People surf off Jumeira beach near the Burj al Arab hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates January 27 2021. Picture: Picture: CHRISTOPHER PIKE/BLOOMBERG
People surf off Jumeira beach near the Burj al Arab hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates January 27 2021. Picture: Picture: CHRISTOPHER PIKE/BLOOMBERG

Cairo — The United Arab Emirates plans (UAE) to offer citizenship to a select group of foreigners, the first Gulf Arab nation to formalise a process aimed at giving expatriates a bigger stake in the economy.

The policy shift is aimed at attracting talent to the UAE in a way that will boost growth, according to details of the policy published on state news agency Wam. Foreign residents make up more than 80% of the UAE’s population and have for decades been a mainstay of its economy. The UAE comprises seven sheikhdoms, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Oil-rich Gulf states have been forced to consider longer residency and limited citizenship for foreigners as they seek to attract investment and diversify from oil. Until now citizenship in the UAE and some other Gulf states has been reserved for foreigners in special cases, including for service to the state, but these changes will formalise and widen such a process.

“We adopted law amendments that allow granting the UAE citizenship to investors, specialised talents and professionals including scientists, doctors, engineers, artists, authors and their families. The new directives aim to attract talents that contribute to our development journey,” Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum said in a tweet.

The UAE cabinet, local courts and executive councils will nominate those eligible for the citizenship under criteria set for each category, he added. “The law allows receivers of the UAE passport to keep their existing citizenship.”

According to a statement on UAE’s news agency website, the conditions that must be met to secure the citizenship are:

  • Investors are required to own a property in the UAE.
  • They are also required to obtain one or more patents that are approved by the UAE ministry of economy or any other reputable international body, in addition to a recommendation letter from the economy ministry
  • Doctors and specialists must be specialised in a unique scientific discipline or any other scientific principles that are highly required in the UAE.
  • Scientists are required to be an active researcher in a university or research centre, or in the private sector, with  practical experience of not less than 10 years in the same field.
  • Individuals with creative talents such as intellectuals and artists should be pioneers in the culture and art fields and winners of one or more international award. A recommendation letter from related government entities is mandatory as well.

The citizenship can be withdrawn upon breach of the conditions, the statement said

In 2020, the UAE abolished the need for companies to have Emirati shareholders, in a shake-up of foreign ownership laws aimed at attracting investment into an economy reeling from the coronavirus and a decline in oil prices.


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