UAE urged to limit foreigner visas to six years

DUBAI, May 7, 2008 (AFP) – The United Arab Emirates, whose booming economy functions thanks to millions of foreign workers, has been urged to put a six-year cap on their residency, a local newspaper reported on Wednesday. The internal affairs and defence committee of the consultative Federal National Council (FNC), said the workers should leave the country after six years and only be allowed back after obtaining a new residency visa.

The English-language Gulf News quoted the committee as saying this would allow the oil-rich country to circumvent obligations that might be imposed by international conventions regarding foreign manpower.

The proposals made on Tuesday would require the approval of the cabinet and UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nayhan.

The newspaper said official statistics put the number of foreign workers at 3.1 million, or 90 per cent of the private sector workforce, many of them from Asia.

It is estimated the number of Emiratis will be less than eight percent of the workforce in 2009, a figure dropping to four per cent by 2020.

Statistics recently published by the FNC, half of whose members are elected, put the UAE population at 5.6 million at the end of 2006, with only