Visa red-tape hurting firms, says Dubai Chamber chief

Gulf emirate needs revamp of visa laws to reduce toll on businesses, says Hamad Buamim

Dubai Chamber head Hamad Buamim said the emirate must revamp visa laws

Dubai Chamber head Hamad Buamim said the emirate must revamp visa laws

Lengthy and costly visa applications are squeezing businesses and taking a toll on profits, the man charged with overseeing the interests of Dubai’s private sector said Monday.

Bureaucratic red tape has become a burden for firms operating in the Gulf emirate, with many running up significant tabs to absorb the cost of securing visas for staff and investors, said Hamad Buamim, director general of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI).

“I have no doubt that relaxing visa processes would help businesses to profit,” he said on the sidelines of the 5th Arabian Business forum in Dubai.

“There are too many restrictions related to the time, the cost, and the process in general. We want business people to look at things long-term. [The law] has to be reviewed.”

[Click here for pictures from the forum]

The cost of securing visas has become a recurring complaint among both large and smaller businesses in Dubai, as firms have struggled to contain overheads in the tough economic climate.

During a retail forum organised by DCCI in October, some of the city’s largest conglomerates warned that escalating visa and business costs could force an increase in the sale price of goods in the emirate.

 “Doing business is getting more and more expensive, and we have to look at that,” said Mohi-Din BinHendi, president of BinHendi Enterprises.

“I think everyone knows how expensive it is to get your employees across. Bringing a person here costs me AED9,000, and I have almost 1,800 staff.”

Khalid Al Tayer, CEO of Al Tayer Retail Group, said visa costs were a significant burden.

“Unfortunately over time, the costs do seem to get out of hand and need to be monitored very closely,” he said. “We need to start renewing [visas] every three years, and our retail operation has close to 3,500 people. That can become quite costly.”

DCCI was one of the first trade bodies to oppose a controversial ruling from the UAE government last year that effectively cut expatriate residence visas from three years to two. 

The ruling, which reduced labour card validity and had a knock-on effect on residence visas, meant an added cost for businesses in an already tough economic climate, said Buamim.

The body has lobbied the government to return labour card validity to three years for low-skilled workers and stretch it to five years for investors, in a bid to ramp up foreign investment in the emirate.

“We’re trying to bring it back to where it was and introduce a different system for the investors – right now they are treated almost like labourers,” he said.

“When you [are talking about an employee] that’s a short-term thing but an investor is here for a longer term. This is at the top of our agenda,” he said, adding the Chamber hoped the ruling would be pushed through within two years.

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Posted by: Khalid Mohd.

Dubai Chamber is on the right track

Posted by: Dipti Bhatt

I really appreciate chief of DCCI, at least one person is thinking about protecting business sentiments. They should really push hard for changing the visa rules for investors five years & workers 3 years with lowering the fees for visa, labour card etc. Because now a day there are no more business, one company can afford such kind of high charges when margins are not there. They take steps asap before business people will think to take opportunities in other countries/home countries........

Posted by: His Excellency Dr Paul

The problem is that the bureaucracy here for visas and many other things, is designed specifically to consume time and effort in order to create work for people who would otherwise be unemployed.

As such, streamlining the process, while good for the private sector which Hamad Buamim represents, would be bad for the public sector workers, who benefit from the creation of jobs doing unnecessary tasks.

It would be better for all concerned to do away with the bureaucracy but keep the fees the same. The government workers can all continue to be paid, but stay in bed instead. The companies applying for visas pay the same as before, but spent far less of their own time dealing with the bureaucracy.

It seems ridiculous, but everyone is actually better off as a result.

Posted by: Business Man

This is the best idea yet and should be heard by the Chamber of Commerce. I too would happily pay the same tax if I could save on the time wasting.

Posted by: Telcoguy

No, it is not ridiculous. It would be a far more practical solution. Alternatively, I would be happy to pay double the fees if they do not waste my time.
But no chance of that happening.

Posted by: Asad Hafeez

Each day I read in the newspapers different articles on UAE's amazing 40years of development and I have to give sincere credit to the rulers of Abu Dhabi & Dubai on their far reaching visionary thinking and there super long term drive.

Looking at the current business scenario really makes you wonder is to why is the Government not addressing issues that makes business' tick ex. visas, property laws, property related visas, deregulation etc. The Govt. does not have to do this, it all depends on their long term strategy if it is to be a business, trading, financial hub then they have to do it sooner than later.

If the long term vision has changed that's fine as well, then businesses should know that so they can make their plans as well.

Posted by: JAG

Absolutely right Mr. Asad Hafeez

Over the years the bureaucracy and red tape in UAE has increased tremendously and so have the costs of doing / setting up a business. As a result UAE no longer figures in the 'competitiveness list' of business friendly countries

UAE needs to stop taking its infrastructure advantages for granted and start simplifying procedures and reducing setting up costs. Other Gulf states are catching up fast and the UAE runs a serious risk of getting left far behind.



Posted by: Louie Tedesco

Please stop SHOUTING. If you WRITE and SHOUT so loud at the real estate office, they will never give you a visa...

No one here knows the answer to your question!

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