January 30, 2021, The UAE Cabinet made some historic legal changes that allow expatriates to obtain Emirati citizenship for the first time while retaining their original citizenship, granting them the opportunity to become dual citizens. Earlier citizenships were hard to get in the gulf region and are not normally offered to expatriates and foreigners. According to the new process, expatriates cannot apply for a visa, instead ‘skilled professionals’ would be nominated for citizenship by the government or royal court officials. These ‘skilled professionals’ include investors, individuals with specialized professionals like doctors, scientists as well as talented individuals, intellectuals and artists. The changes to the law also grant families of those eligible to obtain citizenship. The new law changes were brought by the UAE Cabinet with the aspirations of President Sheikh Khalifa to attract and retain highly skilled individuals who will help progress the development of the UAE.
“We adopted law amendments that allow granting the UAE citizenship to investors, specialised talents & professionals including scientists, doctors, engineers, artists, authors and their families. The new directives aim to attract talents that contribute to our development journey”. Sheikh Mohammed, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai said on Saturday.
The population of UAE, mainly the workforce, consists of expatriates and it is no surprise the incredible changes the country has gone through over the last few decades. The country has now put emphasis on expanding university education, technology, tourism and global trade in the coming years. With this, it has become apparent that UAE is no doubt a global power with the ability to create its influence in world affairs. The country’s population has grown even more diverse in the last few years and the vibrant community of expatriates in the community also have a great impact on the culture. According to the United Nations figures of world population, the population of UAE is about 9.9 million of which more than 80% of the people are expatriates.
How can foreign students benefit from the new visa and residency rule?
As per the first cabinet meeting of Jan 24, 2021, held in Abu Dhabi the newly approved rule states that the foreign students in the UAE will be allowed to sponsor their immediate relatives and bring them to the country over the duration of their courses. This move from the UAE government is a premonition of an increase in the influx of international students in the country. “We have approved some amendments to our national residence and citizenship procedures by allowing foreign students to sponsor their families, providing they can afford it,” Sheikh Mohammed said, the Vice President, Prime Minister of UAE and the ruler of Dubai.
The newly updated resolution can also act as an incentive for promoting the desire of the UAE to become one of the global powerhouses in terms of information, technology and a leading destination for work and study. Sheikh Mohammed also added, “We approved changes in the residency and nationality procedures in the country by enabling foreign students to bring their families whenever they have the financial means. The UAE has become a regional educational destination with more than 77 universities and tens of thousands of students annually.” The new rule will not only encourage international students from around the world to choose the Emirates for their education but also they might be inspired to work further after they finish their academic journey.
What does the new visa and residency regulations in the UAE entail?
The UAE recently approved new residency and visa rules which allow expatriate residents, both employers and employees to sponsor their families as long as they have a valid residency permit. As of March 2019, the job title no longer determines if an expatriate worker can sponsor their family. If they have decent accommodation and maintain the income criteria of AED 4000 or AED 3000, then they may sponsor their families. The previous provision of UAE only listed certain professionals eligible to apply for family sponsorship visas.
Immediate family members of the expatriates are issued visas depending on the time period of the job contract of the sponsoring member. Normally, expatriate employees are provided with one or two years of residency visa whereas employers are issued residency visas for three years. The sponsor has to apply for their dependents’ residence visa within 60 days after they enter the UAE. This will modify the status of the dependent from an entry permit holder to a residence visa holder.
There is an additional medical fitness requirement for sponsored family members of the residents of UAE before they are granted or renewed a residence visa. These medical fitness requirements are essential for the residents as well. For those over the age of 18, they need to pass a medical fitness test only at government-approved health centres. In the medical test, people will be tested for two communicable diseases: HIV and pulmonary tuberculosis. In rare cases, if the sponsored person is HIV positive or has pre-existing conditions of tuberculosis, then they will be immediately deported by the authorities. Residents who are identified with passive tuberculosis are considered medically fit and granted a one-year ‘Health Fitness Certificate for Residence’ subject to treatment and follow-up by the Department of Preventive Medicine.
How can an expatriate resident sponsor their parents to live with them?
An expatriate resident in the UAE can sponsor their parents for a year by agreeing to pay a deposit for both parents as specified by the immigration department. Sponsoring only one parent is not possible, both parents need to be sponsored and also there must be enough proof to show that the expatriate resident is their only support. If one of the parents is only alive or they are divorced, then the sponsor should provide relevant documents to justify the claim.
From September 2020, the government of UAE also commenced a new five-year renewable retirement visa for resident expatriates and foreigners aged 55 and over to live within the Emirates. This is in line with the new visa and residency rule applied by the government of UAE.
What are the criteria for a woman to be able to sponsor her family in the UAE?
When it comes to a woman sponsoring her family, the UAE government has set new rules each for Abu Dhabi and Dubai. In Abu Dhabi, a woman can sponsor residence visas for her family only if she holds a valid residence permit, and her profession must be an engineer, teacher, doctor or nurse, and her monthly salary is not less than AED 10000 or AED 8000 plus accommodation. While in Dubai, if a woman does not hold a position in any of the above categories, but her monthly salary is more than AED 10000, then she can still get approval to sponsor her family.
Back on January 12, 2021, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President of UAE sanctioned a deal to provide golden visas for investors and retirement visas for retirees in the UAE. Also, the categories of the golden residency visas were expanded, which now include: Ph.D. holders, doctors, engineers as well as outstanding graduates with a GPA of 3.8 or more. This could also motivate people around the world to consider UAE as a possible destination for residency, investments, tourism and higher education. It will also help UAE to take a step forward to position itself as one of the advanced and developed countries in the world.
The new residency and visa rules will definitely enhance the stability within the family of foreign workers and students. It will also strengthen the social unity of the community in and around the UAE and attract highly skilled individuals.