As of January 2021, investors, professionals, researchers and artists can obtain UAE citizenship. The move was introduced by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and initiated by the Cabinet, headed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE. In general, many Gulf countries have taken a moderate approach to the naturalization of foreigners, as it is a long and complex process based on a case-by-case approach.
Usually, legitimate long-haul stay for foreigners is restricted for 2-3 years. This is the duration of the general working visa with the possibility of extension. The launch of the long-term visa programme (for 5-10 years) in 2019 was a new step to ease the immigration regime. They can be issued to investors as well as holders of academic degrees, specialists in certain professions that are in demand in the Emirate and students of marketing. It is worth noting that long-term visas can include family members (husbands/wives and children under 18 years).
Previously, UAE citizenship could only be obtained in 3 cases:
- Marriage of a UAE citizen and a non-citizen woman. However, to apply for citizenship, the marriage must last at least 7 years.
- Naturalization. This method provides that a citizen of a foreign state must live for 30 years or more in the territory of the Emirates. They must also have a regular source of income in the UAE and an unblemished reputation. They must be fluent in Arabic and voluntarily renounce the citizenship of another state.
- Merits. Rarely, a foreigner can be honored to receive a UAE passport from one of the heads of the emirates. This procedure is authorized by the decision of the UAE Government.
The law provisions as of January 2021 marked out the new critical change to the previous naturalization rule – the list of qualified residents was expanded and double-citizenship was endorsed.