Changes in UAE citizenship law beckon hope and inclusion
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Changes in UAE citizenship law beckon hope and inclusion

Changes in UAE citizenship law beckon hope and inclusion

Amendments to the UAE’s citizenship law heralds the making of a diverse, talent-based society


In an unprecedented move, the UAE announced a landmark decision this year to open its citizenship to a select group of investors, professionals, and those that possess specialised talents.

The directive was primarily to broaden the country’s talent pool and attract and retain the brightest minds to facilitate the country’s ascendancy towards development and progress. Professionals that can acquire the Emirati nationality include doctors, scientists, engineers, artists, and authors as well as their families. Potential beneficiaries will have to meet certain criteria to qualify; however, recipients, upon acquiring the UAE passport, can retain dual nationalities.

The decision could prove momentous for a country whose demographic landscape has historically been dominated – in large part – by expatriates. The amendment will prompt the UAE’s competitiveness as a residence pad, facilitating foreign residents to fully integrate into its national identity.

“This amendment is in line with the UAE’s aim to become not just an attractive hub, but also a permanent one, for investors and for highly-skilled and talented individuals, who contributed and will continue to contribute to the country’s development and economic growth,” opines Shiraz Sethi, regional head of Employment at Dentons.

“In years gone by, the UAE has always been viewed as a transient hub, but it is testament to the rulers of the country, who have continuously explored ways in which to develop the UAE to make it a more attractive proposition to live and work and to ensure that it continues to attract the best talent from around the world. In addition, this step will boost the flow of foreign investments into the UAE and help support the country in diversifying its economy and sources of revenues.”

Foreigners have been a mainstay of the local economy for years, accounting for roughly 88 per cent of the population (according to data from the World Bank). However, all expatriates are required to either have their own businesses, be employed or have a sponsor to continue living in the country. While the UAE did launch a permanent residency scheme in 2019, as well as retirement visas for expats, the latest directive reflects a larger message of inclusivity and unison.

“In the short term, this announcement shall improve the UAE’s competitiveness in attracting investors and talented individuals and it will provide more stability to residents and to foreigners willing to relocate to the UAE. In the long-term, allowing foreigners to obtain citizenship will help create a more stable and sustainable society,” adds Sethi. This amendment could also prove to be a bellwether of sorts, setting in motion a trend for other GCC countries to follow.

Sethi explains: “The UAE tends to be the pioneer in taking such measures and setting the precedent for others to follow. We anticipate that other GCC countries may take similar steps, or at least we anticipate a relaxation in the residency and investments regulations.”

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