The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been a popular destination for expats ever since the oil boom in the 1970s. Today, almost 90% of the UAE population are foreign expats. The remaining 10% are native Emiratis.
For many people interested in moving to the UAE, the Sharia-based legal system has been a major point of contention. Laws relevant to dress code, displays of affection, and alcohol have discouraged many people from moving to or even visiting the UAE.
Changes to UAE laws
In a landmark move, the UAE has recently passed legislation that eases restrictions in several areas, including unmarried couples living together and alcohol consumption. Laws have also been amended to combat harassment against women.
The move to revise certain laws is aimed at attracting increased business investment into the country. It is also part of a drive to target Westerners who have never visited the UAE due to its reputation for strict laws and harsh punishments.
The relaxation of laws is seen as highly positive for expats, both those currently living in the UAE and those considering moving to the country. These latest changes to the law increase the UAE’s appeal as an expat-friendly destination.
Couples living together
In one of the most significant changes, unmarried couples can now live together without restriction. Previously, unmarried Emiratis and foreigners were banned from living together outside of marriage. The new rules apply to both Emiratis and expats.
The purchase and consumption of alcohol without a licence is now permitted across the whole of the UAE. But only in licensed areas. Before, Emiratis and expats needed to obtain an alcohol licence. The legal drinking age of 21 still applies.
Harassment of women
Harsher laws for the harassment of women have come into force. This will no doubt attract increasing numbers of Western women, many who may have previously thought twice about moving to the UAE due to harassment laws being too lenient.
Other new regulations
A number of additional regulations have also been amended. Perhaps the most significant of these for expats is inheritance laws. These have undergone significant changes, meaning expats can now use their home country legal system when dealing with inheritance issues.
The changes to UAE legislation is welcome news for expats and anyone considering a move to the country. It will attract an increasing number of Western tourists, extra business investment, and genuinely improve life for the UAE’s expat community.