not only attracting talent but also enticing those currently living in the UAE to extend their stay, said a leading sustainability expert.

"It will help retain talent because not everyone stays here for 10 years because they are tied to the standard visa, sponsored by their employers, which lasts for two years," said Ivano Iannelli, senior adviser for sustainability at Emirates Global Aluminium.

"Of course it will attract new talent but it will also offer an element of security to those who are already here.

"It shows the ambition of the UAE."

The National takes a look at who can apply for one.

Who can apply for a blue visa?

"The visa will be granted to individuals who have made significant contributions to environmental protection and sustainability, offering them a ten-year residency in the UAE, and is part of the UAE’s Year of Sustainability," read a statement shared by state news agency Wam.

The visa will be available to individuals who have made exceptional contributions and efforts in the field of protecting the environment, whether marine or land.

Work towards improving air quality and sustainable technologies will also be rewarded, according to the authorities.

what is the uae's blue visa and who can apply?

Ivano Iannelli, senior sustainability adviser at Emirates Global Aluminium, said the new visa will help retain talent in the UAE, as well as attract it. Chris Whiteoak / The National

How can you apply?

"Sustainability advocates and experts who are interested in the UAE Blue Residency are invited to submit their applications directly through the services of the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs, and Port Security, or through nominations by competent authorities in the state for the individuals recommended for it," read a statement on Sheikh Mohammed's website.

Why is it important?

The announcement of a blue visa for contributions to protecting the environment is groundbreaking, according to Cop28 President Dr Sultan Al Jaber.

“The Blue Residency Visa aims to attract global environmental leaders to contribute to the UAE's sustainable economic and social development," said Dr Al Jaber.

"It underscores the nation's dedication to leveraging advanced technologies and artificial intelligence to create impactful solutions.

"With a forward-thinking approach, these solutions will address climate challenges and transform them into opportunities for a brighter future for humanity and our planet.”

Dr Al Jaber said the blue visa was in line with the legacy created by the Cop28 conference, the UN climate change that took place in Dubai last year.

what is the uae's blue visa and who can apply?

Cop28 President Dr Sultan Al Jaber has welcomed the introduction of the new Blue Visa. AFP

“The conference was a paradigm shift, showcasing the UAE's unwavering commitment to multilateralism, international co-operation, and developing a united global approach to the challenges of climate change," he said.

"This visa will build on that good work and will help further establish the UAE as a front-runner in the development of technologies, such as artificial intelligence, that can help address climate change.”

Attracting talent

One of the main reasons for the introduction of the blue visa is to continue making the UAE an attractive prospect for skilled people from abroad, who are considering their future options, said the country's Climate Minister.

"The Blue Residency will have a major role in attracting talents in the field including innovators, and climate champions from all over the world, who will contribute to the advancement of the UAE’s work in fostering a sustainable future for all," said Amna Al Shamsi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment.

What other kind of visas are available in the UAE?

Residency visa for people working in the private sector - This is the most common visa available in the UAE. It lasts for two years before requiring renewal and is sponsored by a person's employer.

Golden visa - This is a 10-year visa awarded to people under a number of categories. You could be a property investor, entrepreneur, highly talented person, nurse, doctor, director, sportsperson, holder of a PhD, specialist, or an outstanding pupil.

Green visa - This is available to those who have their own businesses and are not working for, or sponsored by, an employer. The green visa lasts for five years.

A five-year residency is also available for freelancers and self-employed people, without the need to obtain a sponsor or employer in the UAE.

Investors establishing or participating in commercial activities are also eligible for a green visa.

Remote working visa - In March 2021, the UAE announced the introduction of a residence permit for remote workers, which came into effect in September 2022.

Golden visa for students - A high-school pupil who has achieved excellent results can be granted a golden visa for five years without a sponsor.

This can be extended if the course they are studying lasts for more than five years.

Tourist visa - A 60-day visit visa for tourists is now standard, instead of the previous 30-day one.

Multi-entry visa - The five-year multi-entry tourist visa does not require a sponsor and allows the holder to stay in the country for up to 90 consecutive days, as long as they have $4,000 or its equivalent in their bank account.

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