Today, the United Arab Emirates is recognized as one of the most appealing countries to many investors, expats, and foreigners from across the globe. Not only does it offer great business opportunities but it also boasts a well-developed infrastructure, affordable prices, and a high standard of living. What’s more, it’s a fact, that 85%-90% of the UAE population are expatriates. And while they both work and live in the country it is important to remember that they are not UAE citizens. For this, the state has established UAE citizenship. Moreover, obtaining UAE citizenship is quite an involved and challenging task. This is why all investors, expats, and foreigners, whether they have invested large amounts of money in the country's economy, or purchased expensive real estate, or established companies that have already created jobs in the country, are only eligible for long-term residence visas.
A UAE residence visa is a permit that allows foreign people to live in the country for an extended period. Also, it can be valid for between 2-3 years or even up to 10 years. What’s more, it can be renewed as many times as is needed. For instance, many international families have been living in the Emirates for generations by just renewing their visas regularly.
Interestingly, while the UAE might look like an accessible country from the outside, it is in fact rather private and structured. However, it’s due to these strict structures and laws that the country manages to preserve its traditions and national features. And most important of all, its citizens don’t end up losing themselves in the endless stream of foreigners.
So since the United Arab Emirates was formed in1971, it has been an independent state. Also, all the residents of the current emirates that now comprised the new country became UAE citizens. Amazingly, a spike in the oil prices and petroleum products coincided with the state's independence and this made it easier for the UAE to establish itself in the economic sector and foreign policy division. As such, it took the Emirates a relatively short time to reach economic well-being due to oil revenues and good investments in the economic and agricultural sectors. Furthermore, at the beginning of the 21st century, this prosperous country was flooded with a stream of migrants, mostly from poorer and more densely populated countries such as India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to mention a few. So today people from all parts of the world, both skilled and unskilled workers, continue coming to the UAE for either business or pleasure. In some cases both.
So why do people choose to relocate to the UAE? There are several reasons for this and some of them include:
- The level of income in the UAE is one of the world's highest.
- Life in the Emirates is very safe because there is very little crime and no corruption in the country since the police monitor all violations very strictly.
- It is a no-tax country, as there is no income tax, no real estate tax, and no rental tax.
- The level of comfort in the UAE is very high due to its modern well-developed infrastructure.
As we’ve mentioned, these are only a few of the reasons some people consider relocating to the UAE. Although, we’re sure that those who are serious about relocating to the country will be able to find more reasons.
Also, don’t forget that it’s nearly impossible for a foreigner to obtain UAE citizenship. At least, in comparison to other countries. In addition to this, people who are eligible for UAE citizenship are limited to the following list:
- Children of UAE citizens and a child whose father is a UAE citizen can obtain citizenship automatically. The same applies to children who were born in the UAE but who do not have parents (orphans), they too can obtain UAE citizenship automatically. Also, if only the mother is a UAE citizen, her child/children will obtain citizenship when they turn 18.
- A woman who has been married to a UAE citizen for at least five years has the right to apply for UAE citizenship. Although, there's no guarantee that she will get it. Alternatively, if she does obtain her UAE citizenship, she has to renounce her previous citizenship.
- People from neighboring countries who are of Arabic origin and who have legally been living in the UAE for a long time are also eligible for UAE citizenship through naturalization.
What’s more, in rare cases, UAE citizenship can be granted to a citizen of any country for outstanding services to the state or if the state itself is interested in granting citizenship to a certain person. For example, a talented athlete who will subsequently take part in international competitions under the flag of the UAE.
So as you can see, the only option for a foreigner who wants to stay in the UAE legally for an extended period is to obtain a residence visa.
The UAE residence visa provides investors, expats, and foreigners a great number of benefits. First, it allows you to live in the country freely for between 2-3 years or even in some instances up to 10 years. What’s more, you don’t have to live in the UAE permanently. You can simply stay in the country from time to time several times a year and this will ensure that the period between visits does not exceed 180 days. Second, you can save money on taxes which is a vital part of the employment sector in any country. Third, you will be able to open a personal bank account at any reliable bank in the UAE (there are plenty of them in the country). In addition to this, owning a UAE citizenship will also allow you to obtain a driving license (without UAE citizenship you cannot obtain a driving license). to register a car and to choose a mobile plan. So all in all, a residence visa is your opportunity to live, work, do business, and study in the UAE. So it since it appears you can do it all in the UAE as long as you have a resident visa, is it any wonder that you’d mistake being a resident of the country.
To obtain UAE citizenship, there are several ways some of which include:
- Opening a business.
- Finding employment/Being employed.
- Enrolling at a local university or college.
- Opening a freelance permit in Dubai or other emirates.
- Purchasing property that is valued at over $272 thousand.
- Being a dependent (a spouse, a child under 18 years old, or a retired parent of a resident).
Opening a business in the UAE is one of the fastest ways of obtaining a residence visa. So you can either partner with a local businessman or company and open a joint firm or you can choose to start your own business in any of the freehold economic zones available in the country. The latter option, which appears more attractive is actually one of the most preferred options mainly due to its 100% ownership, affordable fees, and transparent process. Furthermore, where the cost of this visa is concerned it depends on the area where your business is registered. For instance, in one of the northern emirates, the cost will be lower while in Dubai where it will be higher. Although the approximate setup fees, including that of your company, can range from between $7,000 to $12,500.
Employment is another way of obtaining a residence visa and also one of the most affordable ways to obtain a UAE residency. Also, while foreigners can work in any region of the country, it is Dubai that offers a greater number and variety of employment opportunities. There is always enough work in the retail, hospitality, and construction sectors, as well as, in middle management. It all depends on your qualification and specialization. Plus, if you have managed to land a job in the UAE, your employer will provide you with a residence visa. On top of that, companies often provide their new employees with housing, catering, health insurance, and plane tickets. So the cost of an employment visa can range anywhere from $600 to $2,000.
Independent workers performing various creative jobs in the areas of art, sport, personal development, photography, education, or media can obtain a freelance permit in Dubai or other emirates. This allows them to legally work in the UAE, which in turn makes them eligible to obtain UAE citizenship. Furthermore, the cost of this type of residence visa can range from between $600 to $1,000 without a freelance permit.
Another way of getting a resident visa in the UAE is via enrolling at a university or college. Although to study in a university in the Emirates, you have to pass the international IELTS or TOEFL exam. Plus, you will need to ensure that you have a considerable amount of money before moving to the country as a student visa does not give you the right to work. Also, as a foreigner, you will have to pay for your own education in the UAE. Moreover, tuition fees in Arabic universities Arabic generally range from between $5,000 to $10,000 per annum. Whereas, tuition fees in the department of British universities in the UAE generally start from $20,000 per annum. Also, the most popular fields of study include oil extraction, hospitality management, and architecture. In addition, university graduates in the UAE more often than not easily get well-paid jobs both in the Emirates and in other countries as well. Furthermore, a UAE student visa costs about $800.
Purchasing property. This way of obtaining UAE citizenship is suitable for those who have a sufficient amount of money they are willing to invest in real estate. Also, the point of this is that only foreigners who own property worth over $272 thousand can apply for a resident visa. So if you have the means, the first thing you need to do is figure out where exactly foreign nationals can purchase property. For instance, property ownership in Dubai by foreigners is allowed in designated zones also commonly known as freehold zones. These areas are free of restrictions typical of the rest of the financial world. What’s more, freehold zones are found in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and some other emirates as well. And since these areas offer a wide selection of property types to choose from, they are some of the most sought-after in the UAE and the world.
Nevertheless, Dubai is undoubtedly the UAE's leader in real estate sales, as it is a popular choice among foreign citizens. The main reason for this is because the city features some of the most amazing real estate and residential projects. From apartments in modern high-rise buildings to luxurious villas and cozy townhouses. And while Dubai has this to offer, it certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t purchase similar property in other cities too. For example, in Abu Dhabi or Sharjah, the quality and standard of living are just as good as in Dubai.
Purchasing property with a value over $272 thousand means that the owner is eligible for a two-year residence visa. Also, while this kind of visa does allow one to live in the UAE for a long period, it does not give one the right to work there. In addition, one doesn’t have to live in the country permanently for this visa to remain valid. Visiting the country once every six months is quite enough. Residence visas for property owners cost between $3500-$4000.
A resident who already has a long-term visa can also apply for a visa for their family, namely, their parents, children, or spouses. To do this you will need to provide all of the necessary documentation, including any personal documentation of the relevant family member(s). For instance, you might need to provide a rental agreement and a salary certificate (if you are employed in the UAE). Or an official title of property (if you purchased real estate in the UAE). Or even a company ownership document (if you opened a business in the UAE). Furthermore, a visa for family members of a resident gives them the right to live in the Emirates but does not give them the right to work in the country.
In addition to this, the UAE government has also introduced several new visa rules and regulations allowing investors and people from specific occupations to apply for 5-year long-term and in some instances even 10-year long-term residency visas. To obtain this kind of visa you should apply for either $1.3 or $2.7 million investments in real estate, investment funds, or in a business. What’s more, highly competent professionals and researchers in medicine, science, and other areas, as well as, skilled creative individuals are also eligible for this type of long-term visa.
So to apply for a residence visa, you will need a standard set of documents, including a valid passport, several photos, and your completed application form. Furthermore, any additional documents required depend on the specific visa process. In some cases, the applicant might be required to provide medical certificates or health insurance.
A UAE residence visa can be renewed an unlimited number of times providing you continue to do business, work, study, or own property in the Emirates. Also, take note that there is an additional fee involved for visa renewal.
It’s clear that the United Arab Emirates is a modern country that offers plenty of opportunities for those who choose to study, work, do business, or just want to live there. This can be seen in the many expats – foreigners, who’ve chosen to work and/or live in the UAE, especially since they comprise 85%-90% of the UAE’s population. Although, it should be noted that despite these many wonderful opportunities and benefits, they are highly unlikely to ever become citizens of the country. Particularly since it is nearly impossible for them to obtain UAE citizenship. However, since the Emirates' government is very interested in the economic prosperity of the country, it has provided expats – foreigners with an alternative legal way to stay in the UAE for an extended period. Namely, through applying for a residence visa, which is quite a straightforward process. What’s more, since there are several ways of obtaining a residence visa you can choose the visa and process that is most convenient and affordable for you. So based on this article, it’s obvious that a residence visa provides numerous opportunities and benefits that will make your life in the UAE more comfortable, safe, and if you’re running a business profitable. All you need to do is make that you comply with the laws of this very hospitable country.