To the joy of many expats living in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced in 2018 that they will provide long term residence permit to highly value foreigners. These permits have a length of 5 or 10 years and cater to investors, entrepreneurs, outstanding students, specialized talents and researchers. The measure was put in place to retain talent and reinforce the economy. At the same time, the UAE announced that 100% ownership in business by foreigners will be allowed starting in 2019. Up until then, foreign business people had to enter into partnership with a UAE national or have their business located in the Free Zone to retain 100% ownership.
The UAE has been a top destination for high-net-worth individuals (HNWI) from the Middle East and India to relocate to, and the new residence by investment programs (RBI) are expected to have a lot of success. Until now, property owners and Free Zone business investors had to apply for annual permits or 2-year permits that needed to be renewed and which left them with uncertainty. Now business investors can receive a 10-year permit with their investment, and property owners can obtain a 5-year permit even if both are only required to hold the investment for a minimum of 3 years. The 10-year investor resident permit could also be extended to the spouse, children, one executive director and one advisor.
Naturalization is not a straightforward process and takes at least 20 years unless you are an Arab from another emirate of the Arabic peninsula. Other Arabs can qualify after 7 years, but not many foreigners are naturalized by the UAE. The UAE passport has been growing in strength and it currently provides visa-free travel to the European Union.
Investors in public investments of at least AED10 million.
The investment may take many forms, such as:
Investors in a property in the UAE:
This category includes those having an existing project with a minimum capital of AED500,000, or those who have the approval of an accredited business incubator in the country.