Same as each other year, 2019 is no exception for major changes to the laws of the UAE. These changes are of big variety — from space strategy and wellbeing program to labour rules and visa terms. Some of them might not have much effect on your daily life but some might be crucial for you in 2020.
So we picked the most important changes approved and implemented in 2019 by the UAE government, which are imperative for you to know and to keep track of.
Here is a brief tour of the most important legislative changes in the UAE in 2019:
December 25 –
The UAE Cabinet approved the issuing of a Federal Law On Consumer Protection aimed at safeguarding consumer rights from potential price hikes and tighten up regulations surrounding the rapid growth of e-commerce. Once brought into force, the law will regulate the work of suppliers, advertisers and commercial agent, control price increases and ensure customers have guarantees over the quality of goods and services.
December 19 –
New DMCC Rules for business. The new regulations applicable to companies licensed in the DMCC will be effective from 02.01.2020. Major improvements include increased flexibility for a company’s Articles of Association and the ability to transfer company incorporation into DMCC as well as the introduction of different share types and a dormant status for companies.
December 1 –
List of Excise Taxable Products expanded. The UAE Cabinet added to the List of excise taxable products items deemed harmful for health, such as sugary drinks, cigarettes, electronic smoking devices including liquids used in such devices. From now, electronic smoking devices, and the liquids used in them will be hit with a 100 % Tax, while soft drinks containing added sugar and sweeteners will be subject to a 50 % Tax.
November 24 –
Domestic workers over 60 can renew contracts. The new option is available provided the domestic helper is medical fit, the health insurance is paid by the employer and all authorities involved grant their approval.
November 18 –
The UAE Cabinet has approved a Federal Law On Insolvency of Natural Persons. The new legislation will come into effect in January 2020. It protects debt-ridden individuals from criminal prosecution and offers support to repay debts within three years instead.
November 5 –
New Ethical Standards for Property Brokers in Dubai. The Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) issued a circular comprising ten obligations to be followed by real estate professionals. The guidelines aim at maintaining public trust and protecting investors.
October 19 –
Abu Dhabi Judicial Department launched the Innovative Digital System in order to expand lingual ability. The first of its kind, Digital Judicial System will be able to translate the judgments from Arabic into five languages (English, Hindi, Tagalog, Russian, Urdu) to help litigants understand their verdicts.
October 10 –
UAE to be removed from the EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions. The move follows the introduction of economic substance regulations in the UAE. The country was initially blacklisted by the EU in December 2017 because it was seen as facilitating arrangements aimed at attracting overseas profits which do not reflect real economic activity in the UAE.
September 25 –
New Law on jointly owned real estate in Dubai. Dubai Law No. 6 of 2019 distinguishes between three categories of properties, i.e. mega projects, hotels and those needing facility management services, and refers to activities of facility management companies, developers and homeowners’ associations.
September 9 –
Unlimited employment contracts in JAFZA. For the first time, the Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (JAFZA) now offers the option to conclude an unlimited term employment contract instead of a limited-term employment contract. The template for an unlimited term contract as well as the updated template for a limited-term contract is already available online.
July 28 –
Men on family visas can get work permits. The two-year work permit applies to both skilled and limited skilled employees and costs AED 300 for all categories of firms. Previously, such work permits were exclusively issued to women who are under the sponsorship of their family.
July 17 –
DMCC introduces Dual Licensing System. The Dubai Multi Commodities Center (DMCC) and Dubai Economy have signed a strategic cooperation agreement on business licensing in Dubai allowing DMCC companies to operate within the Free Zone and onshore in the Emirate of Dubai.
July 14 –
Ministry of Economy amends fee structure for 110 government services. Fees for 102 services canceled and fees for 8 services reduced by 50%.
July 11 –
Up to 94% cut in labour fees for issuing work permits. The Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratization (MoHRE) reduced charges for 145 services, including 17 transactions with a cut between 50% and 94%, based on a new classification system of companies based on the skill level and the cultural diversity of their employees.
July 11 –
Free liquor license for tourists in Dubai. Tourists in the UAE who are here on a visit visa can now obtain a free liquor license to legally purchase alcohol from MMI outlets during their stay. The license will be valid for 30 days and applicable for renewal if the tourist chooses to extend their stay. The process of obtaining a liquor license for residents has been significantly relaxed too by decreasing the list of required documents.
July 4 –
Positive List for foreign direct investment issued pursuant to Federal Decree-Law No. 19 of 2018. The Positive List permits 100% foreign ownership in UAE mainland companies for 122 activities in 13 sectors. The sectors include renewable energy, space, agriculture, manufacturing, transportation and storage, hospitality and food services, information and telecommunications, scientific, technical and professional activities, administrative and support services, education, healthcare, art, and entertainment as well as construction.
July 3 –
The issuance of new Cabinet Resolution No (40) of 2019 concerning the UAE Federal Law on Medical Liability, to improve the quality of healthcare in the UAE and manage malpractice claims.
June 30 –
The DIFC Wills & Probate Registry announced the New Rules regarding the attestation of the Wills in the UAE, enabling to include the assets from outside Dubai and RAK. Previously, non-Muslims were only able to register wills covering Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah properties and holdings through the DIFC.
June 16 –
The UAE Cabinet approved Federal Law On Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO), aimed to safeguard public health from risks linked to GMOs or their products and guarantee the consumers’ rights to choose the right products.
June 12 –
New DIFC Insolvency Law. The legislation came into effect on 28.08.2019 and include a new debtor in possession bankruptcy regime for companies operating out of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).
June 9 –
The UAE Cabinet adopted the National Strategy for Wellbeing 2031, which aims to make the UAE a world leader in quality of life through a number of strategic objectives and initiatives. The Strategy includes 14 components and nine strategic objectives, which include enhancing people’s wellbeing by promoting healthy and active lifestyles, promoting good mental health and adopting positive thinking.
May 22 –
UAE introduces permanent residency. As part of the visa reform, the Government introduced a “Golden Card” to certain investors, entrepreneurs, specialized talents, researchers and outstanding students and their families.
May 19 –
New Salary Insurance Scheme in JAFZA. The Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (JAFZA) announced to launch a workforce protection program to help protect employees’ wages of JAFZA companies. The new initiative aligns the free zone’s wage protection policies with those of the UAE Ministry of Labour.
April 29 –
More efficient dispute settlements in DIAC. The newly issued Dubai Decree No. 17 of 2019 replaces the current rules of the Dubai International Arbitration Centre (DIAC) and enhances the arbitration center’s procedures.
April 18 –
Abu Dhabi opens the freehold property market to foreigners. According to the changes in the real estate law, all foreigners will be allowed to own land and property in investment areas on a freehold basis. Previously, foreign investors were largely restricted to 99-year leases in the capital of the UAE.
The Judicial Departments across the UAE had begun enforcing judicial rulings and placing convicts under electronic monitoring. Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah have officially implemented the GPS bracelet system for electronic monitoring or tagging of “House Arrest” for offenders.
Car renewal. Dubai Police has relaxed the rules on fine repayment in line with its safety initiative, which gives increased discounts overtime to drivers of exemplary standards, by offering up to 100 percent off fines if a driver does not commit any violations for a full calendar year. Accordingly, Dubai Police have instructed the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) to allow drivers to renew their car without clearing their fines, to be able to utilize discounts. The vehicle’s license will be renewed regardless of the amount of the accumulated fines or any periods of confiscation imposed on the cars, or the number of offenses committed.
March 31 –
The UAE Cabinet has adopted a decision to amend provisions of the resolution on sponsoring foreign workers to their families in the country.
March 20 –
Early termination fee amended for mobile contracts. The new amendment was brought in by the UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) with the statement that users will only be charged a one-month fee to exit their mobile phone contract early. This replaces the current rule, which allows network providers to charge a monthly fee multiplied by the number of remaining months of the contract.
March 14 –
ADAFZ reduces set-up costs for new businesses. Abu Dhabi Airports Free Zone (ADAFZ) has cut its business formation costs by more than 65% and waive all license fees for new companies in 2019-2020.
March 12 –
Applications for long-term visas. The UAE’s residency departments started receiving applications for long-term visas of 5 and 10 years. These visas are available to certain investors, entrepreneurs, innovators and professional talents.
March 11 –
The UAE Cabinet has adopted the National Space Strategy 2030, aims at achieving UAE’s vision in the field of space exploration, technologies, and applications. The Strategy also constitutes one of the pillars of the regulatory framework for the space sector in the country which consists of four components: National Space Policy, Space Sector Law, Space Regulations, and National Space Strategy.
February 23 –
The UAE Cabinet adopted a resolution on the amendments to the Civil Procedure Code, that are aimed at strengthening and modernizing the judicial procedures to ensure their ease of application.
February 18 –
The UAE Cabinet has approved Resolution No. 15 of 2019 on the executive regulations of Federal Law No. 22 of 2016 on the Regulation of Dangerous Animals Possession in support of ensuring security and safety in society. The Resolution includes 12 articles detailing the requirements for the transport of dangerous animals and their places of accommodation, as well as measures for their seizure, care, and disposal.
February 11 –
The Abu Dhabi Judicial Department has recognized Hindi as its third official language apart from Arabic and English in labour law-related proceedings.
February 6 –
Issuance of Federal Law No. 2/2019 On Information and Communication Technology in Healthcare, is the first of its kind federal data privacy law related to the healthcare sector.
January 27 –
Rent defaulters allowed to pay debts at the airport. The new smart system of the Rental Disputes Center (RDC) makes it possible that rent defaulters in the Emirate of Dubai, who are banned from traveling, can now settle their dues at the airport and thereafter fly out of the country immediately.
January 7 –
New labour court to provide rulings within hours. The Summary Cases Court at the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization (MoHRE) in Abu Dhabi handles straightforward cases, such as employers withholding employees’ passports or failing to apply for the issuance or renewal of health insurance cards. The new court complements the One Day Labour Court which was launched in October 2017.