Is It Possible for a Foreign Investor to Acquire Citizenship of the United Arab Emirates?

Can a foreign investor buy real property in Dubai or start a business in the Emirates to qualify for citizenship of the UAE? This is a rather tricky question! The foreign investor can obtain a legal residence permit in the country if he/ she meets certain conditions and legal residence may eventually lead to citizenship in the future. An investor cannot possibly acquire UAE citizenship in an instant but he/ she can accelerate the process of citizenship acquisition. If you are a foreign investor interested in this option, our experts will be happy to show you the way to UAE citizenship.

UAE citizenship

The unattainable goal of acquiring UAE citizenship

Citizenship of the United Arab Emirates is a prestigious and precious resource because the UAE passport is among the strongest passports in the world. It gives the investor visa-free access to almost all countries and territories with only very few exceptions. Besides, the UAE citizenship allows the investor to enjoy amazing tax benefits and use an advanced business infrastructure available in Dubai and other Emirates.

Notice blue

Are you an international investor who would like to acquire citizenship of the UAE or another a foreign country? Offshore-Pro Group experts will be delighted to help you choose the best route to foreign citizenship and develop a successful immigration strategy. You are welcome to apply for a free consultation on acquiring foreign citizenship by supplying your email address to us.

sign
SECOND CITIZENSHIP
FREE EXPERT CONSULTATION

on economic citizenship programs,
how to choose a jurisdiction
and get a foreign passport.

on economic citizenship programs, how to choose a jurisdiction and get a foreign passport.

We’ll contact you in 10 minutes

One of the most popular questions that our clients ask is ‘Can a foreign investor acquire citizenship of the UAE?’ This is a dream that a great number of wealthy individuals cherish. We must admit that until recently, acquiring the UAE citizenship has been highly problematic for a foreign investor. Becoming a legal resident in the UAE is not so difficult but even those legal residents in the country who are married to local persons and who have been living in the UAE for a long time have trouble obtaining full citizenship of the country.

Can a foreign investor acquire citizenship of the UAE? It’s difficult but not impossible as Pavel Durov has shown

As far as the UAE citizenship acquisition goes, things started changing in 2021. The UAE Government announced its plans to grant legal residence to the foreign investor in an accelerated manner. The legal resident status is a prerequisite for obtaining the UAE citizenship for an investor. A foreign investor can qualify for legal residence in the UAE (and hopefully, citizenship of the country at some point) if he or she belongs to one of the following categories:  

  • Highly qualified specialists;
  • Entrepreneurs;
  • Investor s;
  • Scientists;
  • Medical doctors.

A foreign investor making important contributions to the development of the economy of Dubai and the Emirates as a whole can count on good treatment in the UAE and hope to acquire citizenship of the country.

When the opportunity to acquire legal residence in the UAE became available, many foreign investors were highly enthusiastic about it because they hoped that residency could lead to citizenship. After some time passed and no foreign investor was able to acquire citizenship of the UAE, the number of skeptics about the UAE citizenship began to grow.

However, the level of skepticism dropped in April 2022 when Pavel Durov, the developer of several popular IT applications, and one of the richest men in the world, acquired citizenship of the UAE. Mr. Durov is an international investor who is originally from Russia but his UAE passport became the fourth passport in his collection of national passports. Previously, he had acquired citizenship by investment in St Kitts and Nevis as well as French citizenship.  

We have to note that Mr. Durov is an outstanding investor. He has designed a few highly successful IT applications and opened an office in Dubai. The investor believes that cryptocurrencies have good prospects and he values confidentiality. The Dubai political elite shares Mr. Durov’s attitudes and what is more, the investor is a close friend of the Sheikh’s family. This probably explains why the investor has been treated exceptionally well by the leaders of the UAE and has been granted citizenship of the country.

Since Pavel Durov acquired the UAE citizenship, the mass media have published no information about any other foreign investor obtaining citizenship of the UAE. Thus, this is the only occurrence of the UAE citizenship acquisition by a foreign investor thus far. However, there are some indications in the present day that the opportunity to acquire the UAE citizenship may become available to the foreign investor in the future.

Make Dubai your home to obtain citizenship of the UAE in the future

The measures taken by the UAE authorities over the recent years clearly show that they are trying to make Dubai an attractive place for the foreign investor. The new facilities and instruments that have been appearing make acquiring legal residence in the UAE an easy process and a foreign investor can live a long and happy life in the country looking forward to full citizenship.

If a foreign investor builds a house in the Emirates, starts a family there, and lives in the country on a full-time basis, he or she will naturally expect to be able to qualify for citizenship of the UAE. If s/he cannot and citizenship seems an unattainable goal, s/he is going to feel upset and the UAE authorities understand that.

This is the reason why the Dubai government officials have introduced a golden visa program that has reduced required investment amounts. Requirements to the investor of other types are also rather relaxed. A wealthy investor from a foreign country can apply for a 5-year or a 10-year temporary residence permit. The temporary permit can turn into a permanent residence permit with time and then – hopefully – into full citizenship of the UAE.

A “Golden Visa” to Dubai for the foreign investor and other UAE citizenship opportunities

A golden visa to the UAE (aka ‘golden visa to Dubai’) is a long-term residence permit that allows a foreign investor, an entrepreneur or a talented person to live, work or study in the UAE.

The investor or entrepreneur, etc. can obtain a golden visa to the UAE without having a job agreement with a local employer. The golden visa holder is allowed to spend even more than six months per year outside the UAE, which is an opportunity that cannot be found in some other countries. Prolonged absence of the foreign investor from the UAE will not lead to the visa termination. Besides, the main applicant’s spouse and children can be added to the application for the visa.  

You can qualify for a golden visa if you are:

  • An investor;
  • An entrepreneur;
  • A person of an exceptional talent;
  • A scientist or a professional;
  • A straight-A high school or university student;
  • An honorable member of a humanitarian organization or a charity giver;
  • A front line hero (a person demonstrating commitment to his/ her duties in crisis situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic, for example).

The foreign investor (or other applicant) has to meet the following conditions to qualify for citizenship of the UAE by investment via the golden visa and residence permit programs:

Categories of applicants for golden visas to the UAE and the visa acquisition conditions

CategoryConditions
Investor• Investments in business projects/ funds;
• Investments in real estate in the UAE.
Entrepreneur• Ownership of a registered startup;
• An indorsed idea for a startup;
• Sale of a startup previously owned inside or outside the UAE.
Person of an exceptional talentPersons who have talents in the following areas are eligible to apply:
• Culture and arts;
• Innovations and improvements;
• Sports;
• Digital technologies;
Scientist or professional• Scientists;
• Top managers;
• Specialists in the following areas: science, engineering, healthcare, education, business and administration, information technology, law, social sphere, and culture.
Straight-A student• UAE high school honors students;
• UAE university honors students;
• Graduates of top 100 universities of the world;
Honorable member of a humanitarian organization / charity giver• Well-known members of international and regional organizations and associations working for the public good;
• Award winners in humanitarian sphere;
• Volunteers and sponsors of humanitarian projects;
Front line hero• Persons demonstrating commitment to their duties in crisis situations such as the pandemic.

A 10-year residence permit for a foreign investor or a talented person

A foreign investor or a talented person can qualify for a 10-year golden visa to the UAE that may lead to citizenship. This is the longest term of validity for a golden visa to the UAE. The following conditions need to be satisfied:

  • Investor. A foreign investor regardless of his/ her citizenship has to invest at least 10 million dirhams (about US$ 2,723,000). It is possible to file a joint application but each investor has to bring at least 10 million dirhams. The money has to belong to the investor: borrowed money is not accepted. The investor shall retain the property in their possession for at least three years. The investor can make the following types of investments:
    • A contribution to an investment fund;
    • Business company registration in the UAE;
    • Establishment of a partnership with an existing/ newly created business entity on the condition that at least 10 million dirhams has been contributed;
    • A combination of the abovementioned investment types.
  • Talented persons. A talented foreigner regardless of their citizenship will have to supply a job agreement with a UAE employer in order to qualify for the golden visa. Besides, they have to meet several additional conditions:
  • A scientist regardless of their citizenship needs to be accredited by the Scientific Counsel of the UAE. Winners of the Mohammed bin Rashid medal for outstanding achievements in sciences are also eligible to apply.
  • An artist regardless of their citizenship has to be accredited by the UAE Ministry of Culture.
  • An inventor regardless of their citizenship has to hold a patent that is valuable for the economic development of the UAE. Besides, the patent has to be approved by the UAE Ministry of Economy.
  • A person of exceptional talent regardless of their citizenship has to supply patents or research papers that have been published in top journals.
  • A manager regardless of their citizenship has to be head of an internationally recognized company and have serious academic achievements.
  • A medical doctor or a professional regardless of their citizenship has to satisfy at least two of the conditions specified below:
    • Have a PhD or a Master’s degree from one of the top 500 universities on the world;
    • Have awards/ appreciation letters;
    • Have confirmations of contributions to extensive scientific research projects;
    • Have books/ articles published;
    • Be a member of a high-profile professional organization;
    • Have 10 years of professional experience or more;
    • Specialize in the areas prioritized in the UAE.

A 5-year residence permit for a foreign investor, entrepreneur or student

A foreign investor, entrepreneur or student can qualify for a 5-year golden visa to the UAE if he or she meets the following criteria:

  • Investor. The investor has to buy a piece of real property in Dubai or another Emirate of the UAE that is worth at least 5 million dirhams. The investor has to retain the property in their possession for at least three years. The investor cannot take out a mortgage to buy the property.
  • Entrepreneur. A foreign entrepreneur regardless of their citizenship owning an active business company in the UAE that is worth at least 500,000 dirhams is eligible for a 5-year golden visa to the UAE. If the entrepreneur has a business plan that has been approved by a business incubator in the UAE, he or she can also qualify for a golden visa. The entrepreneur’s spouse, children, and three company officers can be added to the application for the visa.
  • Student. A foreign high school student regardless of their citizenship can qualify for a 5-year residence permit in the UAE if he or she has grades of 95 out of 100. Students of UAE universities as well as foreign universities are eligible to apply for golden visas if their grades are 3.75 out of 4.
Notice blue

Business opportunities in Dubai that may be of interest for a foreign investor:

BUSINESS IN THE UAE - OTHER SERVICES

From golden visa to citizenship of the UAE

Currently, no foreign investor has an official opportunity to acquire citizenship of the UAE. This is where things stand as far as UAE citizenship is concerned: The UAE authorities are considering granting permanent residence permits to those foreigners who have lived in Dubai or another region of the UAE for 10 years on golden visas. Permanent residence is the first step to citizenship of the UAE for a foreign investor.

The foreign investor/ entrepreneur will also have to demonstrate some additional ties with the UAE to qualify for citizenship. These include the following ones:

  • Several pieces of real estate in the UAE;
  • A business company in the UAE;
  • Members of the investor’s family living in the UAE.

If these conditions are satisfied, the foreign investor will probably be in a position to count on acquiring citizenship of the UAE soon after becoming a permanent resident of the country.

The investor will have to learn the Arabic language to qualify for citizenship of the UAE. It is true that almost everybody speaks English in the UAE but local officials use Arabic rather often and the foreign investor will have to deal with them in any case.

The UAE authorities may also grant citizenship of the country to an investor who brings a large sum of money to the country. The investor putting the equivalent of US$ 20 million in the economy of Dubai or another Emirate of the UAE can count on accelerated citizenship acquisition.

Citizenship of the UAE for a foreign investor: is it worth the time and money?

It is hard to give a straight answer to this question. It depends on what goals you have as a foreign investor. Would you like to relocate to the UAE for good? Would you like to have one of the most powerful passports in the world? Do you believe that the UAE is the right country for your children to grow and study? If your answers to these questions are affirmative, then investing time and money into obtaining UAE citizenship is a good idea for you.

However, if your main goal is to have a ‘plan B’ by acquiring foreign citizenship and a spare passport, then citizenship of the UAE is probably not the best choice. It requires very much time and effort while there are other citizenship by investment opportunities that an international investor can make use of.

Advantages of acquiring citizenship of the UAE for a foreign investor

  • Relocate with your family. When a foreign investor applies for a residence permit in the UAE, they are allowed to add their spouse and children to the application.  
  • Reside in a house in Dubai. The investor and members of their family can legally live, work, and study in the UAE when they have a residence permit.
  • Register your assets in the UAE. The foreign investor regardless of their citizenship can register any of their assets in the UAE: no restrictions apply.
  • Bank and do business in the UAE. If you are a foreign investor without a residence permit, you are going to face various bureaucratic obstacles trying to open a bank account in the UAE or register a company there. If you are a foreign investor with a legal residence permit, however, the procedures are going to be much simpler.
  • Visa-free travel with the UAE passport. The UAE passport allows visiting a great number of national states without visas. Please find the list of visa-free countries below.

List of countries that the UAE passport holder can enter without visas

Albania, Andorra, Antigua, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bahamas, Brunei, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Finland, Guatemala, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cypru,s Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Eswatini, Fiji, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Italy, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, Philippines, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saint Kitts, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Tunisia, Palestine, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Ukraine, Uruguay, Switzerland, Thailand, Tonga, Vanuatu, Vatican City, Kosovo, and Northern Cyprus.

Tax implications of acquiring the UAE citizenship

Why would a foreign investor want to relocate to the UAE? For taxation reasons. Many taxes are lower in the UAE in comparison to other well-developed countries. Some taxes levied in other places are simply non-existent in the UAE.

Let’s look at some tax requirements in the UAE:

  • Income tax in the UAE. Many categories of people do not have to pay any income tax in the UAE and thus they don’t have to file tax returns. This applies to fiscal residents of the UAE regardless of their citizenship. If you are an investor, a contractor, or a self-employed individual, you don’t pay the income tax. In addition to that, more than 130 countries have signed double taxation avoidance agreements with the UAE (see the list of countries below).

List of countries that have made double taxation avoidance agreements with the UAE

Algeria, Austria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Latvia, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Yemen.

  • Inheritance tax in Dubai. No inheritance tax is payable in the UAE in accordance with the local fiscal legislation. However, if there is no Last Will, the inherited assets are taxed in accordance with the Sharia Islamic Law.
  • Capital gains tax in the UAE. If capital gains occur as a result of sale of property, no tax is levied on that. This does not apply to the sale of a business company, however. In this case, an income tax is payable.

Request our experts’ assistance in applying for citizenship of the UAE or finding an alternative solution

The popularity of the UAE in the eyes of the foreign investor is growing as the country is becoming more and more attractive every day. If (or when) obtaining full citizenship of the UAE becomes possible for a foreign investor, the demand for the golden visa to the UAE is going to increase even further because it will act as a bridge to citizenship. The same goes for real estate in Dubai and other Emirates. Are you an international investor ready to act? If so, our experts will be happy to help you achieve the goal!

Besides, we will gladly tell you about other citizenship by investment opportunities if you think that acquiring citizenship of the UAE is not the best choice for you. An international investor doesn’t have to wait for years to obtain foreign citizenship, as a matter of fact. Some countries will grant citizenship in exchange for a donation or a returnable investment within only a few months! Please apply for a free consultation with our experts on acquiring foreign citizenship.

Notice blue

If you are an international investor or entrepreneur, you are welcome to request a free consultation with our experts on acquiring citizenship of the UAE or another country. Please contact us and we will get back to you shortly!

Can I purchase citizenship of the UAE?

As things stand for now, you cannot ‘purchase’ citizenship of the UAE directly. A foreign investor can qualify for legal residence in the country if he or she buys real property in Dubai or starts a business company in the UAE. When the temporary residence permit turns into a permanent residence permit, the investor may count on eventually acquiring full citizenship of the UAE. It is not impossible: Pavel Durov, for instance, is a foreign investor who has acquired UAE citizenship.

What is a ‘golden visa’ to the UAE?

The golden visa program allows the foreign investor to become a permanent legal resident of the UAE. If you purchase real property in Dubai or elsewhere in the UAE, launch a business company in the country, or if you have an outstanding talent, you can qualify for a golden visa. The permanent residence permit may eventually lead to citizenship of the UAE.

How much should a foreign investor pay for real estate in the UAE to qualify for a golden visa?

A foreign investor can qualify for a 5-year residence permit in the UAE if he or she buys a piece of real property in the country for at least 5 million dirhams. An investment of 10 million dirhams will make the investor eligible for a 10-year residence permit.

Please read other interesting articles at InternationalWealth.info portal:

Please help us make the portal even more informative, up-to-date, and valuable for you and your business.

Your email address will not be published.