Dubai plans new visa to attract start-up talent

Dubai plans to launch a special visa system to lure talented foreign entrepreneurs as it tries to boost its economy after the global downturn. Under the EntrePass scheme, budding start-ups with high commercial value will be encouraged to set up in Dubai and share knowledge and intellectual property rights with the emirate. Entrepreneurs will have their visa application expedited and be provided with guidance from experts at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment (MBRE) for SME Development in starting their businesses.

In the fourth quarter, MBRE will launch a pilot programme for EntrePass involving 10 entrepreneurs before widening the scheme. Based on a similar system in Singapore, EntrePass is designed as an alternative to conventional business visas. In certain cases, they may also have access to finance through the UAE’s first Sharia-compliant venture capital fund.

“We want Dubai to be the centre for innovative small and medium enterprises [SMEs],” said Alexandar Williams, the director of strategy and policy division at MBRE, an agency of the Department of Economic Development in Dubai. The future of Dubai will rest on nurturing selective foreign entrepreneurs with good ideas to use Dubai as a test bed for development and to build business around it. MBRE plans to select and invite individuals or companies with strong entrepreneurial records to apply for the visa by offering them the promise of guidance throughout the setting-up process. MBRE was launched by the Dubai Government with the intention of supporting the growing number of start-ups in the emirate.

The pass will last between two and three years, enough time for initial businesses concepts to be fully tested and launched. “We are looking at any company with new business models and existing technology that can be adapted to the UAE and that could benefit Dubai through the sharing of intellectual property and knowledge transfer,” said Mr Williams.