The United Arab Emirates plans to offer citizenship to a select group of foreigners, the first Gulf Arab nation to formalize a process aimed at giving expatriates a bigger stake in the economy. The major policy shift unveiled on Saturday is aimed at attracting talent in a way that will boost growth in the UAE, home to the Middle East’s finance and travel hubs and millions of expatriate residents.
Foreign residents make up more than 80% of the population of the UAE’s seven sheikhdoms and have been a mainstay of the economy for decades. But they lacked a clear path to citizenship, including if they were born and raised in the country.
Oil-rich Gulf states have been forced to consider longer residency and limited citizenship for foreigners as they seek to attract investment and diversify. Until now, citizenship in the UAE and some other Gulf states has been reserved for foreigners in special cases, including for service to the state, but these changes will formalize and widen such a process.
“The new directives aim to attract talents that contribute to our development journey,” Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum said. The changes will allow the UAE to grant citizenship to selected investors and professionals, including scientists, doctors, engineers, artists, authors and their families.
We adopted law amendments that allow granting the UAE citizenship to investors, specialized talents & professionals including scientists, doctors, engineers, artists, authors and their families. The new directives aim to attract talents that contribute to our development journey.
— HH Sheikh Mohammed (@HHShkMohd) January 30, 2021
The UAE cabinet, local courts and executive councils will nominate those eligible for the citizenship under criteria set for each category, he said. The law will also allow receivers of the UAE passport to keep their existing citizenship.
According to a statement on UAE state news agency WAM, the conditions that must be met to secure the citizenship are:
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