New regulations are being introduced in the United Arab Emirates in January for expat private sector workers that will reduce the length of visas and work cards.

As part of a plan to streamline the labour card and visa system the length of time covered is being reduced from three years to two years.

According to a statement by Humaid Bin Deemas, acting director general of the Ministry of Labour, the UAE Cabinet has reduced the validity of labour cards of all categories of people who work in the private sector from three years to two years in a bid to regulate the labour market.

Officials at the Labour Ministry confirmed the new rules will come into force next month. ‘As the labour card will be for only two years, naturally the residency visa will also be for two years,’ he explained.

The Cabinet decision aims to streamline the system for all work categories. Currently drivers, domestic helpers and other similar categories are entitled to two year labour cards and residence visas by the Department of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, while other professions get three year labour cards and three year residence visas.

Major General Nasser Al Awadi Al Minhali, assistant undersecretary at the ministry's Naturalisation and Residency Affairs department, confirmed that the new rules will affect all expats.

‘When we get an application for a residence visa we look at the validity of the labour card issued by the Ministry of Labour. If it is for two years then we will issue a two year residence visa,’ he explained.

He also revealed that the ministry is currently considering ‘significant’ amendments to the current law which deals with residency and foreigners’ affairs.

Bin Deemas said the decision will help private sector employers to save Dh678 million annually as ministry statistics show that 70% of labour cards are cancelled before two years have passed.

‘The changes will achieve certain flexibility in the relationship between employers and employees. It would give both parties the ability to end the relationship without big losses for the employers and in a way that will not violate the labour laws,’ he added.

It is also expected to help enhance competitiveness and movement in the job market. There are no changes planned to the tourist visa which is valid for one month and can be extended for another month without leaving the country.