DUBAI: The UAE announced yesterday it is opening a path to citizenship for select foreigners, in a rare move for the Gulf where the status and its welfare benefits are jealously guarded. Dubai ruler and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al-Maktoum said “investors, specialized talents and professionals including scientists, doctors, engineers, artists, authors and their families” would be eligible for naturalization under the new amendment.
“The UAE cabinet, local amiri courts and executive councils will nominate those eligible for the citizenship under clear criteria set for each category,” Sheikh Mohammed said. “The law allows receivers of the UAE passport to keep their existing citizenship.” The UAE government said the amendment to the citizenship law “aims at appreciating the talents and competencies present in the UAE and attracting more bright minds to the Emirati community”.
Citizens make up a small minority of the population of the UAE, which has a huge migrant labor force, largely from south Asia, some of whom are second or third generation residents. The UAE also has a growing community of wealthy expats attracted by the low tax regime and the luxury megaprojects and tourist attractions of the larger emirates.
The wealthy oil states of the Gulf have long guaranteed their citizens a high standard of living through reserved jobs and a cradle to grave welfare system. To protect it, they have seldom allowed naturalizations. It was unclear if new passport holders would benefit from the public welfare system. The UAE spends billions of dollars each year on free education, healthcare, housing loans and grants for its estimated 1.4 million citizens.
Foreigners in the UAE usually have renewable visas valid for only a few years tied to employment. The government in recent has made its visa policy more flexible, offering longer residencies for certain types of investors, students and professionals. Last year, the government extended its “golden” visa system – which grants 10-year residency in the Gulf state – to certain professionals, specialized degree-holders and others. – Agencies