9 laws from 2020 and how they will affect life in the UAE


The UAE is a developed multinational state, and despite the fact that the majority of the population are foreign nationals, all procedural norms in the country are based on Islamic Sharia laws. This persisted until November 2020, when the former ruler of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, had issued several amendments to the articles of the current Federal Penal Code, the Personal Status Law and The Criminal Procedural Law.

All the changes which were proposed by the President are aimed at establishing equality in the country, simplifying life in the UAE for foreign residents, and protecting women’s rights. In particular, these amendments touched upon issues such as the criminal liability for alcohol consumption, the possibility of cohabitation of couples outside of marriage, as well as features of the inheritance of property, divorce, ownership rights of companies in the UAE, and other important matters. We will talk about the essence of the amendments made and their impact on local residents.

The procedure for the dissolution of marriage and the appointment of alimony payments

The specifics of the procedure for divorce and separation of spouses will now depend on the country in which the marriage was concluded, according to Federal Decree No. 30 of 2020 on amendments to the Personal Status Code. If the registration of a married couple was conducted outside of the UAE, and the divorce was also initiated outside of the UAE, then the divorce process will be conducted in accordance with the laws of the country that registered the marriage. If both parties cannot reach an agreement, the court may act as an intermediary in protecting the rights of each of the parties.

This provision also applies to the division of property, alimony claims and the custody of minors. According to the amendments introduced in November 2020, all personal and financial disputes of foreign spouses will be settled in accordance with the legal norms of the state that registered their marriage.

Important! The amendments made apply to both foreign spouses and marriages between citizens and non-citizens of the UAE. As long as marriages between foreign nationals and UAE citizens comply with the legislative norms of the county in which they were concluded, such unions will be considered valid on the territory of the UAE.

Federal Decree No. 5 of 2020 implemented another important amendment to article 56 of the UAE Law on Personal Status. The new rules are aimed at establishing gender equality in the country, and this change completely abolishes the duty of a wife in full voluntary submission to her spouse.

Protection of women’s rights

Tougher penalties for harassment or the harassment of women, including harassment in public places, is another important change in the protection of women’s rights. Men can also be the object of persecution, according to Federal Law No. 15 of 2020.

Now physical or verbal harassment of a woman in a public place will be punishable by imprisonment for up to 2 years or a fine of up to AED 100,000 (USD 27,225).

Important! Penalties can also be applied if a man intentionally visits the place intended strictly for women.

In addition, according to Law No. 15, any person, regardless of gender, who has been seen violating public order, including uttering immoral or obscene speeches in a public place is subject to imprisonment for up to 6 months and/or a fine of up to AED 100,000 (USD 27,000).

Equal pay

Starting from August 25, 2020, men and women throughout the UAE are guaranteed equal pay for doing the same job, in accordance with Federal Decree No. 6 of 2020.

Article 32 of the Law implements the obligation of the employer to pay the same amount of remuneration for performing an equivalent amount of work, regardless of the gender of the employee. The composition of the salary includes both the base rate and all incentives and allowances, overtime pay, travel, bonuses and insurance provided for in the employment contract.

NBD! The Cabinet of Ministers of the UAE has entrusted the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation with the responsibility to create procedures for assessing and standardizing the level of equivalence of jobs performed by men and women.

The right of undivided ownership of foreign companies in the UAE

The government of the UAE announced in November 2020 the authorization for foreign investors to own 100% of the shares of limited liability companies. Earlier, according to the Law on Commercial Companies, expatriates in the UAE could own no more than 49% of the shares of a company established in the country, while the remaining 51% had to belong to local citizens.

On December 2, 2020, the amendment, which abolishes the requirement of joint ownership of the company and opens up a huge scope for attracting wealthy foreign investors to the state, was introduced. The new law of 100% ownership of shares applies to any company, except for enterprises which operate in strategically important industries such as, for example, the oil industry.

Note! At the moment large foreign enterprises can open their own branches in the UAE without the need to attract a local sponsor. We recommend you familiarize yourself with our advice on the best areas for purchasing commercial real estate and doing business, and what types of commercial property is worth investing in, if you are interested in investing in this type of real estate.

Sale of alcohol

The amendments adopted within the framework of Federal Decree No. 15 of 2020 affected the UAE Law No. 3 of 1987, which regulates the rules for the purchase, consumption and distribution of alcoholic beverages in the state

Article 1 of Federal Decree No. 15 regulates the following

  • Storage, drinking and sale of alcoholic beverages is allowed only in specially designated places.
  • The rules and terms for the use, storage as well as distribution of alcohol can be established at the level of each specific emirate.
  • The premeditated sale or purchase of alcoholic beverages for the purpose of their further distribution to a person under the age of 21 years old is a punishable offense, which entails a fine of AED 100,000 (USD 27,000), but not more than AED 500,000 (USD 136,000) and/or imprisonment.

Due to the above-mentioned amendments, the use and possession of alcohol by persons over the age of 21 is no longer a punishable crime from September 2020, provided that all adherences with alcoholic beverages are carried out under the conditions established by law. At the moment the sale of alcohol in the UAE can be carried out without a license. But as the law stated before, the distribution and the consumption of alcohol must be carried out only at home, or in specifically designated places such as restaurants, bars, etc.

Maternity leave

As stated by the Federal Decree No. 6 of 2020, all employees within private enterprises will have the right to an additional 5-day paid leave to care for a child under the age of 6 months.

According to Article 74 of the Law on Parental Leave, both the father and the mother can use the right to paid leave. Earlier, women working in the private sector were granted 45 days maternity leave, which will now be extended to 50 days, due to the adoption of the provisions of Decree No. 6. In addition, fathers also have the right to apply for extended paid parental leave.

It should be noted that this year Dubai was recognized as the most family-oriented emirate in the UAE.

Privacy protection

The government of the UAE has implemented a number of procedural changes in the conduct of meetings in order to ensure privacy and protect the rights of participants in trials. In addition, all persons who do not speak Arabic will be provided with an interpreter during the hearings and conversations with a lawyer. All the evidence collected in the process of considering cases of indecent acts cannot be disclosed publicly, in accordance with the implemented series of laws on privacy.

Visa reform

The UAE Cabinet of Ministers has established a number of important changes to the visa system as of September 2022. The amendments touch upon the procedure for granting a Golden Residence Visa. At the moment holders of this type of UAE visa can become investors in secondary and off-plan real estate worth a minimum of AED 2,000,000 (USD 545,000). The real estate can be purchased both at the expense of the applicant’s personal funds and with a mortgage. Scientists, recognized professionals, entrepreneurs, as well as graduates of schools and universities who graduated with honors will be eligible to apply for a 10-year UAE Golden Visa as well.

A new package of investment and economic reforms

On November 27, 2021, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan approved a package of full-scale legal reforms, which are aimed at strengthening the economic and investment potential of the UAE. In total 540 specialists and specialized experts from 50 local and federal authorities participated in the preparation of the changes. During the preparation of the amendments, consultations with more than 100 private companies were held

The essence of the changes includes:

  1. Legalization of an electronic signature, which allows companies to conclude international transactions without the personal presence of the parties. This can be used provided that the electronic signature of all parties within the agreement complies with the standards of authentication accepted in the UAE. The Law on Electronic Transactions and Trust Services includes relevant changes regarding the possibility of remote contracting.
  2. Implementation of the Law on Industrial Property Rights, which is regulating the procedure for patenting industrial designs, as well as integrated circuits for their use and assignment.
  3. Amendments to the Federal Copyright Law, including the right to determine the first publication of a work, the protest of changes by third parties, provided that the edits distort the original intent of the author, as well as the creation and publication of an intellectual property object under its own name.
  4. The amendments also affected the Trademark Law, which now covers the protection of three-dimensional trademarks, copyright sound melodies and holograms associated with a particular brand. The abolition of the need to obtain a trade license for trademark registration is another important update.
  5. The Law on Higher Education was also subject to revision. The law regulates the licensing procedure for higher education institutions in the UAE and establishes a legislative framework for approving curricula, encouraging scientific research and improving the skills of employees.
  6. The Law on Internet Security came into force on January 2, 2022. The provisions of this law are aimed at suppressing false advertising, unlicensed trade in medical drugs or cryptocurrency, ensuring privacy, unconfirmed news and protection against electronic fraud. The rules of the law allow local courts to delete deliberately false and unconfirmed information, as well as to confiscate devices and software used for its publication and distribution.
  7. The Law on the protection of personal data was adopted by the government of the UAE and regulates the rules for the collection, storage, processing, as well as the publication of personal data of internet users both in the UAE and outside the country. The law prohibits the collection and processing of personal data of users without their consent, except in cases where it is necessary to protect public interests.

How can we help?

Metropolitan Premium Properties is a recognized leading agency in the UAE real estate market. Our specialists provide a wide range of services related to real estate which includes support in the process of renting or buying/selling both finished property and investment property under construction among residential and commercial projects. Clients of our company benefit from full documentary, legal support of the transaction, and assistance in obtaining a mortgage or a residence visa.

All employees within Metropolitan Premium Properties are highly qualified specialists in their field, whilst all our brokers have the appropriate license from RERA, which guarantees the conclusion of a real estate transaction at the legislative level of the UAE. Experts of our company will advise you on the state of the Dubai real estate market, as well as which residential projects are best for personal residency, and for investment in order to obtain passive income in the future. Specialists at Metropolitan Premium Properties also take care of issues regarding negotiations to get the best price for you, as well as guaranteeing full support at all stages of the real estate transaction, the collection and preparation of the necessary documentation, and further management of your purchased property.

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