The government of the United Arab Emirates welcomes investors and encourages them to apply for residency. Yet naturalisation and citizenship laws in the country are more nuanced. The goal here is to protect the national identity of the Emirati people.
However, it is possible to acquire local citizenship even without any blood ties — for instance, through getting a residence permit in the UAE by investment.
Ways to get UAE citizenship
It’s important to understand the nuances of Emirati nationality law first. According to this law, there are four ways to obtain citizenship.
By descent. Being born on UAE soil does not grant citizenship by itself. A citizen-to-be must descend from at least one of these groups:
- from a family of long-term Arab settlers in the UAE. This means a family of ethnic Arabs that settled there before 1925 and stayed until 1972;
- from an Emirati father in the country or abroad;
- from an Emirati mother in the country or abroad, without a legally established fatherhood — or with a stateless father;
- from unknown parents in the country, meaning the citizenship seeker is a foundling born in the UAE.
By marriage. First, a UAE national of any gender must get the court's permission to marry a foreigner. The said foreigner must already have a UAE residence visa, along with a clean medical and criminal record.
One marrying party shouldn’t be twice as old as the other one. Religious practices aren’t an issue: non-Muslims can marry in the UAE as long as both parties consent.
A foreign man marrying an Emirati woman will not be granted citizenship on this ground. A foreign woman marrying an Emirati man may receive citizenship:
- in 7 years if they have a child together;
- in 10 years if they don't.
By naturalisation. Previously it could be granted only to ethnic Arab settlers of good character and no criminal record, fluent in the Arabic language, with an academic qualification and a legal source of income.
After the changes to the naturalisation law, residency visa holders can also get citizenship in the UAE regardless of ethnicity.
By exceptional merit. This is the newest addition to the Executive Regulation of the Federal Law concerning Nationality and Passports. Before the government put it in place back in 2021, UAE citizenship was primarily granted by the right of blood.
The exceptional merit applicants can be:
- doctors with at least ten years of experience, who hold a membership of a reputable organisation in their field, and a recognised scientific contribution to research in their field;
- inventors who have at least one patent approved by the UAE Ministry of Economy or another reputable international organisation;
- scientists with at least ten years of experience and at least one prestigious international award or a research grant in their field;
- creative talents who are deemed innovators in their field have at least one patented invention, at least one international award, and a recommendation from a government agency in their field;
- investors — for instance, those who bought real estate in the UAE.
Applicants who fall under those criteria may be nominated for citizenship by UAE royals or officials to receive citizenship. Then, their candidacy must be approved by the Cabinet.
How to get a Property Investor Residence Visa in the UAE
High-net-worth individuals can invest in property in the UAE and get nominated for citizenship. First, investors acquire a residence visa by investing in UAE property.
Comparing Property Investor Residence Visas in the UAE
|Visa validity||Minimal investment||Approved property types||Not approved property types|
|2 years||AED 750,000, or approx. $204,000|
AED 1,000,000, or approx. $272,000, if legally married husband and wife invest in joint ownership property
|Residential or serviced apartments|
Townhouses, offices, or warehouses
|Disputed real estate|
Separate plots of land
|10 years||AED 2 000,000, or approx. $545,000|
Mortgage property investment is allowed under the permanent UAE residency conditions. The investor pays at least 50% upfront in that case.
Only freehold-zone property can be invested in for a residency permit. Freehold status gives full rights to owners. Such property and the land it’s on can be sold for the return of investment, rented out, or occupied by the investor or their family.
Leasehold-zone property is not applicable for the Property Investor Residence Visas in the UAE. Property with this status limits ownership rights — 99 years is the allowed maximum. The owner also won’t have rights to the land.
Requirements for applicants. Investors may apply for a UAE residence visa if they’re over 18 years old and have no criminal record or dangerous diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, or tuberculosis. An investor’s spouse may also get a residence visa if they meet the same requirements.
A 2-year residence visa may be granted to the couple’s children under 18. A 10-year residence visa allows investors to include unmarried sons under 25 and daughters of any age in the application.
Family members will receive the same rights as the investor. They can also be naturalised under one of the UAE naturalisation law options.
What is the UAE Golden Visa, and who can apply?
The Golden Visa in the UAE allows investors to reside and run businesses in the country, yet the acquisition process is different. For now, it requires an investment of AED 5 to 10 million.
The UAE government updated the Golden Visa rules in April 2022. The new rules provide a lower investment amount, a wider choice of options, and no restrictions on living abroad. However, those new rules still aren’t in force, and there’s no exact start date either.
Below are the applicants who can seek out the UAE golden visa under the new rules.
Investors can get a UAE Golden Visa by investment in real estate or business:
- Real estate. Applicants for a 10-year golden visa invest at least AED 2 million, or approximately $544,500, in real estate. The property may be off-plan or fully constructed, and getting a loan from an accredited bank in the UAE is allowed.
- Business. Applicants for a 10-year golden visa invest at least AED 2 million, or approximately $544,500, in a business. This can either be an existing company in the UAE or a new company the investor establishes.
Entrepreneurs must register a startup in the UAE as a small and medium enterprise. The startup should have at least AED 1 million, or approximately $272,000 in annual revenues. They can also generate a startup idea and get it approved by an official business incubator in the UAE or local authorities such as the Ministry of Economy.
Another option is to be a founder of a project sold for at least AED 7 million, or approximately $1,9 million.
Exceptional talents in sports, digital tech, art, or culture fields. Their income or employment statuses don’t matter. To be eligible for UAE golden visa, they should present a recommendation from a local or federal government entity.
Scientists and researchers should be in the fields of life or natural sciences, engineering, or technology. They also should have a PhD or a Master’s degree in their field from the world’s leading universities and present research achievements that impacted their field. The Emirates Scientists Council recommendation provides their golden visa candidacy.
Highly-skilled workers from all disciplines can apply for a golden visa. However, fields like law, culture, medicine, IT, engineering, or business and administration are singled out.
The candidates from those fields should have high educational qualifications and solid experience. They must have a valid employment contract in the Emirates and be classified in the first or second occupational level according to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation. Their monthly salary should be at least AED 30,000.
Outstanding students and graduates. This category includes students in secondary schools in the Emirates and graduates from Emirati universities or the world’s top 100 higher educational institutions. The candidates should have high academic achievements.
Humanitarian pioneers. Candidates from this category should possess recognition awards in humanitarian fields. They can also be prominent volunteers and sponsors of humanitarian efforts or hold outstanding membership in public benefits associations and regional or global organisations.
Frontline heroes. This category refers to workers with outstanding achievements in crisis situations, such as the COVID-19 pandemic relief.
The primary applicant for the UAE golden visa program can also add their spouse, sons, and daughters to the applications. They can also add non-family members, such as colleagues or house workers.
How to obtain a UAE residency by investment
Getting a UAE residence visa by investment requires 2+ months. The process includes the preparation of documents, the purchase of real estate, a medical checkup in a UAE clinic, and submission of the application.
If you want to invest in UAE real estate and obtain a residence visa, Immigrant Invest will walk you through the stages. Our extensive work with documents and a preliminary Due Diligence check reduces the risk of rejection to 1%.
Step-by-step procedure for obtaining a UAE residency by investment
Benefits of UAE residency
Investors who receive a residency visa or a passport in the UAE also get multiple advantages for themselves and their families.
No obligatory residency in the Emirates. Residency visa holders only have to visit the country 1—2 times a year to maintain their residency permit.
Tax optimisation. The Emirates don’t levy taxes on income, property, capital gains, gifts, or inheritance.
The corporate profit tax in the UAE will be absent until 2023. After that, it will still be lower than in many developed countries: 9% if a company generates more than AED 375,000 in profit.
International banking access. Investors can open multicurrency accounts in UAE banks to save and transfer funds.
Healthcare and education access. The Emirates is one of the fastest-growing medical tourism destinations in the world due to its robust and innovative healthcare. Residency visa holders can be treated in public or private clinics and get health insurance on special terms.
Children can attend public or private kindergartens, schools, and universities in the Emirates. Educational standards in the country are high, and numerous international schools are present here. Higher education programs are commonly in English.
Free Esaad Privilege Card for UAE golden visa holders. It gives exclusive offers and discounts up to 70% in the Emirates and 92 countries worldwide. Previously, this card was only granted to UAE citizens.
Eligibility for UAE citizenship in 30 years or after being nominated and approved by the country’s rulers. A UAE passport adds benefits like visa-free entry to 176 destinations, including the Schengen Zone, the UK, and Canada.
Dual citizenship is prohibited in the UAE, but investors who obtain a passport by exceptional merit can keep other citizenships.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. One way is to get UAE citizenship by naturalisation after living in the country for 30 years. Foreigners with a residence permit can also marry an Emirati national and apply for citizenship. The Emirati government also can grant citizenship by exceptional merit.
There are several criteria for UAE citizenship. Who can get an Emirati passport:
- people who descend either from a family of long-term Arab settlers in the UAE, an Emirati father in the country or from abroad, or an Emirati mother in the country or from abroad;
- ethnic Arab settlers and holders of a residency visa after 30 years of living in the country;
- foreign women marrying Emirati men can get citizenship in 10 years if they don’t have a child and in 7 years if they do;
- specialists, scientists, inventors, creative talents, and investors may get UAE citizenship for exceptional merit.
Yes, but under certain circumstances.
To obtain UAE citizenship by birth, a child must either descend from a family of long-term Arab settlers in the UAE, from an Emirati father in the country or abroad, or from an Emirati mother in the country or abroad without a legally established fatherhood or with a stateless father.
Foundlings born in the UAE from unknown parents also become citizens by birth.
Yes. You can obtain a UAE Residence visa in exchange for real estate investment in the UAE. It is valid for 2 or 10 years. The minimum investment is AED 750,000, or approximately $204,000. With this visa, you can live in Dubai or in any other Emirate.
The Emirati government also introduced the new UAE Golden Visa program that grants residency permits for 2 and 10 years by investment or exceptional merit.
The general law grants naturalisation after 30 years of residency in the UAE. However, there are easier and faster ways to obtain it. For instance, a foreign woman who marries an Emirati man will be naturalised in 7 years if they have children together and in 10 years if they don’t. Investors, scientists, doctors, and creative talents can obtain Emirati citizenship by exceptional merit.
A UAE passport in Dubai can be granted by descent, by naturalisation, by marriage, or by exceptional merit. The latter option is available for investors. Before applying for citizenship, they obtain a 2- or 10-year residence permit by investing at least AED 750,000, or approx. $204,000 in UAE property.
Only if that child descends from at least one of these groups: a family of long-term Arab settlers in the UAE, an Emirati father, an Emirati mother without a legally established fatherhood or with a stateless father, and finally — from unknown parents in the UAE.