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In January 2021, the UAE authorities made significant amendments to the citizenship law. Beforehand, nationality was not available to foreigners; however now investors, doctors, specialists, inventors, scientists, talents, intellectuals, and artists, as well as their spouses and children can apply for it. The initiative was proposed by the UAE President, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
It is worth noting that it can be very difficult for foreigners to obtain citizenship in the Gulf countries. However the UAE is the first country in the region that has devised this type of initiative. Additionally, the country can now offer dual citizenship to foreigners, making it the first in the Middle East.
The UAE began easing the conditions for immigrants to stay in the country a few years ago. While an ordinary work visa allows for a stay of 2-3 years, the “golden visa” programme launched in 2019 and now allows a residence permit of 10 years for individuals who have a degree, professionals with specific occupations, excellent students and their families. It is interesting to note that previously, only the wives and children of an Emirati citizen could obtain a UAE passport, along with long-time residents empowered by a presidential decree.
The UAE can now grant citizenship to certain categories of individuals, which is a positive step for both foreigners and the country itself. The amendment is a major move for the economy, considering that more than 85% of the population are expats, even after last year’s coronavirus crisis forced tens of thousands to leave the UAE. In a way, the country attracts the best specialists and talents within various fields, by giving those who can “contribute to our development journey”, (Sheikh Mohammed) a safe and secure place to reside in.
New amendments to the citizenship law are also aimed at encouraging longer stays for expatriates. One of the results of the initiative is that families will choose to invest more in their businesses, real estate and make long-term investments in the UAE, knowing that they will not have to eventually leave the country.
The UAE Centennial 2071, launched by the Prime Minister and Vice President of UAE, focuses on four aspects – education, economy, government development and community cohesion. One of the most important elements is the development of human capital, as the implementation of the project largely depends on qualified specialists. The new conditions for issuing citizenship will comply with this programme.
However, not all foreigners can apply for UAE citizenship. To get Emirati nationality you have to be part of the following categories of people and meet the listed requirements:
In order to obtain citizenship, the candidate must be approved by the Cabinet, rulers and executive councils of the Emirates. If the applicant meets the criteria they will then receive a passport of the United Arab Emirates. But if the candidate violates the conditions in the future, such as selling his property, then they will lose citizenship.
There are currently three ways to become a citizen of the UAE: by the law, by citizenship and by naturalization. Since there is no such thing as an application process, to obtain citizenship you can only go through the Rulers’ and Crown Princes’ Courts, Offices of the Executive Councils and the Cabinet. Sub-committees from different areas will collect information on the possible candidates and then if the person meets the requirements, the Federal Cabinet will nominate them personally. The Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) committee will examine the candidacy and decide if the candidate is suitable for UAE citizenship.
The passport of the United Arab Emirates offers many advantages both within and outside the country:
New introductions to laws can cause misunderstandings and a lot of questions. Below are some of the most popular ones:
Only certain groups can obtain UAE citizenship: investors, doctors, specialists, inventors, scientists and representatives of creative professions. You cannot apply for citizenship, you are nominated for it if you meet the criteria. The authorities then consider your candidacy and decide whether or not you qualify.
There are different types of visas that allow foreigners to stay longer in the Emirates. For example, the most popular one is the golden visa. It allows investors, entrepreneurs, students, specialized talents and researchers to live in the country for five or ten years.
A remote work visa is the first of its kind in the region. It allows professionals from all over the world to work remotely from the UAE. It is issued for one year to people in the entrepreneurs and talents category. One of the criteria is that the candidate’s income should be more than AED 19,000 (USD 5,000) per month. The cost of such a visa is AED 1,055 (USD 287).
Retirement visa. This type of visa allows people over the age of 55 to stay long-term in the UAE. It is issued for five years and can be renewed. The criteria to apply are: the candidate should have property investments worth AED 2,000,000 (USD 545,000), the applicant should have financial savings of no less than AED 1,000,000 (USD 270,000) and have an active income of more than AED 20,000 (USD 5,500) per month.
Permanent residency can be obtained by marrying a UAE national. The woman can receive citizenship if she is married for more than seven years and has at least one child. If the couple do not have children then the age criteria increases to ten years.
The reason is that the government doesn’t want to lose the Emirati national identity and culture, which is considered under threat since the UAE population is mostly foreigners.
If a child is born to an Emirati father in the country or abroad, the child automatically becomes a UAE citizen. Children from an Emirati mother can obtain citizenship through naturalisation. Children of expats who are born in the UAE acquire the nationality of their parents.
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