Living in the Emirates for a long period without enjoying the benefits offered by residency is expensive. However, the UAE is doing its utmost to attract investors to the country’s real estate or business sectors, as well as talented specialists in medicine, arts, science, and other areas. The UAE’s Golden Visa is one such recent innovation.
Since 2019 the United Arab Emirates have been issuing a so-called “Golden” visa to certain categories of foreign citizens. This type of visa implies special residency status which makes it easier for expatriates to live, work and invest in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
In April 2022 the government decided to introduce changes to the UAE Golden Visa eligibility rules. The new rules came into force in October 2022. In this article we will tell you who can obtain a Golden Visa and how and outline the benefits of a Golden Visa.
- Why You Need Residency Status in the UAE
- Why a Golden Visa is Better than a Green Visa or Other Types of Visa
- Other Golden Visa Benefits
- Who Can Apply for a Golden Visa
- Who Else is Eligible for a Golden Visa
- Five Year Visa for the Retired
- Documents to be Submitted for a Golden Visa
- Cost of Golden Visa
- What Else You Need to Know about the Golden Visa
- How to Apply for a Golden Vsa
Why You Need Residency Status in the UAE
If you are planning to travel to Dubai, Abu Dhabi or any other Emirate for a long term, to study, work, open a business, or just enjoy a life there, then you cannot get around without a residential status.
Golden Visa holders can:
- work and invest,
- open a bank account,
- take a loan from a bank (consumer or car loan),
- obtain a driving licence (tourists from 40 countries, including the USA, Canada, and Australia, can use their national licence to drive around the UAE, but will need a local licence if they become a resident of the country),
- take out a medical insurance policy, apply for benefits and medical care at local hospitals,
- enrol their children at private or state schools.
New buildings in the UAE
Why a Golden Visa is Better than a Green Visa or Other Types of Visa
As well as the Golden Visa, people can get a Green Visa, a five-year tourist visa, a job seeker visa and a business:
- The validity term of the Golden Visa: up to 10 years with an option to renew it. Green Visas are issued to skilled professionals, the self-employed, and business executives for five years. By comparison, standard work visas are mostly granted for only two years.
- Golden Visa holders do not need a sponsor to cover their accommodation needs in the Emirates. This rule is also true for Green Visa holders. However, students, the relatives of residents and standard visa holders have to submit documents confirming that they have financial support. Employers, educational establishments, parents, spouses or children can act as sponsors.
- If you have a Golden Visa, you retain the visa even if you leave the Emirates for more than six months. As a general rule, the visa of a UAE resident who has spent over 180 consecutive days outside the country will be revoked automatically. So if such a resident wants to return to the UAE, they will have to submit all their papers again. Exceptions are made for anyone leaving the country to study abroad or undergo treatment, as well as for the wives of UAE citizens and anyone sponsored by employees of diplomatic missions.
- Any Golden Visa holder may become a sponsor, not only of their relatives, but also for an unlimited number of household employees.
- Finally, the family members of a Golden Visa holder can stay in the UAE until their visa expires even if their Golden Visa sponsor dies.
Other Golden Visa Benefits
As well as enjoying maximum comfort living in the Emirates and facing minimal bureaucracy, happy Golden Visa holders are eligible for additional bonuses, including:
- special offers from medical and insurance companies, discounts on one-year medical policies,
- in the case of Dubai residents: an Esaad privilege card. Card holders receive a number of discounts and special offers, ranging from trips to restaurants to appointments with a doctor. In addition, visa holders can take the UAE driving licence exam without attending additional lessons. They may be entitled to benefits to continue your studies at Dubai universities,
- in the case of Abu Dhabi residents: discounts on purchases, including real estate from certain developers (Imkan Properties, for example); priority bookings of new car models; reduced and fixed mortgage rates from Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and First Abu Dhabi Bank; special offers for SPA treatments and gym memberships.
Who Can Apply for a Golden Visa
Several categories of foreign citizens are eligible for the UAE Golden Visa, including entrepreneurs, investors, and highly skilled talented specialists. Owners of real estate in Dubai and Abu Dhabi may also be eligible for a Golden Visa – provided that they meet certain criteria. Golden Visa requirements depend on what they do and how they make money.
Real estate owners can get a five year Golden Visa. They must submit an official letter from the Land Department to the Federal Authority of Identity, Citizenship, Customs & Port Security.
The letter should be issued in the emirate where the real estate is located. The document should confirm that the properties are worth in total a minimum of AED 2,000,000 (USD 545,000). Furthermore, the flat, townhouse or villa may be purchased with a mortgage, provided that the mortgage was issued by a local bank.
Foreign entrepreneurs are also eligible for a five-year resident visa if they can prove that they intend to develop a technical or innovative project in the UAE. In this case, a local auditor must appraise the value of the business as worth at least AED 500,000 (USD 136,000). Written consent to cooperation from one of the business incubators accredited in the country is also required.
If you invest in an investment fund accredited in the UAE, you are eligible for a Golden Visa. You need to invest at least AED 2,000,000 (USD 545,000). In this case, the investor must have to hand the whole amount – borrowing is not acceptable.
Another option was introduced in April 2022: the ownership of a company, a start-up, or a participation interest in a company worth AED 2,000,000 (USD 545,000). In this case, the potential Golden Visa holder must have a commercial or a manufacturing licence, as well as corporate documents which confirm that the applicant has the necessary amount.
Option three: a statement from a tax department of the UAE, which confirms that your company or a company where you are one of the owners pays a minimum of AED 250,000 (USD 68,000) in taxes a year to the UAE budget.
Who Else is Eligible for a Golden Visa
As well as investors and businessmen investing large amounts in the economy of the Emirates, specialists who can make a non-material contribution into the development of the country are also eligible, such as:
- scientists: you must have a doctor’s degree or a master’s degree and have made important achievements in your area,
- artists and cultural figures,
- executive managers (provided they have a bachelor’s degree and an employment contract),
- engineers and researchers (they will also need a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree and an employment contract),
- lawyers: to apply for the visa, they must have a Labour Office card of the UAE,
- athletes, coaches, and other professionals,
- students and alumni of leading universities of the UAE and other countries from the Top 100 list (provided that they excelled their studies),
- the employees of humanitarian organisations (provided that they have worked for at least five years or have received awards for their work), as well as sponsors who have donated at least AED 2,000,000 (USD 545,000),
- nurses, hospital aides, pharmacologists and other medical specialists who proved their worth in crises (during the COVID-19 pandemic, for example).
We list here economic sectors which are highly valued in the UAE:
- artificial intelligence,
- big data development,
- computer engineering,
- electronic engineering,
- epidemiology and viruses,
- software development,
- electric engineering,
- genetics and biotechnology engineering.
It should be noted here that individuals who are talented in the arts, culture, sports, digital technology, medicine and other areas can obtain the Golden Visa based solely on their abilities. Their education, monthly salaries or employment status will not affect the decision on whether to grant or deny them Golden Visas. However, they will definitely need a letter of recommendation or approval from the local or federal authorities.
Five Year Visa for the Retired
Another long-term visa category is for people who have already retired. Anyone over the age of 55 years or with over 15 years of service (not necessarily in the Emirates) can apply for a renewable five year visa. It will be approved if you own property in the UAE worth AED 1,000,000 (USD 272,000), a bank account with that amount or a monthly income of AED 20,000 AED (USD 5,445).
Documents to be Submitted for a Golden Visa
Before applying for a resident visa, all foreign citizens over 18 need to undergo a medical check-up. It should prove that the applicant has no dangerous infectious diseases, including HIV and tuberculosis. Hired house help are also tested for dangerous diseases and pregnancy. A medical check-up costs from AED 750 (USD 820) per person.
Another mandatory issue on your to-do list is an application for the identification card of the UAE – the Emirates ID. It is also issued by the Federal Authority of Identity, Citizenship, Customs & Port Security which is responsible for visa issues. While you can start the process online, you will have to submit your biometric data – fingerprints and signature – at one of the service centers.
In addition to the aforementioned letters from employers and educational establishments, letters of recommendation and statements confirming your eligibility for a Golden Visa, anyone who wants to become a resident of the UAE must prepare a basic package of documents, including:
- a recent colour photo against a white background,
- a photocopy of their passport,
- a medical certificate,
- an application for an Emirates ID,
- a health insurance policy (for a minimum of USD 1,600),
- an entry permit,
- atenancy agreement or certificate of title to property.
You can file an application through the Authority’s website, through the official UAEICP app available at App Store and Google Play, or personally at a service center or an accredited bureau. The latter option may just be the most convenient one because online forms do not always work properly. The General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai (GDFRA-Dubai) also processes documents.
Cost of Golden Visa
The cost of a Golden Visa depends on the category of applicant. The average fee for a five year visa equals AED 2,855 (USD 777). A 10 year visa will cost more – AED 3,860 (USD 1,050).
You will also have to pay for your medical check-up, the Emirates ID, and local insurance.
What Else You Need to Know about the Golden Visa
If you apply for a Golden Visa and are waiting until it has been approved, you can get a multiple-entry six month visa which enables you to settle all the paperwork and bureaucratic issues in person.
Don’t forget to renew your visa in time before it expires. You will be fined AED 50 (USD 13.5) for each day that you spend in the Emirates without a valid visa. And if you plan to leave the Emirates without coming back in the near future, you need to cancel your resident visa.
How to Apply for a Golden Vsa
Once you have collected all the necessary documents, all you have left to do is to complete the application. The process is fairly simple:
- Go to the ICA smart services platform,
- Create a new request to apply for a Golden Visa. Here, you will need more than just your personal data: you will have to enter your unified identification number (UID) – a six-digit number assigned to any individual entering the UAE,
- Complete the application form: enter your personal data, your passport data, date of birth, occupation and a contact number,
- Attach all the necessary documents,
- Make sure that all the information is correct,
- Pay the visa fee.
In a Nutshell
To get a Golden Visa, you should consider investing in one of the Emirates or, if you have professional commendations, you can try using them. It will take time, considerable effort and money to collect all the necessary documents, pay the fees and attend the medical check-up, but it is worth doing to enjoy all the benefits of being a resident of the UAE.
In mid-November 2022 the Emirates published statistics on the Golden Visa. Long-term residency status has been granted to over 150,000 people in just over three years since the launch of the programme. Furthermore, the number of Golden Visa holders has increased rapidly since the introduction of the new visa rules. Maybe you are also eligible for the Golden Visa now? If that is the case your life in Dubai or Abu Dhabi may well become even more comfortable and enjoyable.