(Photo: Columbia.edu / Ghaith Abdul-Ahad)
The majority of the UAE's workforce is made up of immigrant laborers.
The United Arab Emirates is tightening restrictions on visas for immigrant workers from major labor-exporting countries in Asia, citing a need to keep foreign criminals out of the country.
Certain workers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Philippines are now banned from applying for tourist, visit, and conference visas unless they meet the prerequisite of holding a college degree as well as other new requirements such as round-trip tickets, documentation of hotel booking and proof of sufficient funds to pay for the trip, Gulf News reported.
Among the types of workers included in the ban are electricians, pipefitters, masons, farmers, drivers, tailors and cleaners.
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An immigration official, under the condition of anonymity, told Gulf News the measures were prompted by a recent spate of arrests that revealed many foreigners in the country on tourist and other short-term visas were engaged in organized crime or human trafficking or were unemployed.
"These visa requirements will give authorities a greater ability to manage the flow of visitors into the country and allow residency departments across the country to screen more travelers for security risks prior to their arrival in the UAE," the official told Gulf News. "This would help significantly reduce the risk that individuals engaged in organized crime or the trafficking of persons could gain entry to the country."
Tourism to the UAE has expanded rapidly -- particularly to the emirate of Dubai which is home to the tallest skyscraper in the world, the Burj Khalifa -- increasing 10 percent to 9.3 million visitors in 2011 from the previous year, the Daily Telegraph reported.
Much of the rapid development in the wealthy Gulf federation has been built using foreign labor, with immigrants making up the vast majority of the 8 million-plus population and UAE nationals making up less than 15 percent.
This article is copyrighted by International Business Times, the business news leader