Gulf Business

In it together

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


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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