The United Arab Emirates is a country that looks very attractive for living today. It is known for its well-developed infrastructure, high standards of living, low prices and great business opportunities. It is a fact, that 85-90% of UAE population are expatriates. They work and live in the country but they are not UAE citizens. Obtaining UAE citizenship is a very difficult task, so all foreigners, even those who invest large amounts of money in the country's economy or buy expensive real estate or establish companies that create jobs, are only eligible for long-term residence visas.
UAE residence visa is a permit that allows foreign people to live in this country for a long period of time. It can be valid for 2-3 years or even 10 years and can be renewed as many times as it is required. Many international families live in the Emirates for generations, just renewing their visas regularly.
So the UAE might look as an open country on the outside, though in fact it remains rather closed. But due to its strict rules the country manages to preserve its traditions and national features, and its citizens do not dissolve in the endless stream of foreigners.
As an independent state the United Arab Emirates was formed in 1971. All the residents of the emirates, that had made up the new country, became its citizens. A spike in the oil prices and petroleum products, which coincided with the state's independence, made it easier for the UAE to take its own steps in the field of economy and foreign policy. It took the Emirates relatively short time to reach economic well-being due to oil revenues and good investments in industry and agriculture. At the beginning of the 21st century, the prosperous country was flooded with a stream of migrants, mostly from poorer and more densely populated countries such as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and so on. Today people from all parts of the world continue coming to the UAE and there are high-skilled professionals as well as low-skilled workers among them.
So why do people relocate to the UAE? There are several reasons for this:
- level of income in the UAE is one of the world's highest;
- life in the Emirates is very safe, there is very little crime and no corruption in the country, the police monitor all violations very strictly;
- it is a no-tax country, there is no income tax, no real estate tax and no rental tax;
- level of comfort in the UAE is very high due to modern, well-developed infrastructure.
But certainly, those who wish to move to the UAE will find more reasons of their own to do so.
It should be mentioned again that it is virtually impossible for a foreigner to get UAE citizenship. At least, if compared to other countries. People eligible for UAE citizenship are limited to the following list:
- Children of UAE citizens and children whose father is a UAE citizen obtain citizenship automatically; the same goes for children who were born in the UAE but who do not have parents (orphans); in case if only the mother is a UAE citizen, her children will get 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, though there's no guarantee that she will get it; in case if she does, she has to renounce her previous citizenship;
- People from the neighbouring countries of Arabian origin who have lived legally in the UAE for a long period of time are eligible for UAE citizenship through naturalization.
In addition to that, 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.
Thus, as you can see, the only option for a foreigner who wishes to stay in the UAE legally for a long time, is to obtain a residence visa.
UAE residence visa has a great number of benefits. First, it allows you to live in the country freely for 2-3 or even 10 years and you don't have to live there permanently, you can come from time to time several times a year just make sure the period between visits does not exceed 180 days. Second, you can save money on taxes that are an integral part of working activity in any other country. Third, you will be able to open a personal bank account in a reliable bank in the UAE, where there are plenty of them. In addition to that, residency is required to get a driving license, to register a car and to choose a mobile plan. All in all, residence visa is your opportunity to live, work, do business and study in the UAE almost as if you were a citizen of this country.
There are several ways to get UAE residency:
- open a business,
- get employed,
- enroll at a local university or college,
- open a freelance permit in Dubai or other emirates,
- buy property with a value over $272 thousand,
- be 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 getting a residence visa. You can partner with a local businessman or company and open a joint firm or start your own business in a free economic zone, which looks much more attractive. This is actually one of the most preferred options due to 100% ownership, affordable fees, and transparent process. In this case the cost of the visa depends on the place of your business registration. In one of the northern emirates it will be lower while in Dubai it will be higher. Together with company setup fees it ranges from $7,000 to $12,500.
Employment is one of the most affordable ways to obtain UAE residency. Foreigners can work in any region of the country but it is Dubai that offers a great number and variety of vacancy. There is always enough work in services and hospitality sector, in construction as well as in middle management. Everything depends on your qualification and specialization. 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. The cost of an employment visa ranges from $600 to $2,000.
Independent workers performing various creative jobs in the areas of art, sport, personal development, photography, education or media can get a freelance permit in Dubai or other emirates, which allows them to work in the UAE legally and makes them eligible to obtaining UAE residency. In this case residence visa will cost from $600 to $1,000 without a freelance permit.
Another way of getting resident visa is enrolling at a university or college in the UAE. In order to study in a university in the Emirates, you have to pass the international IELTS or TOEFL exam. Plus, you will need a considerable amount of money to live in the country as student visa does not give you the right to work and you have to pay for education in the UAE. Tuition fees in an Arabian university range from $5,000 to $10,000 per year and in British universities branches they start from $20,000 per year. Most popular fields of study include oil extraction, hospitality management and architecture. As a rule, UAE university graduates get well-paid jobs both in the Emirates and in other countries without any difficulties. UAE student visa costs about $800.
Buying property. This way of obtaining residency is suitable for those who have a sufficient amount of money they are ready to invest in real estate. The point is that only foreigners who own property worth over $272 thousand can apply for resident visa. If you have the means, at first you need to figure out where exactly foreign nationals can property. Property ownership in Dubai by foreigners is allowed in designated zones, also commonly known as free zones. These areas are free of restrictions typical of the rest of the financial world. Free zones are found in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other emirates. Moreover, they are some of the most sought-after neighbourhoods in the emirates and have a whole variety of property types to choose from.
Dubai is undoubtedly the UAE's leader in real estate sales to foreign citizens. The city boasts the most amazing residential projects and offers all kinds of property from apartments in modern skyscrapers to luxurious villas and cozy townhouses. Certainly, you can buy property in other cities too, for example, in Abu Dhabi or Sharjah where the standards of living are just as good as in Dubai.
Buying property with a value over $272 thousand its owner is eligible for a two-year residence visa. This kind of visa allows you to live in the UAE for a long period of time but does not give the right to work there. You don't have to live in the country on a permanent basis to keep your visa valid, coming once every six months is quite enough. Residence visa for property owners costs about $3500-4000.
A resident who already has a long-term visa can also apply for a visa for their family – parents, children, spouses. To do so you will need to provide a number of documents, apart from personal documents of all family members, for instance, 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 a company ownership document (if you opened a business in the UAE). Visa for family members of a resident gives them the right to live in the Emirates but does not give the right to work.
In addition to that, the UAE government has introduced a number of new visa rules allowing investors and people from specific occupations to apply for 5- and even 10-year long-term residency visa. In order to get this kind of visa you should make either
$1.3 or $2.7 million investments in real estate, investment funds or business. Highly competent professionals and researches in medicine, science and other areas and talented creative individuals are also eligible for this kind of long-term visa.
To apply for a residence visa, you will need a standard set of documents, including a valid passport, several photos and a filled-in application form. Further, everything depends on the way a visa is obtained. In some cases, the applicant might be required to provide medical certificates or health insurance.
UAE residence visa can be renewed an unlimited number of times if you continue to do business, work, study or own property in the Emirates. An additional fee is charged for visa renewal.
The United Arab Emirates is a modern country that offers plenty of opportunities for life, business, work and study. 85-90 per cent of the UAE's population consists of expats – foreigners who come to live and work there. They are not and not likely to ever become citizens of this state, since it is almost impossible to obtain UAE citizenship. But the Emirates' government that is highly interested in economic prosperity of the country provides foreigners with another legal way to stay there for a long period of time. And this is a residence visa, which is quite obtainable if this is your goal. Moreover, there are several ways of getting it and you can choose the most suitable and affordable one. Residence visa has a lot of benefits that will make your life there safe and comfortable and your business profitable. All you need is to comply with the laws and regulations of this hospitable country.