With its dynamic economy, world-class infrastructure, and forward-thinking policies, the UAE has long been a preferred destination for those looking for better business and personal lives.
Recognizing the value of attracting international talent and investment, the UAE government has introduced an exclusive way for obtaining citizenship through investment: the Golden Visa program. This initiative, launched in 2021, marks a significant shift in the nation’s approach to residency and citizenship. It offers high-net-worth individuals, including entrepreneurs, scientists, healthcare professionals, and investors, the opportunity to get the UAE citizenship.
Traditionally, the UAE has been known for granting residence permits rather than citizenship to foreigners. This program not only allows selected investors to obtain a residence permit for up to ten years but also opens the door to applying for UAE citizenship under specific conditions.
In this blog post, we will explore the complexities of the Golden Visa program, shedding light on how selected investors can navigate the path to obtaining UAE citizenship
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Eligibility for UAE Citizenship by Investment
According to the UAE Government Portal, these are potential nominees for UAE citizenship:
Investors – Investors must commit a significant amount of capital. This could be in real estate, local businesses, or other government-approved ventures. The UAE government determines the exact amount, which may vary over time, but usually, it starts from 2,000,000 AED, plus fees.
Businesspersons Opening New Companies – Businessmen opening new companies in Dubai can obtain UAE citizenship by investment. This initiative encourages entrepreneurial talent to contribute to the Dubai economy.
Entrepreneurs Acquiring Capital in Existing Companies – Entrepreneurs who acquire shares in existing companies in Dubai can apply for UAE citizenship by investment. The move not only infuses financial resources into existing businesses but also brings in fresh perspectives and experiences.
Obtaining Citizenship by Investment with Dubai Companies
Acquiring citizenship through investment in Dubai can be facilitated through companies registered in the UAE. Here’s how it works:
Company Investments: By investing in and establishing businesses in Dubai, individuals may qualify for citizenship. According to the Economic Times, to be eligible for this Golden visa, a person must own a property or properties with a minimum equity value of Dh2 million.
Joint Ventures: Collaborating with UAE-based companies in various sectors can open doors to citizenship opportunities. According to UNCTAD’s Investment Policy Hub, the UAE’s legal framework, including the Foreign Direct Investment Law, allows up to 100% foreign ownership in specific sectors, intending to encourage international business partnerships.
Innovative Ventures: Dubai encourages innovative ventures and startups, providing citizenship pathways for entrepreneurs with groundbreaking ideas.
Corporate Investments: Individuals with high net worth can explore corporate investment opportunities in Dubai to secure citizenship.
Investing through Dubai companies is a strategic approach for those seeking citizenship through business ventures.
How to Obtain UAE Citizenship By Investment?
To obtain UAE citizenship by investment, particularly under the Golden Visa scheme, there are specific routes and requirements you can follow:
If you have decided to invest in real estate and own a property or multiple ones, you will get a Golden Visa valid for 5 years. According to Dubai Government Land Department, you need:
- Invest in one or more properties in the UAE with a total value of at least AED 2,000,000.
- Obtain a letter from the Department of Land and Real Estate Regulation in the emirate where the property is located confirming your ownership.
- Ensure you fully own the invested capital and do not finance it through a loan.
- Provide proof of housing in the UAE and have medical insurance for yourself.
Alternatively, if you want a visa with a lower investment threshold, you can opt for the two-year Property Investor Residence Visa.
- This requires an investment of a minimum of AED 750,000 in residential or serviced apartments.
- If you’re investing jointly with a legally married spouse, the combined investment in properties such as hotel rooms, villas, townhouses, or offices should total at least AED 1,000,000.
If you are prone to a long-term visa, you can choose Ten-year Property Investor Residence Visa:
- You need to invest AED 2,000,000 in property to qualify for this visa.
It is important to note that these investments must be direct purchases and not financed through loans, except in exceptional cases where approved local banks provide the loan.
What Are the Steps to Apply for UAE Citizenship?
It is essential to understand that there are no set rules for applying for UAE citizenship by investment. However, certain eligibility criteria must be met to obtain a residence permit, often a precursor to citizenship. Here is a general plan with this consideration in mind:
Qualify Under Eligible Categories:
As I already mentioned, determine if you fall into one of the eligible categories for citizenship. This includes investors, entrepreneurs, special talents, scientists, and professionals.
Secure a Residence in UAE:
Typically, the first step involves securing a residency in the UAE, often through investment or professional activities.
Nomination and Evaluation:
You must be nominated for citizenship. This can come from UAE government bodies, executive councils, or courts. The nomination process involves a thorough assessment of your contributions and qualifications.
Undergo a Residency Period:
A residency period is usually required. The exact duration can vary and is part of the evaluation process.
Submit Application and Documentation:
Once nominated and after completing the residency period, submit your citizenship application along with all required documentation. This may include proof of investment, professional credentials, background checks, and more.
Await Government Assessment:
The UAE government will assess your application. This process includes reviewing your economic contributions, professional achievements, and overall suitability for citizenship.
Approval and Citizenship Grant:
If your application is successful, you will be granted UAE citizenship.
Benefits of UAE Citizenship by Investment
Getting UAE citizenship through investment offers many benefits for individuals and their families. Here are some key benefits:
- Live, Work, and Study in the UAE:
Citizenship grants the right to live, work, and study anywhere in the UAE. This offers a unique opportunity for personal and professional development in a country where over 80% of residents are expats, indicative of its global appeal.
- Family Reunification:
The program allows including your spouse and children, ensuring that families can stay together and enjoy the benefits of UAE citizenship.
- Register Assets without Restrictions:
UAE citizenship removes the typical restrictions faced by foreigners and expats in asset registration, providing a smoother and more efficient process.
- Open Bank Accounts and Establish Companies with Ease:
Unlike the complex procedures for foreigners, UAE citizens find opening bank accounts and establishing companies in the UAE straightforward, cutting through red tape and bureaucracy.
- Attractive Business Hub:
The UAE, especially Dubai and Abu Dhabi, is known for its tax-free living, high-class career opportunities, and safe environment, making it an ideal business hub for investors. According to the National News, the UAE ranks sixth out of 197 countries on the investment index.
- Visa-Free Travel With a UAE Passport:
A UAE passport offers extensive visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to many countries, including the European Schengen states:
Tax Consequences of UAE Citizenship
Gaining UAE citizenship through investment can have significant implications for your tax obligations. Here’s what I found:
No Personal Income Tax: One of the most appealing aspects is the absence of personal income tax in the UAE. This means my income, earned within the UAE or abroad, would be exempt from income tax. However, according to Passport.io, residents can still obtain a UAE tax residency certificate under certain conditions.
Real Estate Transfer Tax: Regarding property, a real estate transfer tax varies from 2% to 4%, depending on the emirate. For example, in Dubai, this tax is applied to the transfer of real estate. Additionally, some municipalities, such as Dubai, levy an annual property tax based on the assessed rental value of the property.
Corporate Taxation: On the corporate side, most economic activities are exempt from income tax. The exceptions are companies in the oil and gas sector and companies providing financial services. Understanding the nuances of corporate taxation, including restrictions on foreign ownership (the maximum rate is 49%, excluding free zones and offshore companies), is essential to making informed investment decisions in the UAE.
No Inheritance Tax: UAE citizens are not liable for inheritance tax, ensuring their wealth can be passed down to their heirs without tax burdens.
International Tax Planning: UAE citizenship opens doors for international tax planning, allowing you to optimize your financial affairs while benefiting from the UAE’s tax-friendly environment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, for many investors and entrepreneurs, the UAE Golden Visa is worth it. It offers long-term residency, access to a thriving business environment, and benefits such as being able to sponsor family members and no tax on personal income.
Eligibility for the UAE Golden Visa varies based on the category (investors, entrepreneurs, specialized talents, researchers, and outstanding students). Generally, investors need to invest in property worth AED 2 million or more, while entrepreneurs should have a project worth at least AED 500,000. Specialized talents and researchers in science and knowledge fields require a valid employment contract in the UAE, among other specific criteria.
Yes, UAE Golden Visa holders can sponsor their family members, including spouses and children, regardless of their age, as well as parents, providing them with the stability and benefits of long-term residency.
The UAE Golden Visa itself does not directly impact tax liabilities, as the UAE does not levy personal income tax. However, it’s advisable for visa holders to consult with a tax professional regarding their home country’s tax regulations and any international tax obligations.
The UAE citizenship by investment presents a compelling opportunity for investors to become citizens of one of the world’s leading economic countries. The UAE is an ideal place for investors with attractive tax benefits, exceptional amenities, and a welcoming environment. Consider UAE citizenship by investment as your gateway to a secure, prosperous, and culturally vibrant life in this dynamic nation.