How to Become a Resident in Dubai in 2024: Step-by-Step Guide

Published: 20 May 2024

Seeking to settle in Dubai? This article tackles the question of how to become a resident in Dubai directly. You’ll learn about the precise criteria for eligibility, the various residence visa types, and the step-by-step application process. Designed for professionals, investors, families, and students alike, our guide is stripped of all fluff, providing just the actionable insights you need for a successful residency application.

Key Takeaways

  • Dubai offers a variety of residence visas for different categories of people, including professionals, students, retirees, and investors, with eligibility contingent upon various criteria such as employment, academic merit, and level of investment.
  • The application process for residency in Dubai involves obtaining an entry permit, completing medical tests, applying for an Emirates ID, and ensuring all personal documents are correctly attested and translated into Arabic.
  • Dubai enables residents to sponsor family members for residency visas, offers long-term visas for exceptional students and talented individuals, and provides pathways to residency through real estate investment and company formation.

Eligibility Criteria for Dubai Residency

Obtaining residency in UAE, specifically in Dubai, is not a far-fetched dream, thanks to the UAE’s progressive immigration policies. A UAE residence visa allows foreign nationals to reside within the country for extended periods, providing stability and long-term residency. But who exactly is eligible for this privilege? The answer lies in the myriad of conditions tailored to accommodate a diverse range of individuals.

Dubai residency is accessible to professionals from special categories like scientists, educators, and artists, given they meet certain nationality-related conditions. To obtain residency through employment is also an option, notably in Dubai free zones, provided the requirements set by the free zone authorities and a specified minimum monthly income are met. Entrepreneurs and retirees over the age of 55 can also find a pathway to residency through business investment.

The UAE’s Residence by Investment Program is designed to provide long-term residence to foreign investors, entrepreneurs and talented individuals who make a significant investment in the country, making the UAE one of the most attractive business destinations worldwide.

Types of Residence Visas in Dubai

A variety of residence visas are available in Dubai, catering to a wide spectrum of individuals. Some of the types of visas available include:

  • Employment-based visas for professionals
  • Investor visas for entrepreneurs (UAE Golden Visa)
  • Family visas for immediate relatives
  • Student visas for academic achievers
  • Entrepreneur visas for innovative business minds

Dubai ensures that all are accommodated. These visas cater to a wide array of individuals, including investors, entrepreneurs, employees, specialists, students, and retirees, allowing them to establish residency in Dubai.

For those with exceptional talents in fields such as science, culture, and the arts, Dubai even offers specialist resident visas.

Employment-Based Visas

Employment is one of the prevalent routes to acquire a UAE residence visa. In this scenario, the employer acts as the sponsor for the individual, facilitating their legal stay and work in the country. This type of visa is closely tied to the duration of the work contract, meaning its validity equals the duration of the employment contract. Acquiring UAE residence visas through employment is a common practice in the region.

In Dubai, work visas have a validity of two years with an option for renewal. As part of the documentation process, a copy of the employment contract is required, and appropriate legalized academic certificates are needed to match the job level. The standard fee for this visa application is 1350 AED ($370).[2.1_5]

Additionally, freelancers and remote employees can also secure their spot in Dubai by obtaining a UAE residence visa, granted they secure a license from a UAE free zone, with terms varying by profession and age.

Investor Visas

Investor visas, particularly the UAE’s Golden Visa, offer a golden ticket to those with an entrepreneurial spirit and the financial means to invest. This coveted visa not only allows long-term residency up to ten years, far exceeding the standard two-year residence visa typically offered to expatriates, but also provides substantial benefits that enhance its appeal.

Here are the key features and benefits of the UAE Golden Visa:

  1. Long-Term Residency: The Golden Visa grants up to ten years of residency, providing a stable and long-term base for investors and their families in the UAE.
  2. Strategic Location: The UAE’s strategic geographic position acts as a gateway to markets in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, offering unparalleled access to global trade routes and international business opportunities.
  3. Family Inclusiveness: The visa allows for the inclusion of the applicant’s spouse and unmarried children of any age without requiring additional investment, ensuring that families can stay together while enjoying the benefits of residency.
  4. Tax Advantages: The UAE offers a favorable tax regime with no personal income, capital, net worth, or withholding taxes, coupled with numerous double-tax treaties, making it an attractive destination for wealth preservation and growth.
  5. Real Estate Opportunities: With a booming real estate market, investors have the opportunity to invest in high-value properties, which not only provide good returns but also contribute towards fulfilling the investment criteria for the Golden Visa.

These features collectively make the UAE’s Golden Visa an attractive proposition for investors looking to expand their horizons, secure a high standard of living, and gain a foothold in a region that serves as a commercial hub connecting multiple continents.

Family Visas

Family bonds play a significant role in Dubai’s residency framework. The ‘Family Visa Path’ category in UAE residency is specifically designed for family members of foreign nationals residing in the UAE. If you’re an expatriate with a UAE residency visa, you can sponsor your immediate family members, which includes spouses, children, and parents.

Family visas in Dubai can be issued for varying durations such as 1-year, 2-year, and 3-year visas, depending on your employment terms. This ensures that your loved ones can also enjoy the benefits of living in this vibrant city, making the residency experience a truly family affair.

Student Visas

As an academic hub, Dubai extends a warm welcome to international students worldwide. Foreign students over the age of 18 can obtain a student visa to study in Dubai if they are enrolled in a university that is recognized and accredited by the UAE state authorities. The standard student visa is valid for one year and can be renewed annually, provided the student continues their education at the university.

But that’s not all. The UAE also encourages academic excellence by offering a longer-term, 5-year student visa for outstanding students. If you achieve a high GPA or demonstrate excellent secondary school grades, you may be eligible for this incentive as part of the UAE’s drive for nurturing talented students.

Entrepreneur Visas

In Dubai’s residency framework, entrepreneurs are given significant importance. If you’re an entrepreneur, you can obtain a UAE residence visa by investing a minimum amount in your business. The extent of your investment dictates the duration of your visa: A 10-year visa requires an investment of AED 2,000,000.

As an entrepreneur, you can include your spouse and unmarried children (sons under 25 and daughters of any age) in your residence visa applications. This ensures that your family can enjoy the benefits of living in Dubai while you focus on growing your business.

Application Process for a Dubai Residence Visa

The process to apply for a Dubai residence visa involves several stages, the first of which is securing an entry permit, also known as an entry visa. This permit, generally sponsored by an employer or spouse. This entry permit is valid for 60 days and is issued by the Freezone.

Upon visa approval, you will need to apply for an Emirates ID, which includes biometrics data collection. The Emirates ID card is typically issued within two weeks after the residence permit application is approved. As part of the process, you will also be required to undergo a medical examination at an accredited hospital, including X-rays and blood tests for communicable diseases.

It’s important to note that your personal presence in the Emirates is mandated at some point during the visa application process, ensuring you are physically available for necessary steps.

Required Documents for Dubai Residency

A specific set of documents is required to obtain your Dubai residence visa. For starters, you must hold a valid passport with a minimum of six months’ validity and two blank pages. In addition, you will need to provide:

  • a birth certificate
  • a driver’s license
  • a marriage certificate if applicable
  • a colored passport copy

If you’re applying for an employment-based visa, you will need to provide a copy of your work contract and employment details, including qualifications and references. Family visas require a marriage certificate and proof of income, such as a salary pay slip. All applicants should submit a digital passport-sized photo against a white background. Keep in mind that all documentation for the residence visa application should be attested and translated into Arabic by a professional service.

Working with a Specialist: The Benefits of Consulting Imperial Citizenship

Securing residency in a foreign country can be a complex process, but you don’t have to navigate it alone. Working with a specialist like Imperial Citizenship can make your journey smoother and more successful. Imperial Citizenship is a Canadian-Managed firm registered in Dubai, specializing in helping investors obtain a Second Citizenship or Residency through the means of investments.

With over 20 years of experience in Residency and Citizenship by Investment Industry, they provide expert guidance that ensures every step of your journey is handled with precision, adhering to all legal requirements, minimizing potential setbacks, and maximizing your chances of success. Their knowledge and experience in dealing with complex laws make them invaluable partners in achieving your international mobility goals.

Dubai Residency through Real Estate Investment

Investing in Dubai’s thriving real estate market not only offers financial returns but also provides a pathway to residency in this dynamic city. By meeting certain investment thresholds, investors can secure either a standard investor visa or a more extended Golden Visa, each with its distinct advantages.

Here’s what potential investors need to know about securing residency through real estate investment in Dubai:

  1. Investment Thresholds: To qualify for a standard investor visa, a minimum investment of AED 750,000 is required. For those aiming for long-term stability, a 10-year Golden Visa can be obtained with a property purchase worth at least AED 2,000,000.
  2. Visa Duration and Eligibility: The standard investor visa grants residency for 2 years, while the Golden Visa provides a 10-year residency period. These visas allow investors to live, work, and study in Dubai.
  3. Family Inclusion: Both visa types enable investors to sponsor their families. The 2-year visa covers spouses and children under 18, whereas the 10-year Golden Visa extends eligibility to include unmarried sons under 25 and unmarried daughters of any age.
  4. Real Estate Market Benefits: Dubai’s real estate market is known for its high-quality developments and potential for appreciation. Investing here not only secures residency but also positions investors in a market with significant growth potential.
  5. Renewability: Both types of visas are renewable as long as the property investment meets the current criteria at the time of renewal, providing an ongoing basis for residency in Dubai.

These options make Dubai an attractive destination for those looking to combine investment opportunities with the benefits of residency, offering a gateway to the broader economic and cultural life of the UAE.

Dubai Residency through Company Formation

Company formation in Dubai provides a promising route for entrepreneurs to secure residency in the UAE. The process, designed to encourage business investments, is streamlined to attract global business owners and entrepreneurs with benefits that extend beyond residency.

Here are some of the key features and steps involved in obtaining Dubai residency through company formation:

  • Entrepreneurial Benefits: Establishing or investing in a company within Dubai allows entrepreneurs to reap several advantages such as 100% business ownership, access to a strategic global business hub, and minimal bureaucratic hurdles. This setup is particularly advantageous due to Dubai’s dynamic market and its position as a gateway to international commerce.
  • Setup and Processing Time: Setting up a company, particularly in zones like the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), is facilitated by a structured and transparent process. Typically, the complete process from company registration to obtaining the resident visa can be completed in about 4-5 weeks, depending on the business activity and documentation.
  • Visa Stamping Process: Once the company is established and the initial approval is received, the visa stamping process for the business owner and any eligible dependents usually requires an additional five working days. This step finalizes the residency status, allowing the entrepreneur and their family to enjoy the benefits of living in Dubai.

By leveraging the opportunities for company formation in Dubai, entrepreneurs not only establish a strong business presence but also secure a pathway to residency, enhancing their personal and professional life in the UAE. This process underscores Dubai’s commitment to fostering an environment conducive to business growth and international investment.

Sponsoring Family Members for Dubai Residency

Family holds a central position in Dubai’s residency policies. Residents can sponsor their family members for Dubai residency, providing a minimum salary of 4,000 AED unless accommodation is provided by the employer, in which case the minimum salary requirement is 3,000 AED. Female foreign employees may sponsor family members if they earn at least 10,000 AED per month in specific professions, such as teaching, engineering, or nursing, or 8,000 AED with accommodation provided.

To sponsor family members, the main applicant must provide a marriage certificate, salary pay slip, and family members’ identification papers. For those wishing to bring their parents to Dubai, a higher salary requirement, a guarantee deposit, and proof of the absence of adequate care for their parents in the home country are required. Residents can also sponsor their parents for a 1-year visa, and must sponsor stepchildren by providing a no-objection certificate from the biological parent and a financial deposit for each stepchild.

UAE Residence Visa Fees and Processing Time

Several factors can influence the cost and timeline of acquiring a UAE resident visa. On average, it costs approximately 4,000 USD to obtain a UAE resident visa in Dubai. The UAE residence visa fee can reach up to 750 AED ($205) for the residence permit filing, with a processing time by the immigration office of up to 48 hours.

The cost can differ significantly depending on where the business is registered, with northern Emirates such as Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Sharjah, or Ras Al Khaimah typically offering lower costs. The time required to complete the mandatory medical test and biometrics is usually 3-4 weeks, and the processing time for sponsoring family members’ visas is approximately 15-17 working days.

Renewal and Cancellation of Dubai Residence Visa

Certain rules and procedures need to be followed in order to maintain your Dubai residence visa. Here are the steps to renew your visa:

  1. After the visa expiration, residents are granted a 30-day grace period to either renew their visa or leave the country without incurring penalties.
  2. Visit the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) office to submit the required documents.
  3. Pay the visa renewal fee.
  4. Undergo a medical fitness test, if required.
  5. Collect your new residence visa.

By following these steps, you can easily renew your Dubai residence visa and continue living in the country.

However, overstaying a UAE Residence Visa can incur fines, the amount of which is dependent on the duration of the overstay. To cancel a UAE residence visa, the sponsor must initiate the process by submitting the original passport and additional documents such as Emirates ID.

Residents with expired visas can apply for a new re-entry permit by submitting an application from outside the UAE with a valid reason, settling any fines, and re-entering the UAE within 30 days of approval.

Special Provisions for Widows, Divorced Women, and Students

Special provisions are included in Dubai’s residence policies for specific groups. Widows and divorced women, for instance, can remain in the country without a sponsor for a year, provided they were under their husband’s visa at the time of his death or divorce. For students, the UAE encourages academic excellence. International students who have achieved excellent grades may be eligible to obtain long-term residence visas ranging from 5 to 10 years. These visas are granted in recognition of their outstanding academic achievements..

Also, students enrolled in foreign institutions who hold a Dubai-issued residence permit can re-enter the UAE after more than six months abroad if they enter through Dubai and provide proof of their student status. These provisions ensure that widows, divorced women, and promising students can continue their Dubai residency journey even under challenging circumstances.

Maintaining and Extending Dubai Residency

Specific rules need to be followed for maintaining and extending your Dubai residency. To maintain a valid Dubai residence visa, residents must adhere to specific re-entry rules to avoid losing their residency status. Residents whose visas expired while abroad for more than six months can apply for a re-entry permit under new rules introduced in 2023, subject to certain conditions.

Golden Visa holders have the privilege of maintaining their residency status by visiting the UAE once or twice a year, without the need for continuous residence. For those who have made the UAE their long-term home, there’s an option to apply for UAE citizenship by naturalisation after 30 years of residency, paving the way for permanent residency.


Obtaining Dubai’s residency is a journey that involves various pathways, meticulous application processes, and adherence to rules and regulations. Whether you’re a professional, investor, student, or a family member, Dubai offers a range of residency options to suit your needs. Remember, expert guidance from specialists like Imperial Citizenship can ensure a smooth and successful process. So, are you ready to embark on your Dubai residency journey?

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