The United Arab Emirates recently announced that it would invite some foreign nationals to apply for citizenship.

The change follows efforts in recent years to make long-term residency available to top foreign talent, as the UAE moves to solidify its reputation as a destination for foreign business and investment. For now, the citizenship program is only open to foreign nationals who are nominated by the Federal Cabinet, the Ruler’s Office or an Executive Council within an Emirate.

Among those who may be eligible:

  • Doctors and specialists with at least 10 years’ experience in a field or discipline that is in demand in the UAE.
  • Scientists at a university or private sector research institution who have at least 10 years’ experience in their field.
  • Investors who own property in the UAE.
  • Inventors with at least one patent approved by the UAE Ministry of Economy or another reputable international body.
  • Creative individuals, such as authors or artists, who are pioneers in their field.

In many cases, applicants will have to show that they have earned international recognition or awards for their work. Some applications will have to be supported by letters of recommendation. More information on eligibility requirements are available here. Requirements are subject to change and citizenship decisions will be made at the discretion of the UAE government.

Those whom the UAE grants citizenship to will be able to maintain their current nationality and become dual citizens. The UAE will permit successful citizenship applicants to sponsor their immediate family members for citizenship as well.

Analysis & Comments: The change is a significant development for the UAE, which, up until now, had significant restrictions on foreign nationals becoming citizens, including the need to renounce any existing nationalities and passports; under these reforms, second nationalities are permitted. The program will offer a limited number of foreign nationals to obtain UAE citizenship. For now, the program is only open to those whom UAE governmental bodies sponsor. Employers with employees who may be eligible for citizenship may wish to consult with Deloitte.

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