Countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region will have to unveil a flexible visa system for millennials looking for flexible work options, according to an immigration expert.
GCC governments should also introduce dedicated ‘secondment’ visas for employees who relocate to another company in the region for a set period of time, said Pauline Mathewson, managing partner, EMEA, at immigration services firm Fragomen.
Besides, they need to facilitate temporary movement of employees between free zones and non-free zones, Mathewson said.
Expat employment visas in the Gulf are typically linked to one corporate entity and cancelled if an employee leaves that organization.
However, with the rising trend in freelance working and flexible career choices among millennials and ‘centennials’ born after 1996, GCC decision makers may have to rethink their strategies, according to Mathewson.
The UAE has recently made it easier to obtain a freelancer permit, but it remains difficult elsewhere in the region.
Governments and employers in the GCC have historically rested their whole security around the sponsorship visa; so work visas are highly specific to an entity and a job.
But the world today is such that people are very malleable and want to live their professional lives in a different, less geographically-based manner, Mathewson said.
People want to work across regions, and some of them don’t even want a permanent contract, she said.
One of the key reasons for the sponsorship visa system is the protection of the workforce, she opined, adding that governments have a duty to ensure that a responsible legal entity is looking after working expats.
So the rise in flexible working and an increasingly mobile workforce could pose challenges for policy makers, she explained.
She also called for the introduction of a secondment visa for employees working across different divisions of large firms with multiple registered entities across the Gulf.