Dubai Permanent Residency by Investment

Dubai Permanent Residency by Investment

The allure of residing and working in Dubai continues to attract individuals from across the globe. As the largest city in the United Arab Emirates, with a foreign population ranging from 80% to 90%, Dubai provides expatriates with a remarkable standard of living, safety, a business-friendly climate, and abundant prospects for personal growth. The local authorities' deliberate focus on drawing foreign investments significantly contributes to this environment.

As part of their efforts to incentivize investors, one notable strategy has been the implementation of appealing residency provisions. Presently, Dubai offers a range of investor visa programs, encompassing visas obtained through investment in residential property. While the prerequisites, particularly the financial criteria, may differ, they generally lean towards being favourable for applicants.

UAE Entry Protocol and Visa Types

To access the UAE, the majority of foreigners (excluding citizens of the Persian Gulf nations) are required to obtain a visa. For brief stays, a range of visit visas (also known as entry permits) are available, with options including single-entry or multi-entry permits that grant permission for specific purposes such as tourism, visiting family or friends, exploring job prospects, medical treatment, studying, transit, and more. Citizens of particular countries can acquire their visas upon arrival, while others must submit applications beforehand.

Individuals intending to have an extended stay in Dubai must secure a residence visa before their entry permit's expiry to legally reside in the country. These visas are typically long-term (ranging from two to 10 years) and can be renewed under the same terms as their initial issuance. Consequently, a residence visa effectively parallels a residence permit, even though this specific term is absent from UAE legislation.

Photo: isco (Unsplash)

Residence Visas

Residence visas are accessible to various groups in the UAE, including investors in the economy, employers, foreign business proprietors, dependents of UAE citizens and foreign residents, and students enrolled at accredited universities. Applicants seeking a residence permit must be present in the country legally, furnish the requisite documents (the checklist varies based on the permit type), undergo a medical evaluation at a licensed clinic in the UAE, and successfully clear a security assessment. Additionally, it's crucial not to hold valid resident visas or unused tourist and labour visas. Upon being granted resident status, foreign individuals receive a national identity card known as the Emirates ID. 

In essence, Dubai provides a diverse array of pathways to acquire residency, with the list being consistently updated. The options encompass work visas for regular employees, highly skilled professionals, entrepreneurs, exceptionally talented individuals, freelancers, and those who are self-employed. Additionally, specific programs extend the opportunity for students and family members to secure residency.

UAE Residency by Investment in Real Estate

Since the beginning of 2019, the United Arab Emirates’ Government has opened a new immigration opportunity for wealthy and highly qualified foreigners: residency by investment. Investors are not required to have a sponsor to apply, you can do it yourself.

The authorities extend multiple categories of residency, differing in terms of validity period, investment type, and required amount. At present, the Taskeen program in Dubai encompasses three types of resident visas that can be obtained through real estate acquisition: a two-year investor visa, a ten-year golden permit, and a retirement golden permit. Each of these investor visas permits the sponsorship of visas for one's spouse, children, and parents.

Two-Year Investor Visa

A two-year renewable resident visa necessitates the ownership of real estate valued at a minimum of 750,000 AED ($204,000) at the time of acquisition. The property must be habitable and situated within a freehold zone, wherein foreigners enjoy the right of complete ownership. It is imperative to possess one or more properties with a cumulative value of no less than 750,000 AED. While spouses can hold joint ownership of the real estate, this raises the minimum threshold to 1,000,000 AED (approximately $272,000), and they are required to include their marriage certificate among the documents for submission.

If the property is under a mortgage, a minimum of 50% of the loan or at least 750,000 AED must have been settled. In such instances, you will require a No Objection Certificate (NOC) along with a bank statement detailing the portion already repaid and the outstanding balance. The bank should be among the locally approved financial institutions listed by the government. Furthermore, the applicant must maintain a monthly income of not less than 10,000 AED ($2,720). The application can also include your spouse and children below the age of 18.

Under the terms of this visa, you cannot be absent from the country for more than six months without a valid reason.

Ten-Year Golden Visa

An individual possessing a property or multiple properties valued at a minimum total of 2,000,000 AED ($544,500) upon purchase qualifies for a ten-year Golden Visa. The prerequisites for mortgaged properties are identical to those for a two-year visa. For properties under a mortgage, a minimum of 50% of the loan or at least 2,000,000 AED must have been settled. It is essential to furnish the previously mentioned documents as evidence of this payment.

A notable distinction with the ten-year visa is that investors have the opportunity to purchase not only finished properties but also off-plan units, which are properties under construction, from government-approved developers.

Until the autumn of 2022, the conditions were slightly different. Previously, the acquisition of real estate exceeding 1,000,000 AED (approximately $272,000) granted eligibility for a three-year visa. This has now transitioned to a two-year visa with a lowered financial threshold. Formerly, there existed two types of Golden Visas, valid for five and 10 years, each with different requirements, including property value criteria. These have been consolidated into a single 10-year visa category. Moreover, holders of Golden Visas are no longer bound by the previous mandate to visit the UAE at least once every six months, and they are now free to depart the country for an indefinite duration.

Retirement Golden Visa

Designed for investors aged 55 and above, this five-year renewable visa is tailored to those who invest in one or multiple properties valued at a minimum of 1,000,000 AED ($272,000) upon purchase. The property in question must be fully paid for. Joint ownership by spouses is permissible, necessitating a marriage certificate as evidence of their relationship.

An alternate method of obtaining this permit is by possessing cumulative savings amounting to 1,000,000 AED in any of the local banks. Subsequently, you would be required to furnish immigration services with evidence that this deposit cannot be withdrawn for a duration of three years. Furthermore, there exists the possibility of combining both savings and property ownership to reach a total of 1,000,000 AED. Alternatively, a monthly pension of no less than 15,000 AED ($4,100) also qualifies an individual for eligibility.

This retirement programme is available to citizens of all countries, but is primarily aimed at residents working in the UAE who have reached retirement age.

Photo: Adnan Baig (Unsplash)

Procedure for Acquiring a Residence Permit for Investment in Property

Following the property purchase, the investor proceeds to submit an application to the Dubai Land Department (DLD). This can be conveniently done online through the official DLD website or the DubaiNow State mobile application. The applicant will then be directed to finalise the remaining steps and gather any necessary documents.

The required documents that investors need to submit include:

  • A passport
  • A digital copy of the property’s title deed
  • A colour photo meeting the Emirates National Identification Authority (EIDA) specifications
  • Valid medical insurance
  • An Emirates ID (if applicable; otherwise issued at the same time as the visa)
  • A copy of the most recent visa to the UAE (if applicable)
  • An approval (a police clearance certificate) from the Dubai Police, addressed to DLD

For a family visa application, you will need the following documents:

  • The passport and Emirates ID of the sponsor
  • A national identity card (for citizens of Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan)
  • A photo
  • Valid medical insurance
  • International bank account number (IBAN)
  • A notarised marriage certificate
  • Notarised birth certificates of the children
  • A notarised No Objection Certificate from the father (if the sponsor is the mother)
  • For children over 18, proof of unmarried status (issued by the Dubai court)
  • Additionally, for sons over 18, a certificate of education

The validity period of family visas corresponds to that of the sponsor's resident visa. Additionally, the floor area of your property should be appropriate for accommodating the number of family members.

For a parent visa, you will need:

  • The passport and Emirates ID of the sponsor
  • A national identity card (for citizens of Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan)
  • A photo
  • Valid medical insurance
  • A notarised birth certificate
  • An international bank account number (IBAN)
  • An affidavit of the certificate of the child’s dependent status from the consulate
  • For two-year and retirement visas, a bank statement for the last three months

The processing time at the DLD typically ranges from seven to 10 business days. Once it's verified that the applicant fulfils the requirements, submits the fees, and clears a medical examination, they obtain approval from the DLD. Subsequently, they proceed to apply for a visa through the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA). Overall, obtaining a residence permit through real estate purchase can take approximately two to three weeks after submitting the required documents, as many procedures run concurrently or utilise a streamlined process. However, there might be instances where the waiting period extends to up to two months.

Residence Permit for Investment in Business and Other Golden Visas

Entrepreneurs can also obtain a 10-year Golden Visa if they meet one of the following conditions:

  • Invest in a new company or acquire a share in an existing one worth more than 2,000,000 AED ($544,500).
  • Have a start-up from a business incubator that has been approved by the UAE Ministry of Economy.
  • Own a company with an annual income of at least 1,000,000 AED ($272,000).

Another type of residence permit available is the five-year Green Residence. It's granted to founders of innovative companies with a minimum authorised capital of 500,000 AED ($136,000), or owners of businesses that have gained approval from UAE-accredited business incubators. It's essential to possess the necessary authorization from competent authorities to engage in the activity and provide evidence of the investments made. If you hold multiple trade licences, the cumulative capital invested across your businesses will be considered.

Self-employed individuals and highly skilled workers are also eligible for the Green Visa.

Photo: Christina @ (Unsplash)

You can apply for these visas online through the website of the Emirati Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Port Security (ICP). Along with the essential documents such as a copy of your passport, photo, medical insurance, and a certificate of medical check-up, you'll need to provide:

  • Partnership/memorandum of association or investment contract
  • Trade license
  • The company's immigration card
  • Confirmation of investment in the authorised capital issued by the bank

Investors who have received a permit can add their spouse and unmarried children up to the age of 25 in their visa application.

Apart from investors and entrepreneurs, a golden residence permit is granted to exceptional individuals who have made significant contributions in various fields. These individuals belong to several categories: people in culture and the arts, innovators and inventors, athletes, and talents in the realm of digital technology. Additionally, there are special Golden Visas for specialised scientists, exceptional students and graduates, trailblazers in humanitarian work, and those who have demonstrated extraordinary dedication in safeguarding the UAE community during times of necessity.

Benefits of Golden Visa

Dubai's Golden Visa offers its holders numerous advantages, including:

  • Permission for uninterrupted residency in the UAE with no restrictions on the time of absence
  • Favourable trade environment and tax resident status
  • Full access to the local banking system
  • Access to high-quality healthcare and education
  • The right to a local driver's licence
  • The right to sponsor their family members and employees
  • An Esaad privilege card for discounts on a wide range of services
  • Social benefits
  • Simplified procedure for obtaining Schengen and USA visas

The Golden Visa program was introduced in 2019 and rapidly gained momentum. According to GDRFA, from its inception until November 2022, a total of 151,600 Golden Visas were issued to foreigners in the UAE. The updated visa regulations, which took effect on October 3, 2022, led to a 35% increase in their issuance. In just about a month, over 100,000 visas were granted. 

In 2022, Dubai issued about 80,000 Golden Visas to highly skilled professionals, entrepreneurs and investors, which is 69% more than the previous year.

This demonstrates the tremendous success of the initiative. Beyond attracting the finest and most skilled experts to Dubai, it propels economic growth. Notably, the surge of foreign investors has fueled a housing market upswing, making construction a pivotal sector in the Emirate's and the UAE's overall economy. 

According to the Dubai Land Department, in 2022, the Emirate witnessed approximately 97,500 home purchases totaling 265.6 billion AED (over $72 billion) in aggregate, establishing new all-time records for both figures. Compared to 2021, this represented a remarkable 78.3% surge in terms of value and a notable 62% rise in terms of quantity.

UAE Citizenship by Investment in Property

Despite the aforementioned factors, obtaining a UAE passport remains a challenging endeavour. Until recently, acquiring citizenship was primarily feasible through descent (if at least one parent is a UAE citizen or if the child's parents are unknown), marriage (with a woman eligible for citizenship after seven years of marriage to a UAE citizen), or naturalisation. The minimum prerequisites for naturalisation encompass legal residency within the country for 30 years (except for citizens of Arab origin, whose period can be reduced to three to seven years), adherence to the Islamic faith, proficiency in Arabic, stable income, and a commendable character. Additionally, the leaders of each of the seven Emirates retained the authority to grant citizenship based on remarkable contributions to the nation's progress.

However, in 2021, two new pathways to citizenship were introduced: UAE citizenship through property investment or business investment, and UAE citizenship based on exceptional merit. Notably, these alternatives, unlike the others, do not necessitate renouncing one's original citizenship. The law does not specify the minimum required investment in business or real estate, nor the duration of residency on a permit before becoming eligible to apply. Historical data indicates that most individuals who successfully acquired a passport after the legal amendments had previously resided in the UAE for several years and made substantial investments exceeding 10,000,000 AED ($2,722,600) in the local economy. Additionally, spouses and minor children can obtain citizenship concurrently with the investor. Eligibility for citizenship by exceptional merit extends to doctors, scientists, inventors, creative talents, and intellectuals. All applicants must receive approval from the courts of Rulers and Crown Princes, Executive Councils, as well as the Cabinet.

UAE citizenship offers even more advantages when compared to residency. Primarily, it entails free education and medical treatment, financial assistance from the State, and the privilege of visa-free access to 178 countries.

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