UAE Residence visa allows you to legally reside and work in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE was formed in 1971, on desert lands formerly under British protectorate. The most popular emirates are Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where one can legally reside permanently with a registered permit. The permit is available to wealthy foreigners that invest in business or real estate, freelancers, students and employed immigrants. Lets take a closer look at the conditions and specifics of obtaining a residence permit in the United Arab Emirates.
The benefits of residence permit in the UAE
There is no concept of residence permit in the UAE legislation. The document is called a residence visa. The term «residence permit» is used as more familiar to immigrants, and there is no permanent residence visa (permanent residence permit) in the Emirates. This is due to the fact, that it is hardly possible for a foreigner to acquire UAE citizenship. That is why the temporary resident visa is in high demand.
A residence permit in the Emirates brings significant advantages to its owners:
- Possibility of long-term legal residence in the country. Depending on the grounds, the residence permit in Dubai and other emirates can be issued for a period of 6 months to 10 years with the possibility of employment (upon arrival, you can stay in the UAE without a visa for no more than 30-90 days without the right to work). During the validity period of the residence permit, the number of entries and exits is unlimited. The main thing is not to leave the Emirates for more than 180 days.
- The possibility of relocation with family. The family of the main applicant can immigrate with them, providing they have an income of 4,000 AED (1,100 USD) or more per month. In this case it is necessary to issue separate visas for each family member.
- Tax exemption. Holder of a residence permit is exempt from paying taxes in the country of their permanent residence, having received a certificate of tax resident from the Ministry of Economy of the UAE. The tax rate for sole proprietors and for businesses, apart from some exceptions, is 0% in Dubai.
The main privilege given to UAE residents is the equality of rights with Emirati citizens. A foreigner, who has been granted the right of long-term residency, can:
- seek help from government agencies;
- rent a place to live;
- connect to cell phone and Internet services;
- open bank accounts;
- apply for a driver’s license;
The UAE is a safe country to live in. Corruption in the state is low; according to the Corruption Perceptions Index, the Emirates is in 21st place in the world ranking.
Options for obtaining a residence permit in the Emirates
The choice of option to obtain a residence permit in Dubai and other parts of the country depends on the capabilities and circumstances of the foreigner. The easiest ways to get a residence permit in the UAE are to invest in the economy of the country, do business, work, study or buy real estate, but there are other grounds for immigration, such as contributions to the medical, scientific, research field or family reunification.
Purchase of real estate
The option of obtaining a residence permit in the UAE by purchasing real estate is a common choice for wealthy foreigners. The minimum amount of investment is 1 million dirhams ($ 270,000 ). By buying an apartment or other object for that amount, a foreigner can claim a residence permit with a validity of 3 years. Increasing the size of the investment, up to 5 million dirhams ($ 1,361,285), the property owner receives a five-year residence permit. Buying an object in the amount of 10 million dirhams ($ 2,722570 USD) makes it possible to obtain a residence permit for 10 years.
The owner of the apartment or house can live there with their family or rent it out. There are no restrictions on the use of housing. Rents in the UAE, especially in Dubai, are high – a one-bedroom apartment rents from 10-12 thousand USD a year. Having received a residence permit through the purchase of real estate, you can provide yourself with a high stable income. There is no tax on the amount paid by tenants for housing in the UAE. To get a residence permit for 3 years, if you buy a property from 270 000 AED (about 74 000 USD) must prove that you have a legal income of 10 thousand dirhams a month (2700 USD).
Starting a business
In Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other parts of the country, there are virtually no taxes. Doing business there is extremely profitable. The legislation of the country is focused on attracting businessmen, so it is easy to register a company and do business in the UAE. There are no bureaucratic costs, there is no need to bribe anyone. This is what attract business people from foreign countries.
Foreigners who have invested in the economy of the UAE can apply for a residence permit in this state. To obtain a residence permit, you can start a new company or invest in an existing enterprise. The cost of opening a company and obtaining a residence permit starts at 6,000 USD and allows for a visa for a period of 1-3 years. After making a contribution, the businessman receives the right to stay in the country, subject to the maintenance of the company.
Business can be opened on the Mainland or in one of the more than 50 Free Zones. A firm in Mainland (local company) used to be registered in the Emirate in partnership with a UAE citizen, who would own 51% of the company’s capital. As of June 1, 2021, the UAE has introduced a law on 100% business ownership for foreign investors and entrepreneurs. The requirement to appoint a national agent for most activities of branches of foreign companies has also been removed.
A company in the Free Economic Zone is registered with the permitted 100% foreign ownership. In the Free Zone of any of the 7 emirates, foreigners can open and develop their businesses with minimal restrictions. The most popular and developed Free Economic Zones are located in Dubai.
A foreigner can get a residence permit for 5 years, under the program Golden Visa for entrepreneurs. The applicant for participation in the program is required to meet one of the following criteria:
- having a business project in the chosen field of activity, provided that the contribution to the share capital of the company was not less than 500 thousand dirhams (136 130 USD);
- getting the approval of an accredited business incubator.
The UAE also has a program for obtaining a «golden» residence permit for business investors for a period of 10 years. To participate in it, investing at least 10 million dirhams (2.72 million USD) in one of the following options is required:
- investment in a United Arab Emirates investment fund;
- establishment of a company or purchase of part of a business, with an investment of not less than the legally prescribed amount;
- making investments, the amount of which meets the general requirement (investments in real estate are limited to 40%).
Studying at an Arab university
Admission to higher education in the UAE is the basis for obtaining a residence permit. There are Arab educational institutions, branches of British universities and English-language training programs available in the country. English in the UAE is used along with Arabic in most businesses and government departments. Options for immigration through education:
- Student visa for up to 1 year. Student visa is issued to foreign students over the age of 18 for a period of up to 12 months with the possibility of extension for a similar period upon official confirmation of further studies issued by a UAE institution.
- 5-year visa for honors students. Honors students can obtain a long-term permit valid for 5 years. On November 24, 2018, the UAE government approved the issuance of a visa for outstanding students. The applicant is required to have graduated from high school with a grade of at least 95%. If the visa is requested by university students, they must have graduated with a grade point average of at least 3.75 from universities in or outside the country. Visa benefits will also apply to the families of applicants.
It is not necessary to know Arabic to obtain a student residence permit, but the level of English will have to be confirmed by certificate IELTS or TOEFL. Depending on the university and the program of study, the cost of a year-long course of study ranges between 12 and 60 thousand USD, in addition, you must prove the financial means to live in the country. Student residence permit in Dubai gives the right to part-time work, and after graduation may ask for permission to work with the other type of residence permit.
90% of the state’s residents are foreigners, and there are plenty of jobs for them in the UAE. Most of the managerial positions are occupied by citizens of the country, but once you start working and prove yourself, you can count on career growth. Salaries in the Emirates, by the standards of the CIS, are high. The average salary in Dubai ranges between 4 and 5 thousand USD, depending on the industry. Going to work in the UAE, you should consider the high cost of rent. Only comparing the level of the proposed salary and the necessary living expenses, you can make a decision.
It is convenient to look for a job through the Internet. After the specialist has agreed with the employer, an employment contract is signed. Employment contracts in Dubai and other emirates are very detailed. They always indicate a list of duties and the amount of wages, taking into account costs on commuting, compensation for rent and other compensations. The contract can be either fixed term or open-ended, mostly a contract specifying the period of employment is drawn up. Employer pays for visa fees, flight to Dubai and home once a year, and health insurance.
The obligation to provide a residence permit for the employee falls on the employer, they have to apply to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emirate or FEZ (Free Economic Zone), depending on the type of company. Once the application is approved, the employer issues an Entry Permit for the foreigner online at the appropriate official website.
Upon arrival in the UAE, the applicant for a residence permit undergoes a retinal scan, is photographed and gets a stamp of arrival in the passport. The immigrant’s data is submitted to the Immigration Service. The foreigner then undergoes a medical examination (blood test and fluorography) at one of the state-accredited medical institutions to determine the absence of diseases hazardous to society in the UAE.
After successfully passing the medical examination and receiving a health certificate, the foreigner submits their biometric data to the state identification center. Within a few weeks, the immigrant is issued a visa for temporary residence and then an identity card (Emirates ID).
Despite the high standard of living and development, in some aspects the UAE remains a deeply patriarchal Muslim state. For example, men who are citizens of the country are free to marry foreign women and apply for a residence permit. Women with UAE citizenship cannot marry anyone other than Muslims, and very rarely do they marry foreigners.
Foreign spouses of UAE citizens can relocate to the United Arab Emirates and apply for a residence permit. There is an opportunity for husbands/wives of foreigners who have a residence permit in the Emirates to relocate, if the residence permit holder earns at least AED 3000 per month (817 USD) with employer-provided housing, or from AED 4000 (1089 USD) in other cases.
How to apply for a residence permit in the UAE
The process of obtaining a residence permit in the United Arab Emirates involves the following steps:
- Choosing the grounds for a residence permit. Selecting the reason for a long legal stay in the UAE, should be based on the opportunities and ability to document the grounds for a residence permit.
- Documenting the grounds. At this stage, you need to get a document, confirming the right to apply for a residence permit. That is, you need to make an investment in a business or real estate, enroll in university in the UAE, find a job, or marry a citizen of this country. Evidence of grounds may be a certificate of ownership of real estate, company registration in the UAE, marriage, or proof of investment in ongoing business.
- Applying to the migration authorities and getting approval. Application can be submitted online or in person. The application takes 2-3 days to be processed by the authorities in the UAE.
- Obtaining a residence permit in the UAE. After approval of the application to enter the territory of the UAE, a residence visa (residence permit), and then – Emirates ID. The foreigner can enter the country and conduct permitted activities, in accordance with the grounds for obtaining a residence permit.
Emirates ID document is a plastic card with the photo of the owner and their personal data in Arabic and English. Proof of residence in the Emirates looks like a visa, stamped in the international passport of a foreigner.
The following documents may be required when applying for a resident visa, depending on the permit category:
- valid international passport;
- completed online application form;
- 3 x 4 cm photos (3 pcs.);
- marriage certificates and birth certificates of children, if relocating with the family;
- proof of the grounds for issuing a residence permit;
- proof of financial situation of the applicant (bank statements, employment contracts, sponsorship letters, etc.)
- certified university degree (in case of employment).
Depending on the reason for immigration, certain documents must be certified by the UAE consulate and both the appropriate government authorities in the Emirates and the applicant’s country of residence.
Where to submit the documents?
Residence permits in the UAE can be issued by the General Directorate of Residence and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA) and the Federal Identity and Citizenship Agency (GDRFA). Most applications are made online. You can use the eChannels portal or GDRFA resource, mobile apps ICA UAE eChannels and GDRFA Dubai app. Each territory of the country issues visas independently. In the case of companies, registered in FEZ, the application must be submitted only through the portals or services of the particular FEZ.
Possible reasons for refusal
Having grounds for a residence permit in the UAE does not mean that it will necessarily be issued. Frequent reasons for refusals are:
- suspicion of criminal ties or intentions;
- public anti-Islamic or anti-Emirati statements, including in social networks.
Refusals are quite rare. This is evidenced by the fact that among the UAE residents only 10% are citizens of the country, the remaining 90% are foreigners. Compliance with all the rules and requesting the assistance of migration lawyers in the preparation of documents increases the chances of obtaining a residence permit.
Emirates is a rich developed country, where you can earn and gain knowledge and skills that will help you find high-paying jobs in other states. A resident visa to the UAE provides these opportunities for immigrants.