The United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven Emirates – Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al-Quwain, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah – is situated in the south-east of the Arabian Peninsula and occupies a key position in the area.  The Emirates offer a modern and sophisticated infrastructure with a high standard of living in vibrant and forward-looking cities.  The area is a hub for business and communications, and the UAE’s generous tax structure – with no income taxes and exemptions from many other types of tax – offers opportunities for wealth creation at the personal and business levels.  It is no surprise that the area continues to attract many overseas investors and individuals looking to maximise their assets and create a wonderful life in an exotic destination.

Becoming a citizen of the UAE is difficult to achieve for foreigners, with citizenship by naturalisation being possible only after 30 years of residency.  However, the UAE does have a Golden Visa program offering 5 or 10-years residency which can be renewed.

Residency or Citizenship in UAE

There are a number of ways to achieve residency and/or citizenship in the United Arab Emirates:

  • 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.

Golden Visa Residency Visas

It is more common in the UEA for foreigners to gain residency visas than to gain citizenship.  The Golden Visa program is intended to attract long-term investment from foreign investors, entrepreneurs and those with particular talents including specialists, students and researchers, all of whom make a significant contribution to the UAE.

Golden Visas offer two, five or ten-year residency and are available to those who fulfil the 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  The Golden Visa may be obtained by significant financial investment in:

Property Purchase 

The minimum investment for a two-year investment residence visa is AED 750,000 for a single owner or AED 1 million if joint owners, while for a ten-year residence visa the investor has to provide at least AED 2 million.  All property investments must be held for at least two years.  Property can be flats, apartments, hotel rooms, villas, townhouses, offices and warehouses but not land. There is also a registration fee of AED 160,000 for property purchases.

Business or Wealth

A ten-year Golden Visa is available for investment in a business or a share of a business, of a minimum of AED 2 million.  Alternatively, this sum can be deposited with a bank.  This 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 for at least two years;

With any Golden Visa for residency by investment it should be noted that there will be added costs:

Notarisation and translation of documents – around AED 3,673 per person;

Medical insurance – around AED 1,469 per person;

Medical tests – around AED 750 per person;

Administrative fees for Visa and card – around AED 3,680

Criteria For Applying For 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.

Benefits Of Holding a Golden Visa

  • Freedom of movement   The right to live in any of the seven Emirates.  Residents can travel freely to other countries worldwide and do not have to stay permanently in the UAE;
  • Important geographic location  The UAE occupies a strategic position, representing a gateway between Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East;
  • Advantageous climate for business and tax  No tax on income, inheritance, wealth, luxury, personal pensions, capital gains.  No estate or gift tax and no net worth or withholding taxes (except for those levied in the domestic banking and oil sectors).  No social security contributions for non GCC members.   Low VAT at just 5%.  No Corporate Tax until the end of the taxable period following 1 June 2023.  No Stamp Duty on property sales.  The UAE has been cited as one of the top 30 countries in the world in terms of the ease of doing business;
  • Double taxation treaties   The UAE has around 193 double taxation agreements and bilateral investments agreements with other nations to ensure that there is no duplication of taxes in a person’s country of origin and in the UAE;
  • Free Trade Zones  There are 45 Free Trade Zones in the UAE – special economic areas offering tax concessions and customs duty benefits to foreign resident investors; 
  • Healthcare  Residents have access to sophisticated and high quality healthcare throughout the UAE;
  • High standard of living  The UAE is one of the most highly developed areas in the world, with sophisticated and modern cities.  For example, Dubai ranked 74th out of 231 countries in the Mercers Quality Of Living Ranking 2019, which took into consideration such factors as: economic environment, public services, transport and education.  The Emirates are among the safest of places to live and work;
  • 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;
  • Education  The children of residents can take advantage of the high educational standards in the UAE, studying at 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.  Also included can be one executive director and one adviser, at no extra cost;
  • Good value from real estate investments  Real estate investments represent good value and promise favourable returns after the minimum investment period;
  • Good relations with neighbouring states  The UAE is a member state of The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), the Arab League and the United Nations.

The UAE’s popularity as a destination for a second residency is well-deserved, due to its high standard of living, developed economy, beneficial business environment and its important position at the junction of significant geo-political areas.