UAE Citizenship & Residency: Understanding the Difference

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a popular destination for foreigners looking for work or business opportunities. While many believe that foreigners can get citizenship in the UAE, the truth is that obtaining UAE citizenship as a foreigner is an extremely rare case. 

In this blog post, we will discuss the difference between UAE citizenship and residency, the requirements for obtaining UAE citizenship, obtaining residency in the UAE, and the UAE Golden Visa.

Citizenship vs Residency

Before we dive deeper into the UAE citizenship and residency details, it is important to understand the difference between citizenship and residency in a more general and global sense.

Citizenship means being a recognized member of a country, with all the benefits and rights that come with it. You can get citizenship either by being born in the country or going through a process called naturalization, which has certain requirements like living in the country and knowing its language and history.

Residency means being allowed to live in a country, either for a temporary or permanent period of time. To become a resident, you usually need to apply for a visa or permit that has certain requirements, such as investing in the country, having enough money, a job, or having family connections in the country.

Key differences between citizenship and residency include:

  • Citizenship provides the right to vote and hold public office, whereas residency does not.
  • Citizenship provides a greater level of legal protection and security, as well as access to government services and benefits, whereas residency may have more limited rights and protections.
  • Citizenship is typically a more permanent status, whereas residency may be subject to renewal or revocation based on certain conditions.
  • Citizenship may also confer certain obligations, such as paying taxes or military service, whereas residency typically does not have such obligations.
  • Citizenship allows individuals to apply for the country’s passport and therefore benefit from it, whereas residency does not offer this.

Each individual and their family’s needs will differ, making it important to evaluate what is most important to you when making a decision on whether citizenship or residency is the best option for you.

Citizenship in the UAE

Obtaining citizenship in the UAE as a foreigner is not a straightforward process and is a very rare procedure as the criteria and approval process is very particular in who is given the citizenship.

In January 2021, the UAE government made updates to the Executive Regulation of the Citizenship and Passports Law. This change allows certain types of foreigners, their partners, and children to get Emirati citizenship. The updated law has specific rules for each group and lets people who become citizens keep their first nationality.

Groups of foreigners who can be nominated for UAE citizenship:

  • investors
  • doctors
  • experts
  • inventors
  • scientists
  • thinkers
  • people with creative talents.

The above-mentioned foreigners would still have to meet the following eligibility conditions:

  • An investor needs to own property in the UAE.
  • A doctor or specialist should be an expert in a high-demand science field in the UAE, with recognized scientific contributions and at least 10 years of practical experience. They must also be a member of a reputable organization in their specialization.
  • A scientist must be an active researcher at a university, research center, or in the private sector. They need at least 10 years of experience in the field and contributions to it. They also need a recommendation letter from a recognized scientific institution in the UAE.
  • An inventor must have one or more patents approved by the UAE Ministry of Economy (MoE) or another reputable international body. They also need a recommendation letter from MoE.
  • Intellectuals and people with creative talents must be leaders in art and culture and have won at least one international award. They also need a recommendation letter from related government entities.

Other conditions:

Eligible candidates must:

  • take the oath of allegiance and loyalty to the UAE,
  • commit to following UAE laws,
  • inform the UAE government entity if they gain or lose any other citizenship.

In conclusion to obtaining UAE citizenship as a foreigner, the ultimate decision is up to the government and Rulers on whether you can obtain citizenship or not.

Residency in the UAE

The UAE has a wide variety of residency options, however, in this blog, we will focus on the most attractive residency by investment option for investors looking to live in the UAE, which is the UAE Golden Visa program.

The UAE Golden Visa is a long-term residency program that grants investors, entrepreneurs, and professionals in certain fields the right to live and work in the UAE for up to 10 years.

UAE Golden Visa holders earn the exclusive benefits of:

  • An entry visa for six months with multiple entries to proceed with residence issuance
  • A long-term, renewable residence visa valid for 5 or 10 years
  • The privilege of not needing a sponsor
  • The ability to stay outside the UAE for more than the usual period of six months in order to keep their residence visa valid
  • The ability to sponsor their family members, including spouses and children regardless of their ages
  • The ability to sponsor an unlimited number of domestic helpers
  • The permit for family members to stay in the UAE until the end of their permit duration if the primary holder of the Golden visa passes away.

UAE Golden Visa Requirements

Requirements for the UAE Golden Visa program depend on the type of residency sought, such as for investors, entrepreneurs, or outstanding specialized talents.

Investors in Public Investments:

  • Investors can obtain a 10-year Golden Visa without a sponsor if they invest in an accredited UAE investment fund or own properties valued at AED 2 million or more.
  • They must also provide proof of medical insurance.
  • Additionally, the invested capital must be owned completely, not be a loan, and they must submit a letter from the Federal Tax Authority stating that they pay the government no less than AED 250,000 annually.

Real Estate Investors:

  • Real estate investors can obtain a 5-year Golden Visa, renewable on the same conditions and without a sponsor, by owning a property or group of properties valued at AED 2 million or more.
  • They must provide a letter from the land department of the respective emirate stating they own the property and purchase it with a loan from specific local banks approved by the competent local entity.


  • Entrepreneurs can obtain a 5-year Golden Visa by owning an economic project of a technical or future nature based on risk and innovation.
  • They must have an approval letter from an auditor in the UAE, authorities in the emirate, and an accredited business incubator in the UAE to establish the proposed activity in the country.

Outstanding Specialized Talents:

  • Outstanding specialized talents, such as doctors, scientists, executives, and athletes, can obtain a 10-year Golden Visa by meeting specific requirements, such as having an approval letter from the Ministry of Health and Prevention or the Emirates Council of Scientists.
  • Specialists in engineering and science fields, such as epidemiology and viruses, artificial intelligence, big data, and more, are also eligible.

High School and University Students:

  • High school students who are national-level toppers or outstanding university students can obtain a 5 or 10-year Golden Visa respectively, by meeting certain criteria, such as obtaining a recommendation letter from the Ministry of Education or having a cumulative GPA above a certain threshold.
  • Outstanding students of foreign universities may also be eligible.

Pioneers of Humanitarian Work and Frontline Heroes:

  • Pioneers of humanitarian work and frontline heroes who have made extraordinary efforts in crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, can obtain a 10-year Golden Visa with the appropriate recommendations and criteria.

It is important to note that each person has a different situation, and applicants should consult with relevant and qualified consultants, such as us here at Imperial Citizenship, to determine their eligibility and the necessary requirements. We are able to give your expert advice, as well as, guide you through the entire process of obtaining your UAE Golden Visa. 


As the country of the United Arab Emirates continues to grow and establish itself as one of the most attractive countries in the world to live in, with zero income tax, a very low crime rate,  a stable economy, and a high standard of living, it has become a top destination for investors, entrepreneurs, and expats seeking a luxurious and modern lifestyle.

Acquiring the UAE Golden Visa can be your family’s next step to all the benefits of being a UAE resident, and if you meet the necessary requirements, potentially a UAE citizen.

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