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7 ways to obtain a residence visa in the UAE

A residence visa is a document that foreigners obtain to be able to stay in the UAE long-term. Depending on the conditions a person gets the visa, it can be valid from 1 to 10 years.

There are different residence visas for non-citizens who study at UAE universities, work at local companies or have invested in a business or real estate in the country.

Residents of the UAE can live, work and study in the state for as long as their visa is valid. In 30 years, they can apply for citizenship by naturalisation.

Let’s explore the different ways to become a resident of Dubai or one of the other emirates.

How to get a residency visa to the UAE

How to get a UAE resident visa by real estate purchase

Obtainment conditions. Foreign nationals can obtain UAE residency when purchasing real estate for at least AED 750,000, or $204,000. Investors can choose from residential and commercial properties in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Both ready-to-move properties and those in construction can be purchased as an investment. If an investor wants to get a mortgage, the down payment should be at least 50%.

$204,000+
The investment amount
for a residence visa
2+ years
Visa validity period

The validity period of the visa depends on the total amount of the investment:

  • a 2-year visa is granted if the real estate cost starts from AED 750,000, or $204,000;
  • a 5-year visa is granted if the property costs at least AED 2,000,000, or $544,500.

The list of documents necessary to obtain a residence visa by real estate investment includes:

  • a real estate ownership certificate;
  • a letter from the Dubai Land Department confirming the value of the property;
  • supporting documents from the applicant’s bank, if the property was purchased with a mortgage;
  • a real estate purchase and sale agreement;
  • a marriage certificate;
  • a certificate of absence of marriage for children over 18 years old; 
  • a certificate of no criminal record in the UAE and country of residence;
  • a passport copy;
  • medical insurance;
  • a copy of a valid visa;
  • colour photo 3 × 4 cm on a white background.

Renewal. To renew their residence visa, the investor needs to gather all the documents again, undergo a medical examination and submit their application to the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Port Security (ICP). 

Family members to join the application. Along with the investor, their close family members can obtain residence visas, too. This includes their spouse and children. 

In the application for a 2-year visa, one can include children under 18.   

To a 5-year visa application, the investor can add unmarried sons under 25 years old and unmarried daughters of any age. 

Apartments in a hotel for a residence visa to the UAE

Apartments in a premium hotel complex in the centre of Dubai. The price starts at $121,600

Studio apartments in the Dubai Marina district for investment in UAE Golden Visa

Apartments in the world’s tallest hotel in the Dubai Marina district. The price starts at $600,000

Villa in Dubai for the UAE residence visa

A villa in Dubai next to a golf club and a 37-hectare parkland. The price starts at $877,000

How to get a UAE residence visa for entrepreneurs 

Obtainment conditions. Entrepreneurs and investors can get UAE residence visas for five to ten years by an AED 500,000 ($136,000) business investment. Applications are submitted online on the ICP website.  

UAE entrepreneur Golden Visa obtainment conditions

Visa validity periodObtainment conditions
5 years1. Establish an innovative company with an investment of at least AED 500,000 ($136,000)
10 years1. Invest AED 2,000,000 ($545,500) in either a new business or a share of an existing company 
2. Join a startup incubator. The Ministry of Economy of the UAE should approve the startup concept
3. Own a company with at least AED 1,000,000 ($272,280) yearly revenue 
4. Establish a company and sell it for AED 7,000,000 ($1,900,000) 

Documents. The list of necessary papers for obtaining a Golden Visa for entrepreneurs includes:  

  • a business registration certificate;
  • a copy of the company’s trade licence;
  • an Establishment Card (a company immigration card);
  • a bank letter confirming investment in the authorised capital;
  • a passport copy;
  • a colour photo 3 × 4 cm on a white background;
  • medical insurance;
  • a medical examination certificate.

Renewal. To renew their resident visa, an entrepreneur needs to regather all the documents and confirm the fulfilment of the program’s conditions. 

Family members to join the application. Entrepreneurs can add to their resident visa applications their family members. This includes the main applicant’s spouse and unmarried children — sons under 25 and daughters of any age.

How to get a UAE residence visa for employment

Obtainment conditions. Foreigners who have long-term employment contracts with UAE companies can get residence visas. By law, the employer bears the costs of obtaining a visa and work permit.

The validity period of the residence visa by employment is equal to the duration of the work contract. Generally, the contracts are concluded for one year. 

Special requirements. Foreign specialists must undergo a medical examination and get healthcare coverage within two months after arriving in the UAE. The costs for the insurance start at AED 500, or $136. By agreement, it can be paid for by the employer.  

Aside from that, foreign employees are required to confirm their educational documents. This can be done on the UAE Ministry of Education website. The fee for confirming a bachelor’s degree is AED 100, or $27. For a PhD, it’s AED 200, or $55.

Documents. To obtain a residence visa by employment, the applicant needs to provide:

  • a work contract;
  • a colour photo 3 × 4 on a white background;
  • a passport copy;
  • a notarised copy of the diploma;
  • a CV.

Renewal. To renew their residence visa, a foreign employee needs to extend their work contract and regather all the supporting documents. The visa validity period will be set according to the contract duration. 

Family members to join the application. If the main applicant is male, their close family members can also obtain residence visas. This applies to: 

  • the spouse;
  • sons from 18 to 21 years old who are studying at a university;
  • unmarried daughters. 

To be able to add family members to their application, the main applicant needs to earn at least AED 4,000, or $1,090, monthly. If the applicant makes more than AED 20,000, or $4,500, per month, they can also request visas for their parents.

$1,090 per month
The minimum salary for a male applicant to be able to provide a request for residence visas to family members

If a female foreigner obtaining a residence visa by employment wants to add their family members, they can do that on different conditions. They can add their spouses and children, but their parents are not eligible for residency. 

To be able to add their children and spouse to the application, a female employee has to: 

  • earn at least AED 10,000, or $2,750, per month; 
  • work in healthcare, education or science industries or obtain special permission from The Department of Naturalisation and Residency Dubai (DNRD). 

How to obtain a UAE residence visa for specialist talent

Obtainment conditions. Scientists, medical doctors, educators, inventors, artists, and sportspeople can get residence visas to the UAE for specialist talent. 

The costs for obtaining the visa depend on the profession and the emirate. For instance, a permit for artists in Dubai costs AED 3,860, or $1,050. Applications for residency visas for talented professionals are submitted on the ICP website.

The validity period of the visa for talented specialists is 10 years.

Documents. To obtain the visa, the applicant has to meet the UAE state requirements. For instance:

  • scientists are required to obtain Emirates Scientists Council accreditation or Mohammed Bin Rashid Medal for Scientific Excellence;
  • artists are required to get accreditation from the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT);
  • inventors need to get a patent from the Ministry of Economy of the UAE. 

Family members to join the application. Talented professionals can request visas for their parents, children and spouses. 

How to obtain a UAE residency visa for students

Obtainment conditions. Foreigners over 18 years old can obtain a student visa if they study at UAE universities from the list of institutions with state accreditation.

The validity period of a student visa is 1 year. International students with excellent grades can obtain long-term residence visas for 5 to 10 years for outstanding academic achievements.

1 year
The validity period
of a UAE student visa

Special conditions. Foreigners don’t have to know the Arabic language to be able to study at UAE universities. However, they are required to provide a language certificate. For example, to get accepted to American University of Sharjah, an applicant has to pass one of the following language exams: IELTS score of 5,5, TOEFL iBT score of 70 or EmSAT score of 1250. 

The list of documents required for the application to a UAE university can vary and is usually published on the institution’s website. A standard package of documents contains: 

  • an application form;
  • a notarised copy of the high school diploma translated into Arabic;
  • a passport copy;
  • a copy of the birth certificate;
  • a letter confirming the equivalence of a foreign diploma issued by the UAE Ministry of Education;
  • a colour photo 3 × 4 см on a white background;
  • a language certificate confirming knowledge of English. 

Renewal. The student visa is renewed yearly as long as its holder studies at the university.

American university of Sharjah | Residence visa to the UAE for students
American University of Sharjah is one of the institutions with state certification. International students can get UAE residence visas

How to obtain a UAE residence visa as a freelancer or remote worker

Obtainment conditions. Foreign freelancers and remote employees can get visas allowing them to reside in the UAE while working for a foreign company or as self‑employed. 

To get a residence visa for freelancers, the applicant needs to get a licence in one of the free zones. For that, they need to complete the following steps: 

  1. Pick one of the free zones. Each of them supports specific types of professionals. For example, developers and other IT specialists can choose Dubai Internet City and photographers, and graphic designers can get a licence from Dubai Media City.
  2. Apply for a licence on the website of the chosen free zone.
  3. Pay the licence fee.         

The licence fee depends on the profession and age of the applicant. For instance, in Ajman Free Zone, the licence fees start at AED 6,000, or $1,630, per year. Applicants aged from 20 to 30 can obtain the licence at a lower fee — AED 5,000, or $1,360.

$1,360+
Licence fee for freelancers in the UAE

Validity period. The remote worker visa is valid for one year. After it’s over, the foreigner has to regather all the documents and pay the licence fee.

Special conditions. A visa will be cancelled if its holder stays outside the UAE for longer than six months.

Documents required to obtain a freelancer visa to Dubai:

  • a passport with minimum 6 months of validity;
  • medical insurance with UAE coverage validity;
  • proof of employment or ownership of a company;
  • bank statements from three preceding months;
  • a copy of freelance licence;
  • a copy of a valid visa;
  • a CV;
  • a colour photo 3 × 4 cm on a white background. 

Family members to join the application. The remote worker obtaining a UAE residence visa can add to the application and sponsor their parents, spouse and children.

How to get a UAE residence visa as a retiree

Obtainment conditions. People who get pensions from outside of the UAE can obtain residence visas with the Retire in Dubai program. To be eligible for the visa, the applicant has to meet one of the following conditions:

  • get monthly pension of at least AED 15,000, or $4,100;
  • have opened a deposit of AED 1,000,000, or $275,000, for at least three years;
  • have invested in one or more properties with a total cost of at least AED 1,000,000, or $275,000.

Validity period. A resident visa for retirees is valid for 5 years. 

Special conditions. Only people over 55 years old can join the program. A person who is getting a pension after military service but is not yet 55 yet is not eligible for this kind of visa.   

The list of documents to obtain a residence visa for pensioners includes: 

  • a passport copy;
  • a certificate of retirement;
  • bank statements from three preceding months;
  • a document confirming the amount of the pension;
  • documents confirming fulfilment of investment conditions: a certificate of deposit from the bank or contract for the sale of real estate.

Renewal. To renew the visa, the applicant must provide proof that they are still eligible for the Retire in Dubai program.

Family members to join the application. Along with the applicant, their spouse and children under 18 can obtain residence visas.

How to get an Emirates ID

The Emirates ID is an ID card that citizens and residents of the UAE get at the Federal Authority For Identity and Citizenship (ICP). 

The Emirates ID contains personal information on its holder, including their fingerprints. The ID card allows taking advantage of state services, acquiring SIM cards and skipping the lines at the border control at UAE airports.

How to get a residence visa and the Emirates ID in the UAE and Dubai
The Emirates ID has a chip that contains personal and biometric data of its holder

To obtain Emirates IDs, foreigners apply at the ICP website and provide biometric data at one of its departments. The administrative fee for the application is AED 30, or $11. Aside from that, residents pay a yearly service fee of AED 100, or $27, for the Emirates ID. 

The ID card is valid for as long as its holder’s visa. It can be renewed along with the visa. 

Benefits of the UAE residence visa

Business-friendly environment. The UAE is ranked 16th country in the world with the strongest business environment, according to the Doing Business 2020 research by World Bank Group. The ranking is based on multiple criteria, including ease of starting a business, access to credit, and protection of minority investors. The higher the country’s rank, the easier it is to do business there.

The UAE provides grants and financing facilities to companies in the industrial sector, for instance, businesses in IT, construction and healthcare technologies. 

In Dubai, support for small and medium businesses is provided by Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for SME Development. Its services are available to foreign investors, too

Individuals do not pay income tax in the UAE. Companies will be obliged to pay corporate tax only starting from July 1st, 2023. The tax will be charged at 9% and will apply only to companies that earn yearly more than AED 375,000, which is around $102,000.   

Companies that earn more than AED 375,000 also pay VAT tax at 5%. Aside from that, all companies pay 5% of import tax.

9%
Corporate tax rate
starting from July 2023

Taxes can be optimised if the company is registered in one of the UAE Free Zones, areas with special tax and customs regimes. Businesses in Free Zones are free of corporate tax for 15—50 years after registration and VAT and customs taxes. 

High quality of life. The UAE is in the top 5 countries to live and work, according to the Expat Explorer 2021 research by HSBC. The research is based on a survey of 20,000 expats from 46 countries. 

Higher education in internationally recognised institutions. Three out of seventy universities are in the world’s top 1,000, according to QS World University Rankings:

Foreigners must pay tuition fees to study at state and private universities. Each university sets its own fees. Usually, the more famous and prestigious the university is, the higher the fees. For instance, undergraduate degrees at Khalifa University begin at AED 16,000, around $4,300. American University of Sharjah’s tuition fees start at AED 100,940, or $27,500.  

Access to high-quality medicine. According to the World Index of Healthcare Innovation study, the UAE is in the top 20 countries with the most modern and innovative healthcare systems. UAE nationals get full medical coverage from the government. For residents and tourists, healthcare comes with paid insurance. 

Medical insurance allows getting treatment in private clinics. Some of them are accredited by Joint Commission International (JCI), which means that their services meet the international healthcare community standards. For instance, NMC clinics in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi have JCI accreditation

Foreign residents of the UAE can purchase residential or commercial real estate on a mortgage. Housing loans are provided only with a down payment of at least 20%. The maximum mortgage loan amount is AED 10,000, which is around $2,700,000.

The mortgage rate depends on the loan’s total amount, the financing term, the borrower’s official income and the down payment’s size. The minimum rate at First Abu Dhabi Bank, which works with foreigners, is 3.99% per annum.

Frequently asked questions

Who can get a residence visa to the UAE?

A residence visa to the UAE is available to foreigners who purchase real estate in the country, start a business here, get accepted in a local university or are employed by a local company. Aside from that, retirees with more than $4,100 of passive income can obtain residency in the UAE.

Real estate purchase is one of the more popular ways to obtain a residency visa. The candidate needs to buy a property in Dubai or Abu Dhabi for at least $204,000. A visa is valid for 2 years.

Is it easy to get a UAE residence visa?

Application conditions for a UAE residency visa depend on the requested visa type. For instance, investors can obtain a 5-year visa after investing at least AED 2,000,000 ($544,500) in real estate.

Freelancers and retirees can get a visa if they prove their sources of income. Students and employees of local companies are required to provide their contract with the university or a local company they’re employed by.

How long does it take to get a UAE residence visa?

The obtainment period depends on the type of visa. For instance, a visa for investors can be issued in about 5—6 months.

What documents are required to obtain a freelancer visa to the UAE?

A foreigner can obtain a freelancer visa to the UAE if they are self-employed or working remotely for a foreign company. To do so, the applicant needs to get a licence from one of the free zones of the UAE. 

Documents required to obtain a freelancer visa to Dubai:

  • a passport with minimum 6 months of validity;
  • medical insurance with UAE coverage validity;
  • proof of employment or ownership of a company;
  • bank statements from three preceding months;
  • a copy of freelance licence;
  • a copy of a valid visa;
  • CV;
  • a colour photo 3 × 4 cm on a white background. 

The visa for remote workers is valid for one year. After it has passed, it has to be renewed.

Can foreign entrepreneurs get a residence visa to the UAE?

Investors and entrepreneurs can get a Golden Visa to the UAE for 5 or 10 years by investing AED 500,000, or $136,000, or more. They can choose to invest in a business, real estate or a fund.

The visa validity period depends on the kind of investment and its total cost. For instance, a 5-year visa can be obtained when investing AED 500,000, or $136,000, in a new company. A 10-year visa is issued for startup owners who join a local business incubator or people who own a company with AED 1,000,000, or $272,280, of yearly revenue.

How much do I need to invest in getting a UAE residency visa?

Foreigners who invest at least AED 2,000,000 ($544,500) in real estate can get a 5-year residency visa. Investors can purchase ready-to-move properties or those in construction in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Can a foreigner get UAE citizenship?

A foreigner can obtain UAE citizenship by investment, for exceptional services or by naturalisation after 30 years of residing in the country. The first two options became available in 2021. 

The UAE government does not specify the minimum investment amount for obtaining citizenship. Conditions of obtaining residency by investment can serve as a guideline.

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7 ways to obtain a residence visa in the UAE