Despite the fact that UAE travel to the UK is now banned, Dubai continues to tempt well-paid ‘techpats’ with free access to Covid jabs. Olivia Palamountain reports
For a while it seemed like Dubai and its Middle Eastern neighbours were the only countries in the world actively welcoming tourists in the midst of the pandemic. But the party soon came to an end as Covid cases began to spiral out of control and the UAE was slapped on to the UK red list (it has since been joined on the naughty step by Oman and Qatar).
However, this hasn’t discouraged Dubai in its quest to tempt remote workers to its shores, with the emirate now plugging free vaccines to complement their zero income tax policy, even as Covid cases mount to record-breaking levels.
“Do you want to mix business with pleasure in Dubai? With a new one-year virtual working programme, you can live and work by the beach,” reads the Visit Dubai website. “An added benefit of the program is that all UAE residents receive Covid-19 vaccinations free of charge.”
According to The Telegraph, Dubai launched a scheme aimed at attracting digital nomads last October, featuring a one-year virtual working programme. Remote workers who qualify for the scheme by earning more than £3,850 a month only have to pay £220 for a year-long visa, in addition to the medical insurance required to be purchased before arrival.
Workers must also be employed with at least a year left on their contract or have been running their own business for a year or longer.
Dubai joins a host of island nations in promoting affordable year-long digital nomad visas, an unsurprising move given that more than 1.9 million British people could be working from abroad next year with more than half of remote workers saying they could do their job from abroad, says research from PagoFX and YouGov.
The survey also investigated what British people look for in a perfect “work from anywhere” destination. The top three most important requirements were a fast and reliable internet connection (seen as a top priority by 64 per cent), access to quality medical services (53 per cent) and warm, sunny weather (44 per cent).
Bermuda, Barbados, Anguilla and Mauritius have all created new visas that welcome visitors to work or study for a year, while resorts and hotels are editing and amplifying their offerings with long-stay working guests in mind.
For Dubai’s residents, an influx of new digital nomads provides vital support to the city’s economy. “On the whole, it is a positive and proactive step by the government here,” Katherine Squires, who has been living in the city since 2015 tells The Telegraph.
“The economy took a massive hit last year, not only from loss of tourism but also from the large number of expats that left, so enticing wealthy westerners over to work is going to be a massive boost. If adding the vaccine to the list of benefits helps, then why not.”
“I can understand it might be frustrating for people watching from the UK,” Squires added, “particularly seeing the struggle that people in need are facing trying to get the vaccine. It might seem unfair – like a way of buying the vaccination.”
“However, it’s not like it is a “buy a visa, get a free vaccine” ploy. All residents are entitled to a free vaccine, so I don’t see why they shouldn’t mention it,” she concluded. Squires and her partner received their first dose of the vaccine at a walk-in centre one weekend.
“The UAE are in a fortunate position where there’s a reasonably small population, so opening up walk-in vaccination centres is manageable in a way that it wouldn’t be in somewhere like the UK.”