Home > Legal > How to Obtain UAE Citizenship: Your Complete Guide (2024)

How to Obtain UAE Citizenship: Your Complete Guide (2024)

Jul 7, 2022 | Legal

The UAE, including Abu Dhabi and the wider Middle East, offers vast opportunities for those looking to live and work here, typically requiring just a residence visa. However, for those aspiring to build a business, UAE citizenship provides additional benefits that go beyond what a residency visa offers.

In 2019, Sheikh Mohammed introduced the Golden Visa, granting up to 10 years of residency and paving a path for talented individuals towards UAE citizenship.

Let’s dive deep into the different ways you can gain UAE citizenship and the requirements and criteria for gaining Emirati citizenship.

How To Get UAE Citizenship

The Golden Visa Program

The UAE Government has introduced a new Citizenship Program for expatriates called the Golden Visa Program. The Golden Visa is designed for entrepreneurs, investors, retirees, professionals, and outstanding students.

Whilst this visa does not grant you a UAE passport, it does allow you 5-10 years of residency in the UAE, which can be renewed as long as you continue to meet the eligibility requirements. This is a good way to start your 30-year period of naturalisation, which can lead to your eventual citizenship.

Applicants applying for the Golden Visa do not need a local sponsor to acquire their visa.

There are four different categories for the Golden Visa:

  • Investment in public investments
  • Investment in real estate
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Outstanding specialised talent

Check your eligibility for the Golden Visa here.

Investment in Public Investments

Criteria that must be met to receive the 10-year renewable visa:

  • Applicant must have submitted a letter from an accredited investment fund stating that they have a deposit of AED 2 million or,
  • The applicant must submit a valid industrial or commercial licence and a memorandum of association stating that their capital investment equals at least AED 2 million,
  • The applicant must submit a letter from the Federal Tax Authority outlining that they will pay the government AED 250,000 annually,
  • The applicant must also submit proof that they (and their family, if applicable) have valid medical insurance in the UAE.

These deposits must be owned entirely and not be drawn from a loan.

Investment in Real Estate

Criteria that must be met to receive the 5-year renewable visa:

  • The applicant must have submitted a letter from the land department of the corresponding emirate stating that they own one or more properties valued at a minimum of AED 2 million,
  • If the applicant purchased the property with a loan from an approved local bank, they must also submit this documentation.

Entrepreneurs

Criteria that must be met to receive the 5-year renewable visa:

  • Applicants must own an economic project that is of a technical or future nature based on risk and innovation,
  • Applicants must also have submitted a letter from a UAE auditor stating that their project is worth at least AED 500,000,
  • Applicants must also have submitted a letter from the UAE authorities stating that their project is of a technical or future nature,
  • Applicants must have submitted a letter from a UAE-accredited business incubator stating the proposed project.

Outstanding Specialised Talent

Doctors and Scientists

Criteria that must be met to receive the 10-year renewable visa:

  • The applicant must have submitted a letter of approval from the Ministry of Health and Prevention in the UAE stating that they can practice medicine (for doctors).
  • The applicant must have submitted a letter of recommendation from the Emirates Council of Scientists or the Secretariat of the Mohammed bin Rashid Medal for Scientific Excellence stating that they have been awarded the Medal of Scientific Excellence (for scientists).
Inventors

Criteria that must be met to receive the 10-year renewable visa:

  • The applicant must have submitted a letter of recommendation from the Ministry of Economy stating that their patent adds value to the country’s economy.
Creative People in the Fields of Culture and Art

Criteria that must be met to receive the 10-year renewable visa:

  • The applicant must have submitted an approval letter from the Department of Culture and Arts as an international reward for their talents.
Executive Directors

Criteria that must be met to receive the 10-year renewable visa:

  • The applicant must have submitted a copy of their bachelor’s or master’s degree accredited by the Ministry of Education,
  • The applicant must have submitted a letter showing their experience of holding the same position for at least 5 years.
  • The applicant must have submitted evidence showing proof that their salary is at least AED 50,000 annually. 
  • The applicant must have submitted a copy of their valid work contract.
Athletes

Criteria that must be met to receive the 10-year renewable visa:

  • The applicant must have submitted a letter of recommendation from the General Sports Authority or one of the sports councils stating their eligibility.
Specialists in Engineering and Science

Criteria that must be met to receive the 10-year renewable visa:

  • The applicant must have submitted a copy of their Bachelor’s or Master’s degree certified by the Ministry of Education, along with a valid work contract.
High School Students

Criteria that must be met to receive the 5-year renewable visa:

  • Must have achieved a minimum grade of 95% in either public or private secondary school,
  • Must have submitted a letter of recommendation from the Ministry of Education (Emirates Schools Establishment).

Please note that the applicant’s visa can be extended beyond 5 years if they have enrolled in a major college in the UAE which requires a study period longer than 5 years.

University Students

Criteria that must be met to receive the 10-year renewable visa:

  • Applicants must have studied at a globally renowned top 100 university, based on the Ministry of Education rating system,
  • Applicants must have achieved a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5,
  • Applicants must apply within 2 years of their graduation,
  • Applicants must have submitted a copy of their graduation certificate accredited by the Ministry of Education.
Pioneers of Humanitarian Work

Criteria that must be met to receive the 10-year renewable visa:

  • Applicants must be members or outstanding employees who have worked for at least 5 years for international and regional organisations or,
  • Applicants must be members or outstanding employees who have worked for at least 5 years for civil associations and institutions of public interest or,
  • Applicants must have received an award of appreciation from a local, international or regional organisation that focuses on humanitarian work or,
  • Must have funded humanitarian work with at least AED 2 million.
Frontline Heroes

Criteria that must be met to receive the 10-year renewable visa:

  • Applicants must be frontline heroes in an industry that is approved by the Frontline Heroes
    office (medical assistant, lab technician, nurse, pharmacologist, etc.)
  • Applicants must have submitted a letter from a competent authority stating that they have displayed extraordinary performance in crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fees

The fees associated with gaining the Golden Visa include:

Residence permit fee of AED1100Extra charges:
Knowledge dirham: AED10
Innovation dirham: AED10
Fee inside the country: AED500

Delivery:
AED20

Citizenship by Marriage

  • Timeframe: Foreign women married to Emirati men can apply for citizenship, provided the marriage is stable and ongoing for 7 years if they have children and 10 years if they don’t have children.
  • Requirements: Throughout this period, the marriage must be stable and ongoing. Additionally, the applicant must have a clean legal record and good conduct. Proficiency in the Arabic language is often required, along with a deep understanding of Emirati culture and customs.

Citizenship by Naturalisation

  • Timeframe: Typically reserved for a select few, this process generally requires over 30 years of residency, including at least 20 years following legal residency issuance.
  • Requirements: Applicants must demonstrate good conduct, have no criminal record, and be proficient in Arabic. Additionally, they must have a lawful and continuous source of income and be medically fit. The process also involves renouncing the applicant’s original nationality, as the UAE does not usually allow dual citizenship.

It’s important to note that the UAE government has discretion in these matters, and citizenship by naturalisation is not guaranteed even if all criteria are met.

Citizenship by Descent

  • Principle: Follows the principle of jus sanguinis (right of blood), where nationality is inherited from parents.
  • Automatic Citizenship: Generally granted automatically to children born to a UAE national father.
  • UAE National Mothers: For children of UAE national mothers and non-national fathers, automatic citizenship is not typically granted.
  • Recent Efforts: Efforts have been made recently to ease the citizenship process for children of UAE national mothers and non-national fathers.
  • Citizenship Laws: The UAE maintains stringent laws to preserve a strong sense of national identity.

UAE flag close up

How To Apply For UAE Citizenship 

Applicants can apply for their UAE entry visa through the Dubai Government’s official website.

Screenshot of Dubai's Government Website showing where to apply for an entry visa.

After they have received their entry visa, they can proceed with their Golden Visa applications.

To apply for the Golden Visa through the ICP website, applicants need to:
1. Login or register to the Smart Services System with either a UAE pass or username and password
2. Click on the ‘Golden Services’ tab, and then follow the prompts from there based on which Golden visa you are applying for
3. Fill in the application data
4. Pay the fees

To see our complete guide on the ICP Smart Services Website, click here.

A screenshot of the ICP Smart Services Website on how to apply for a Golden Visa.

For documentation, applicants will need to provide:

  • Completely-filled application form
  • Two passport-size photos
  • Their original passport
  • An entry visa 
  • Proof that they are in good health and of good character
  • If an applicant is entering with a family visa, they will need to provide evidence of family links with birth and marriage certificates
  • If an applicant is entering with a work visa, they will need to provide a copy of their work contract, trade licence and firm documents.
  • Additional documents for travel purposes.
  • Proof of their current health insurance policy

Additionally, you must pledge your allegiance to the UAE, which is a non-negotiable part of getting citizenship. Furthermore, you will need to follow the country’s rules and laws.

Thirdly, informing the UAE government about giving up or losing other citizenships is also necessary.

Benefits of Obtaining UAE Citizenship

Obtaining citizenship in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) presents several significant benefits, contributing to a high quality of life and enhanced personal opportunities. Key advantages include:

  1. Full Legal Rights: Citizenship grants full legal rights, including voting and eligibility for government positions, allowing individuals to participate actively in the nation’s development.
  2. Tax Benefits: UAE citizens enjoy a favourable tax regime, as the country does not impose a personal income tax, which can be financially beneficial.
  3. High Standard of Living: The UAE offers a high standard of living, with access to world-class healthcare, education, and infrastructure, ensuring a comfortable and modern lifestyle.
  4. Global Mobility: A UAE passport provides considerable global mobility, with visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to numerous countries, facilitating easy travel for leisure or personal business.
  5. Cultural and Social Integration: Citizenship allows for deeper cultural integration into the UAE community, along with access to social welfare programs and government services.
  6. Property Ownership Rights: Unlike expatriates, UAE citizens have the right to own property anywhere in the country, broadening investment and residence options.
  7. Employment Advantages: UAE nationals often have access to more favourable employment opportunities, as many companies and government entities prioritize hiring citizens.
  8. Educational Benefits: Citizens can access quality education, including public schools and universities, often with favourable conditions or scholarships.

Why You Should Start a Business in Dubai

This Golden Visa has become many people’s gateway to starting a business in Dubai. Dubai is one of the best places in the world to start a business, with the GPD growing 3.6% in the second quarter of 2023 to USD 60.9 billion.

Here are some of the best advantages of being a UAE citizen for business.

Amazing Infrastructure

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is renowned for its remarkable infrastructure, which stands as a testament to the nation’s rapid development and futuristic vision. This infrastructure encompasses world-class facilities and state-of-the-art amenities, spanning from towering skyscrapers like the Burj Khalifa in Dubai to expansive road networks, efficient public transportation systems, and ultramodern airports.

Moreover, the country’s commitment to sustainable and innovative city solutions is evident in its eco-friendly buildings, solar energy projects, and digital initiatives, making it a leader in urban development. The continuous investment and innovation in infrastructure reflect the UAE’s ambition to be at the forefront of global development, driving economic growth and diversifying beyond its oil-based economy.

No Income Tax

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) stands out as a desirable business destination, in part due to its policy of no income tax. This policy is particularly beneficial for businesses for several reasons. Firstly, it significantly reduces the financial burden on both corporations and individual entrepreneurs, allowing them to reinvest more of their profits back into the business. This reinvestment can lead to accelerated growth, increased research and development, and the ability to hire more staff.

Secondly, the absence of income tax simplifies the accounting process, reducing the need for complex tax planning and compliance, which can be both time-consuming and costly. This simplicity attracts foreign investment and encourages entrepreneurs to set up their ventures in the UAE. Lastly, this tax structure enhances the UAE’s competitiveness in the global market, making it an appealing hub for multinational corporations seeking a favourable tax environment.

Trading Opportunities

The UAE holds a strategic position in the global market, making it a pivotal player in international trade. Geographically, the UAE is situated at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa, providing a crucial gateway that connects these major continents. This unique location offers businesses in the UAE easy access to a variety of markets, including emerging economies in the Middle East and Africa, the established markets of Europe, and the rapidly growing markets in Asia.

Additionally, the UAE boasts world-class port facilities and airports, which facilitate efficient and high-volume cargo movements essential for global trade. The country’s political stability, robust legal framework, and open economic policies further enhance its attractiveness as a trade hub. This strategic positioning not only benefits the UAE’s economy but also offers significant advantages to international businesses seeking a central location for their operations.

The Journey to Becoming a UAE Citizen

Becoming a UAE citizen is no easy feat and will take years for most to achieve. However, as we have discussed, the benefits of UAE citizenship are worth the wait. With a booming economy, no income tax, incredible infrastructure, trading opportunities, and broad travel rights, UAE citizens have endless opportunities for living a lavish lifestyle and soaring in the business world.

If you need professional help setting up your business in the UAE and want expert advice, our team at Virtuzone is ready to assist you.

Get in touch with us today to learn more about starting a business in Dubai.

FAQ’s

Does the UAE Allow Dual Nationality?

Yes, the UAE allows dual nationality. Individuals who obtain UAE citizenship can retain their original nationality, but they need to confirm this with their country of origin.

Can an Emirati Citizen Marry a Non-Emirati Citizen?

Yes, Emirati citizens can marry non-Emirati citizens. However, it is much easier for women to marry non-UAE nationals than men. Emirati men must obtain permission from the UAE government before marrying a non-Emirati woman, whereas women do not need to acquire this permission.

How Powerful is the UAE Passport?

The UAE passport is considered one of the most powerful in the world. Holders of a UAE passport enjoy extensive global mobility, with visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to over 170 countries, showcasing the passport’s strength and the country’s global connectivity.

Can UAE Citizenship be Revoked? 

Yes, UAE citizenship is revocable under certain conditions. The UAE government can revoke citizenship if it’s found that it was obtained through fraudulent means, such as providing false information or hiding relevant facts during the application process. Additionally, engaging in activities that are considered harmful to the state’s security or public order can also lead to revocation.

How Does UAE Citizenship Affect Employment Opportunities?

As a UAE citizen, you’ll have enhanced employment opportunities due to the Emiratisation policy, which prioritizes the hiring of Emiratis, especially in government and some private sector roles. This can lead to easier access to a broader range of jobs and potentially better job security and benefits.

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