Remote work has become the new normal for millions of employees around the world, and Dubai is using that trend to speed up its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In October, the government of Dubai introduced a digital nomad visa that allows remote workers to stay in the city for up to 12 months. Since then, the destination has enjoyed a significant increase in foreign arrivals and long-term visits.
According to a new report from travel analysis firm ForwardKeys, arrivals to Dubai from France and the United Kingdom spiked sharply during the fourth quarter of 2020. Airline ticket sales from Europe and the Americas also trended upward over the same period.
Meanwhile, travelers from Russia have been flocking to Dubai over the winter, with January 2021 arrivals surpassing the pre-pandemic levels experienced in January 2020. Russians have also been staying nearly twice as long as they did in 2019, which suggests the new visa might be encouraging people to stick around.
“We have noticed constant week-on-week growth in long-term international tickets from late October when the [digital nomad visa] program was first announced,” said Ema Mandal, an insights specialist at ForwardKeys. “Remote workers can come to Dubai to live with their families with the visa valid for up to a year. Many origin markets, including Canada and the UK, have been demonstrating year-on-year growths in November and December.”
Dubai, the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates, has a lot of perks to offer digital nomads. It boasts stunning architecture, state-of-the-art buildings, jaw-dropping attractions, bustling nightlife and world-class restaurants. It also has a strong digital infrastructure, global networking opportunities and, most importantly, zero income tax for individuals.
To qualify for a digital nomad visa, remote workers must:
Earn at least $5,000 USD per month
Have health insurance coverage
Have a passport that is valid for at least six months
Workers can apply for the visa, which has a fee of $287 USD, from within the UAE, meaning they can test out the city as a tourist before making a long-term commitment to stay.
Successful visa applicants are granted the right to rent accommodations and use Dubai’s telecommunications networks, utilities, schools and banking institutions.
“The global pandemic has changed how we live and work,” said Helal Saeed Almarri, director-general of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce, in a news release promoting the visa. “As multinationals and leading startups across the world accelerate their rates of digital adoption, the need to be physically present to fulfill professional responsibilities has been redefined.”
Almarri added that city’s “safe, dynamic lifestyle” makes it a top remote working choice for “digitally savvy workers and their families.”
Dubai is one of several destinations trying to attract digital nomads and remote workers in the wake of the pandemic. Estonia and Croatia have already launched digital nomad visa programs, and Costa Rica and Greece recently announced plans to do the same.