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Tue 22 Nov 2011 08:55 AM

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Visa red-tape hurting firms, says Dubai Chamber chief

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

Visa red-tape hurting firms, says Dubai Chamber chief
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

“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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Business Man 8 years ago

The whole visa structure is completely outdated for todays business environment. The 6 month ban serves no purpose today. I cannot understand why there is any opposition to complete reform. Dubai is getting left behind badly by other trading hubs outside the Middle East

Vicky 8 years ago

There was a time when UAE / Dubai was far ahead of the region in terms of speedy, progressive and business friendly outlook. Now, several competitors have driven past and watch UAE in their rear view mirror. Human capital is a serious asset for this country and the management of the professional and labor sector should be equated to national core competency. When Govt ministries start raiding the business and labor sector to fill in the cash flow deficit, you hurt the proverbial golden goose. Despite the perceived fears of being outnumbered, outperformed or out prospered by expats, the country and its commerce needs them for a while longer. It is not a smart idea hit the visa button as a slot machine run or even as a threat tactic.

procan 8 years ago

UAE does not have to change anything if the get they get birth rate up. If you do want fewer foreigners start having larger families and grow your nation.

SALMAN BAWANY 8 years ago


Telcoguy 8 years ago

@procan, how long will take to double the working-age population of the UAE? Even then the whole population will still be lower than many medium-sized cities in Europe.

Regarding the original article, very nice words, but how can we know that, as a local poster put, they are not deigned to "appease those whose feathers were ruffled and were perturbed."

Asad Hafeez 8 years ago

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.

His Excellency Dr Paul 8 years ago

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.

Dipti Bhatt 8 years ago

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........

Louie Tedesco 8 years ago

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!

Telcoguy 8 years ago

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.