U.A.E. Not Alone in GCC in Allowing 100% Foreign Firm Ownership

(Bloomberg) -- The United Arab Emirates’ decision to allow 100 percent foreign ownership of companies may appear radical, but similar rules have existed in other six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

The plan together with granting 10-year visas to specialists in the fields of medicine, science and research aims to boost foreign investment in the second-biggest Arab economy. The changes are expected to be implemented by the end of the year.

Here is a snapshot of the foreign investment rules in the GCC:

U.A.E. Up to 49% ownership
Up to 100% in free zones
Saudi Arabia 100% ownership in certain industries (sectors excluded are oil exploration, real estate, military equipment production among others)
QatarUp to 49% ownership
100% in some sectors (2016 draft law allowed full ownership in all sectors provided the non-Qatari has a Qatari services agent. Not yet enacted)
Kuwait100% ownership through a foreign owned branch
Bahrain 100% ownership possible in most sectors (excluding those on a negative list)
Oman Up to 70% (further conditional exceptions)
Source: 2017 EU-GCC Investment Report, published July 

Other GCC countries are also seeking to attract and retain expatriate workers.

Saudi Arabia announced a plan for a green card-like program in 2016 to be implemented over five years and to help reduce the kingdom’s reliance on oil. That program will allow employers to pay to hire foreign workers beyond the official quota.

Qatar, with whom a Saudi Arabia-led group of nations cut trade and diplomatic ties last year, said in 2017 it plans to introduce permanent residency to attract investors and some skilled workers.

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