United Arab Emirates: Permanent Residence Program Announced

At a Glance

  • The Cabinet of the United Arab Emirates has launched a permanent residence program called the Golden Card for investors, outstanding students and foreign nationals with exceptional talents. 
  • This is the first permanent residence option in the United Arab Emirates and is meant to attract foreign investors.

The situation

The Cabinet of the United Arab Emirates has launched a new permanent residence permit program called the Golden Card. It will be the first permanent residence option in the United Arab Emirates.

A closer look

  • Eligibility. Foreign nationals eligible for a permanent residence permit under the Golden Card program include investors, entrepreneurs, researchers, outstanding students and those with exceptional talents.
  • Dependents. The primary Golden Card holder’s opposite-sex spouse and children will benefit from automatic permanent residence under the Golden Card program.
  • Selection by government. The government has announced that the first batch of Golden Card beneficiaries include 6,800 investors from over 70 countries, who will be granted permanent residence under the program.

Impact for foreign nationals

The permanent resident program will allow eligible categories of 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.


  • Other long-term stay option. In February 2019, the United Arab Emirates introduced long-term residents permits for investors, outstanding students, foreign nationals with exceptional talents and other qualifying foreign nationals. The government has not yet outlined the difference between the Golden Card and the long-term residence permit.
  • 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 nation 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, in Saudi Arabia, a draft law regulating the issuance of residence permits for highly-skilled and wealthy foreign nationals without the need for a sponsor, was approved in May.

Looking ahead

The program, in conjunction with the long-term residence permit program, is meant to attract greater foreign investment in the country in the wake of faltering oil prices, which could lead to an economic decline. Additional information regarding the program is expected to be released in the coming months. Fragomen will delineate the details and the differences between this program and the long-term residence visa when that information is available.

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