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How to get UAE citizenship

Alexey Nosovsky

Alexey Nosovsky

A representative of the Legal Department at iWorld. Author of articles on Migration Law.

February 9, 2022

13 minutes read

Flag in Abu Dhabi symbolizes UAE citizenship

UAE citizenship is a constitutional and legal bond between a state and its inhabitant, a nationality of the country with corresponding rights and obligations. The low crime rate, high quality of medicine and flexible taxation system attract foreigners who dream of moving to this state. According to the World Bank ranking, the population of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2020 exceeds 9.89 million people, including 87.9% of immigrants.

Foreign nationals can obtain a UAE passport at birth, through marriage to a native, for special services to the government or through naturalization. However, due to strict legal requirements, most immigrants live in the state for decades with a resident visa. The government encourages the influx of workers from other countries, yet it is not easy to become a citizen of the UAE. Further in this article you can read about how to move to Dubai and obtain UAE citizenship.

The advantages of holding the UAE passport

The main advantages of obtaining Emirati citizenship are:

  • Freedom to travelThe UAE passport ranks first in the Arab world. Visa-free entry is available to citizens of the Arab Emirates in 175 countries.
  • Higher payUnited Arab Emirates passport holders traditionally occupy higher positions in companies, and in the same conditions as citizens of other countries, for example, earn 2-3 times more.
  • Benefits from the stateHaving the citizenship of the Arab Emirates, you can get subsidies for utility bills. Upon the birth of a child or marriage, owners of a UAE passport can get state aid such as a large sum of money, a plot of land or a house, depending on the current legislation of the emirate.
  • Tuition free educationUAE citizens are entitled to free school and university education.

Ways to obtain the citizenship of the Arab Emirates

The Federal Law No. 17 «On Citizenship and Passports» of 1972, as amended and supplemented, regulates the main ways of obtaining UAE citizenship status. The government of the state protects nationals by providing them with all sorts of benefits and assistance, while residents are mainly offered nothing but jobs and strict conditions for naturalization. For a Russian or a representative of any other CIS country seeking to obtain citizenship in Dubai, the following requirements are mandatory:

  • compliance with the laws of the Emirates;
  • knowledge of the Arabic language;
  • taking the oath of allegiance to the state;
  • renunciation of the current passport.

The birth of a child of foreign parents in the UAE does not give the child any rights to citizenship. Children can automatically become a citizen of the United Arab Emirates by blood in the following cases:

  • both parents or the father are UAE citizens;
  • the child’s mother has an Emirati passport and the father is not identified legally or is unknown;
  • the child is born in the state and both parents are unknown.

UAE citizenship by investment

Until recently, the legislation of the Emirates, stipulated even for large investments only the granting of the Golden Visa, which allows residence in the state. According to the amendments to the Federal Law №17, adopted in January 2021, investors began to receive UAE citizenship in return for investing in the economy of the country.

Foreigners can obtain a passport of the United Arab Emirates through investment only for the purchase of real estate. Investments cannot be made by loan funds, and the acquired object must not be in the pledge under the of the ban on alienation. The UAE government does not disclose the minimum amount of investment required to obtain citizenship, and considers applications from foreigners on a case-by-case basis.

For naturalization through a Golden Visa, a foreigner may choose one of the following investment options:

  • open a deposit in a local investment fund;
  • invest in a new business;
  • buy shares in a new or existing company;
  • buy one or more properties in one of the emirates;
  • establish a company that pays annual contributions to the Federal Tax Service.

All options, except the last, require a minimum investment of 2 million AED (about 544,515 USD). In order to establish a company, 250,000 AED is enough.

Citizenship for doctors, scientists and other skilled workers

The government of the UAE is interested in recruiting professional personnel to work in public and private institutions of the state, therefore special conditions of employment are created for Europeans, Americans and other foreigners. Specialists in the following fields can obtain UAE citizenship:

  • Doctors
    Specialists in narrow fields of medicine who are engaged in research work within the qualifications, are members of international prestigious organizations and have made a significant contribution to the development of the medical profession with at least 10 years of practical experience are in demand.
  • Scientists
    Employees of research centers, institutes and private organizations who have been awarded prestigious international awards or who have received large financial grants for research in their field qualify for citizenship. In addition, a letter from a local scientific institution is required for the application.
  • Inventors
    The government offers passports to owners of intellectual property (one or more patents that are of value to the Emirates economy).
  • People of talent
    Artists, athletes, figures of art and culture who have won first prizes in international competitions can become UAE citizens. They need to attach a letter of recommendation from the local state organization that represents their field of work (Ministry of Culture, Sports or other) to their application.

Citizenship by marriage

One of the fastest ways for a woman to get UAE citizenship is to get married to an Emirati. To do this, you need to meet a number of requirements:

  • to live in a legal marriage for more than 3 years;
  • renounce previous citizenship;
  • obtain a permit from the Ministry of Interior of the Emirate.

A child born to a non UAE nationality woman is given nationality by a native father. Men of foreign descent, once married to an Emirati woman, cannot claim UAE citizenship. Nor will their children have the right to become citizens by descent.

Naturalization

Citizenship of the Arab Emirates can be obtained by Russians, Ukrainians or Belarusians in the longest way — by living in the state legally for more than 30 years. In order to obtain an initial residence permit, a foreigner must have a strong reason. It can be education, employment, entrepreneurship or investment. An appropriate visa must be obtained and renewed in a timely manner to cover these activities. The cost of registering an application for naturalization is 1000 AED.

State requirements for new citizens:

  • full legal capacity;
  • 30 years or more of residence in the country;
  • legal resources of funds for living;
  • no criminal record for crimes against honor and integrity;
  • candidate for citizenship improves his/her Arabic language.
Dubai, a city where Russians and Belarusians can obtain UAE citizenship

Obtaining UAE citizenship through other Arab countries

The emirates have simplified rules to obtain citizenship for representatives of neighboring friendly states, that is, Arabs practicing Islam. Citizens of Oman, Qatar and Bahrain need to live in the UAE for at least 3 years with sufficient legal earnings, housing, employment and no criminal record before applying for naturalization. For Arabs from other states, this requirement increases to 10 years, but with professional qualifications, 7 years of permanent residence is enough.

Forfeit of citizenship

According to Articles 15 and 16 of Law No. 17, it is possible to be deprived of UAE citizenship in the following cases:

  • military service in other countries without the consent of the UAE authorities;
  • work for the benefit of a hostile country;
  • voluntarily naturalization in another state;
  • committing acts that threaten the security of the Emirates;
  • forging or fraudulent data that was provided in the application for naturalization;
  • residing outside the state for more than 4 years without a valid reason.

Dual Citizenship in the UAE

A mandatory requirement for Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians undergoing the naturalization procedure in the Arab Emirates is to surrender their current passport. Dual citizenship in this case may be a reason for deprivation of citizenship of the federation. Despite this, some categories of applicants and their family members are exempt from this requirement, according to new amendments to the state legislation. When applying for a passport of UAE citizen through the purchase of real estate, it is possible to keep the current citizenship.

Obtaining a UAE passport

The Ministry of Internal Affairs issues two types of passports — temporary and ordinary, the conditions for obtaining which are different. The first are intended for travel and identification of foreigners — they are not proof of nationality. The UAE resident passport is issued for six months with the possibility of renewal and does not give the privileges or benefits enjoyed by citizens of the country.

The ordinary passport of the United Arab Emirates citizen can be obtained through marriage, by origin or after 30 years by naturalization, subject to a positive decision of a special committee at the Ministry of Interior. The document gives the foreigner the rights of a native resident, except for the ability to run for office and vote in elections in the state. An ordinary passport looks like a temporary passport, but the latter gives no special privileges within the country.

Easier ways to immigrate to Dubai and the United Arab Emirates

Given the high requirements for naturalization, it is easier for a citizen of Russia, Ukraine or Belarus to live in the Emirates as a resident, renewing the visa when required.

The main ways to get a residence permit in the UAE:

  • Education
    Education in accredited universities and schools of UAE gives the opportunity to foreigners to obtain a student visa for a period of one year with the possibility of extension. Applicants need to provide an official letter of admission to the course, undergo a medical examination at the UAE government center and confirm sponsorship (parents or other relatives, university).
  • Remote Work
    Foreigners who work remotely can get a 12-month residence permit in the Emirates to move to Dubai. Under the terms of the virtual work program, a residence permit is issued based on an employment contract, valid for at least one year, and a minimum monthly income of 5,000 USD.
  • Working for a UAE company
    A company registered in the Emirates must have a license to operate and the right to hire foreign employees. The entry permit is issued at the request of the sponsor-company and is valid for 2 months. After arriving in the state, the foreigner must request a residence permit, which is valid for 2 years.
  • Investment and business
    Foreigners can obtain residence by opening a company in the state, buying real estate or choosing another option of making a contribution to the economy, as provided by UAE law. The amount of the purchase depends on the validity of the residence permit, which the investor may qualify for.

Employment with a local company often involves paying for housing, health insurance, and travel home and back. The terms of work and payment are made on an individual basis. If a foreigner makes good money, has positive references from his place of work and does not break the law, their visa is easily extended.

If an immigrant decides to stay in the country, it makes sense to apply for citizenship, so as not to pay periodically to renew the visa, so their children have the right in the future to obtain a passport of a UAE citizen. However, the local law carefully protects the national values and not everyone can call themselves an Emirati. It is better for immigrants to use the help of lawyers with extensive experience, who specialize in the laws of the Arab Emirates and work in the field of migration law to minimize the risks.

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