There are a handful of locations on the Earth that have become synonymous with wealth and success, and without a doubt, the United Arab Emirates [UAE] is among them. Thus, the relatively new Golden Visa opportunity by the UAE is causing shockwaves in the global communities of HNWIs and sophisticated investors.

Strategically located in the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates borders Saudi Arabia in the southeastern region of the Arabian Peninsula. Most frequently associated with Dubai, the UAE is actually a federation of seven emirates, or microstates:

  • Dubai
  • Abu Dhabi
  • Sharjah
  • Ajman
  • Umm Al-Quwain
  • Fujairah
  • Ras Al Khaimah

Among a laundry list of benefits and advantages, the UAE is world-renowned for its modern, and sometimes futuristic – developments and infrastructure. Providing one of the world’s highest standards of living within its vibrant and forward-looking cities.

The region is a global hub for business and communications, and the UAE’s generous tax structure – with no income tax and exemptions for many other types of tax – offers opportunities for wealth creation at the personal and business levels.

Thus, it is no surprise that the UAE routinely attracts global HNWIs, investors, and entrepreneurs looking to maximize their assets while enjoying an exotic lifestyle.

Citizenship in the UAE is one of the most difficult nationalities to acquire – with citizenship by naturalization being possible only after 30 years of residency.  However, the UAE Golden Visa program offers from 2 to 10 years of renewable residency.

Residency or citizenship in the UAE

There are a variety of routes through which to pursue the very selective status of being a UAE citizen, however, each requires a substantial connection to the country:

  • Citizenship by descent. A person who descends either from a family of long-term Arab settlers, or who has an Emirati father in the country or from abroad, or an Emirati mother in the country or from abroad where the child does not have a legally established father or the father is stateless.  Foundlings born in the UAE whose parents are unknown also automatically become citizens;
  • A person who is an ethnic Arab settler and holder of a UAE Residency, after 30 years of living in the country;
  • Citizenship by marriage. A foreign woman can gain citizenship after marrying a UAE citizen in 10 years if they do not have children, or in 7 years if they have a child;
  • Citizenship after long-term residency. Citizenship can be applied for after 30 years of residency in the UAE;
  • Citizenship by Special Merit. The government can grant citizenship in cases of special merit in fields such as Science, Invention, Creative Industries and Investment.

The UAE Golden Visa programs

The far more common – and more streamlined – method of enjoying life in the UAE is to gain residency.

The UAE Golden Visa program is designed and crafted for HNWIs and sophisticated investors looking to bring their experience or particular talents – including specialists, students and researchers – to the country for a long-term partnership and make a significant contribution to the UAE.

There a couple of different versions of the UAE Golden Visa, intended to target different applicants who satisfy specific criteria:

  • Students: Some students qualify for the Golden Visa if they are studying in the UAE and are considered to be exceptional students
  • Special Merit: Golden Visas can be granted to those who are considered to have special merit as described above
  • Residency by Investment: Targeting HNWIs, sophisticated investors, crypto-entrepreneurs, and those interested in luxury real estate

Golden visa with property purchase 

The minimum investment threshold for a UAE Golden Visa begins at AED 750,000 [approx. $205,000 USD] and can reach beyond AED 2 million [$550,000 USD] – depending upon program options and the investor’s individual wants, demands, and desires.

All property investments must be held for at least two years. Eligible real estate includes:

  • Apartments / flats
  • Hotel rooms
  • Villas
  • Townhouses
  • Commercial space, including offices and warehouses

Note: land is not eligible for the residency program.

There is also a registration fee of AED 160,000 [approx. $45,000 USD] for property purchases.

Golden visa with business or wealth

A 10-year Golden Visa is available for investment in a business or a share of a business, and a minimum of AED 2 million [$550,000 USD]. Alternatively, this sum can be deposited into a UAE bank account.

The investment must be maintained for a minimum of two years and it is necessary for the investor to prove that they have paid taxes of AED 250,000 [approx. $70,000 USD] for at least two years;

As with any residency by investment or citizenship by investment program, there are additional administrative and processing costs:

  • Notarization and translation of documents – around AED 3,673 [$1000 USD] per person
  • Medical insurance – around AED 1,469 [$400 USD] per person
  • Medical tests – around AED 750 [$200 USD] per person
  • Administrative fees for Visa and card – around AED 3,680 [$1000 USD]

Eligibility for the UAE Golden Visa

In addition to fulfilling the investment, studying, or merit requirements the applicant must:

  • Be over 18 years old
  • Have no criminal record
  • Have no transmittable, dangerous sicknesses such as HIV
  • Have a legal income – all funds must pass rigorous due diligence standards

Benefits of the UAE Golden Visa

  • Freedom of movement: The right to live in any of the seven emirates. Residents can travel freely to other countries worldwide, and there is no requirement to permanently in the UAE
  • Strategic location: The UAE acts as a gateway between Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East
  • Advantageous climate for business and tax: Among a long list of other zero-tax benefits, there is no income tax, and the UAE is one of the top 30 countries in the world in terms of the ease of doing business
  • Double taxation treaties: The UAE maintains double taxation agreements and bilateral investments agreements with nearly 200 countries
  • Free Trade Zones: There are 45 Free Trade Zones in the UAE – special economic areas offering additional tax concessions and customs duty benefits to foreign resident investors
  • World-class healthcare: Residents have access to sophisticated and high quality healthcare throughout the UAE
  • High standard of living: One of the highest standards of living in the world and among the safest places to live. Dubai ranks 74th and Abu Dhabi 78th out of 231 global cities in the Mercer’s Quality Of Living Ranking 2019.
  • Commercial benefits: In Abu Dhabi, residents qualify for special discounts and offers on services such as healthcare, insurance, property, cars and entertainment.  Banks in Abu Dhabi also offer reduced mortgage fixed-interest rates and preferential rates of interest on savings accounts to residents of the UAE
  • Top education: The UAE mandates very high educational standards which attract the most highly regarded international schools and universities
  • Speedy application process: Residence permit is typically granted in around three months
  • Family included: The applicants spouse and unmarried children may be included in the application- as well as one executive director and one adviser, at no extra cost
  • Historically strong real estate ROI: Real estate investments represent good value and promise favorable returns after the minimum investment period
  • Good relations with neighboring states: The UAE is a member state of The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Arab League, and the United Nations

The list of advantages and benefits to using the UAE Golden Visa as a primary or additional residency is much too involved to cover in a single article.

However, our seasoned and experienced experts can address all your concerns or questions and provide an insider’s analysis of your specific situation regarding the UAE Golden Visa or any of our programs and services.

Simply schedule your free consultation now by getting in touch with your closest Astons office.