Dubai is offering free COVID-19 vaccines to remote workers in an attempt to boost tourism. The perk is being advertised alongside the city’s tax-free digital nomad visa program, which was launched in October.
In January, the UAE government began offering vaccines to all citizens and residents, giving Dubai the opportunity to enter the vaccine tourism business.
Many countries still face vaccine shortages, and Dubai is betting that the UAE’s robust vaccination program — which is second only to Israel’s — can convince wealthy digital professionals to hop on a plane during the pandemic.
The Visit Dubai website promotes both the digital nomad visa and the vaccination scheme.
“Do you want to mix business with pleasure in Dubai?” the website reads. “With a new one-year virtual working programme, you can live and work by the beach … An added benefit of the program is that all UAE residents receive COVID-19 vaccinations free of charge.”
An ad tweeted by the Dubai Media Office shows a digital nomad getting served food at a beautiful outdoor restaurant during a Zoom call and asks, “If you can work from anywhere, why work anywhere else?”
Dubai’s digital nomad visa allows remote workers to live and work in the city for up to 12 months without paying UAE income taxes.
To qualify for the initiative, remote workers must earn at least $5,000 USD per month, have a passport that is valid for at least six months and have health insurance coverage. They must also prove that they have at least a year left on their employment contract or have been operating their own business for 12 months or more.
The total cost of the visa is $611 USD, including application fees, processing costs and the price of an identification card.
The pandemic has introduced remote work to millions of workers, and experts say the global workforce will never be the same. A new study by Boston Consulting Group found that 89% of workers worldwide now want jobs that allow them to work remotely at least part of the time.
“People got a taste of remote work during the pandemic, and it has completely changed their expectations,” said Rainer Strack, a senior partner at BCG and a co-author on the study. “It sends a very clear message that nine out of 10 people want some aspects of this to be sustained.”
This global shift toward worker mobility has inspired several countries, including Dubai, Estonia, Croatia, Costa Rica, Curacao and Greece, to create digital visa programs to increase tourism.
Dubai’s decision to give free vaccines to remote workers could give it an advantage at this stage of the pandemic.