United Arab Emirates: Clarifications on Long-Term Residence Program

At a Glance

  • Following conflicting media reports about the UAE government’s long-term residence program, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs has clarified in a press conference that the Golden Residency is actually a reference to the 10-year residence permit introduced in February 2019.
  • The Golden Residency is therefore not a separate program and does not introduce a permanent residence scheme at this time.

The situation

Following conflicting media reports about the UAE government’s long-term residence program, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA) has clarified in a press conference that the Golden Residency (also referred to by the GDFRA as the ‘Golden Visa’ and ‘Golden Card’) is actually a reference to the 10-year residence permit, and not a separate long-term residency program.

A closer look

  • Eligibility requirements. All eligibility requirements for the Golden Residency permit are still accurate as listed in this alert.
  • No permanent residence option. Foreign nationals should note that, at this point, although the government has referred to this program as a permanent residency option, the Cabinet Resolution the government has referred to in related discussions does not explicitly mention permanent residency and instead only covers eligibility conditions for five and 10-year residence permits. Fragomen is not aware of other resolutions or regulations that point to this program offering permanent residency, though it is possible that there may be clarifications or new regulations issued on the topic in the future. 
  • Golden Residency program selection. The UAE government announced in May 2019 that the first eligible group of Golden Residency program beneficiaries include 6,800 investors from over 70 countries. The government has issued 400 Golden Residencies so far.

Impact

  • Fewer renewals and costs. Both five- and 10-year residence permits will allow eligible foreign nationals to reside in the United Arab Emirates for extended periods of time without having to renew their residence permit as often as under other residence options, which typically provide a validity of up to three years. Also, considering the relatively low government fees for the issuance of the visas, beneficiaries of this program will save costs associated with frequent visa renewals.
  • Continuous residence abroad. It also allows continuous residence outside the United Arab Emirates for six months at a time, which is a useful feature for those who plan to reside in another country.

Background

  • History of long-term permits. Conflicting information in the media led many immigration providers and businesses to believe that another long-term residence permit was announced in May 2018, in addition to the first program announced in February 2019
  • Regional trend. Other countries in the region have started to implement permanent residence and long-term residence visa schemes to attract foreign investors. For example, in April, Qatar became the first Arab Gulf national to introduce permanent residence for foreign nationals with 20 years consecutive legal residence and Qatari-born nationals with 10 consecutive years of legal residence. Additionally, Saudi Arabia implemented the country’s first permanent residence program for foreign nationals.

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