uae residency

UAE Residency by Investment: The Ultimate Guide By Experts

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has emerged as a leading global destination for residency by investment. In recent years, the UAE government has introduced new laws and policies to attract foreign investment and talent. This has opened up exciting opportunities for investors, entrepreneurs and professionals from around the world to obtain residency in the UAE.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore everything you need to know about obtaining residency in the UAE through investment, including:

  • Overview of UAE residency through investment.
  • Types of UAE residency visas.
  • Eligibility and application process.
  • Costs and investment options.
  • Benefits of living in the UAE.
  • Employment and Business Opportunities.
  • Healthcare, Education, Lifestyle.
  • Taxation and property laws.
  • Immigration consultants and legal assistance.
  • Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s get started!

UAE Residence by Investment Overview

The UAE Residence by Investment Program allows foreign nationals to obtain temporary or permanent residency in the country by making a substantial financial investment. Previously, the only options were employment sponsorship or family sponsorship.

In 2019, the UAE launched the Golden Visa residency program to attract investors, entrepreneurs, professionals, and talented individuals. In 2021, the eligibility criteria were expanded. Applicants can now obtain residency for 5, 10 or 20 years.

The main benefits of UAE residency by investment include:

  • Gain visa-free access to the UAE as a residency holder.
  • Ability to sponsor family members for residency visas.
  • Ability to own investment properties and businesses in the UAE.
  • Renewable visas – no need to reapply continuously.
  • Passport fees, translations, certifications, etc.: up to $3,000.
  • Pathway for long-term residents to apply for UAE citizenship in the future.

With its excellent infrastructure, business-friendly environment, tax-free lifestyle and high standard of living, the UAE is an attractive destination for global citizens.

Types of UAE Residence Visas

There are several types of residency visas available under the UAE investment immigration program:

Golden Visa

This is the main long term residency visa for investors, entrepreneurs, professionals, talent etc. It is valid for 5 or 10 years. It is renewable without the need for a sponsor.

Real Estate Investor Visa

This allows real estate investors to obtain 2, 5 or 10 year residency based on the value of the property. It can lead to permanent residence.

Business Investor Visa

Allows investors to obtain renewable 5-year residency by investing in an existing business or starting a new business.

Freelancer Visa

Self-sponsored 3-year residency for freelancers in IT, marketing, consulting, etc. Renewable if income requirements are met.

Retiree Visa

People over 55 years old who meet income criteria can get 5 year retirement residency without employment.

Student Visa

For those wishing to study in the UAE, this allows residence during the duration of the educational program.

Green Visa

New 5-year residency program to be launched in 2022 for skilled workers, freelancers, investors, etc. More flexible than the Golden Visa.

Each visa category has specific eligibility criteria in terms of investment, talent, age, income etc. The Golden Visa program offers the most benefits overall.

Eligibility Criteria for UAE Residence Visas

Under the UAE Golden Visa program, the eligibility criteria for investors, entrepreneurs and professionals are as follows

Investors

  • Real estate investment of AED 2 million is required for a 5 year visa or AED 5 million for a 10 year visa.
  • No loans can be taken – equity only

Entrepreneurs:

  • Should own/establish a UAE based startup with AED 500,000 capital.
  • Have venture approved by accredited incubator.

Outstanding students:

  • Minimum of 95% in public/private secondary schools in the UAE.
  • 3.8 GPA for undergraduates / 3.75 GPA for graduates outside the UAE.

Outstanding Talents:

  • Scientists, inventors, cultural icons must have achievements, awards, patents, recommendations from UAE organizations.
  • Sports professionals need recognition from prestigious sports bodies.

Highly skilled professionals:

  • Higher education, professional certificates and experience in priority fields.
  • Minimum salary of AED 30,000 per month.
  • Valid UAE work contract.

Other categories such as humanitarians, frontline heroes, researchers and doctors have additional criteria. Judging is based on merit and contribution to the UAE.

Investment Opportunities for UAE Golden Visa

1. Real Estate Investment

The minimum real estate investment required for the UAE Golden Visa is –

  • AED 2 million for 5 year visa
  • AED 5 million for 10 year visa

The property can be residential or commercial and must be purchased outright. Mortgage from certain UAE banks are allowed. You can buy existing properties or invest in off-plan projects.

2. Active Company / Start-up Investment

Investing in an existing UAE company or setting up a new startup company also qualifies. The minimum investment is –

  • AED 2 million for a 5 year visa
  • AED 5 million for a 10 year visa

The startup should be approved and registered with the Ministry of Economy. Proof of investment is required.

3. Direct / Passive Investments

Apart from real estate and business, you can also invest actively or passively in foreign markets. These include

  • Stocks, Bonds, Mutual Funds, ETFs
  • VC funding in UAE based start-ups
  • Invest AED 5 million in a UAE-based mutual fund
  • Holding AED 5 million in a UAE bank account

Proof of continued investment will be required for visa renewal. As markets fluctuate, you may need to top up your investment.

UAE Residence Visa Application Process

If you meet the eligibility criteria, these are the steps to take to apply for your UAE Residence Visa:

  1. Select your investment option and amount based on the length of visa you require.
  2. Register your investment – e.g. establish your company or purchase your property.
  3. Submit your application online along with supporting documents. This includes your passport, medical certificate, Emirates ID application and proof of investment, academic or talent.
  4. Have your biometric data enrolled and receive your Emirates ID. This will serve as your national ID.
  5. Your application undergoes security and background checks.
  6. If approved, your entry permit and visa will be issued within 2-3 months.
  7. Enter the UAE with your new visa. You must enter within 60 days of visa issuance.
  8. Upon arrival, you will receive your Emirates ID residency card. Set up your bank account, housing, schooling, etc.

It is advisable to use a legal advisor when applying. You may need to make visits to the UAE for biometric submission and visa stamping. The whole process usually takes 3-6 months.

UAE Residence Visa Costs and Fees

The government fees for a UAE Residence Visa application are as follows:

  • Within the UAE: AED 2,800 to 4,800
  • Outside UAE: AED 3,800 to 4,800

These costs may vary slightly depending on the emirate. In addition to the official fees, you will need to consider the following:

  • Due diligence and application preparation (AED 15,000 to 30,000)
  • Translation and certification fees (AED 3,000 to 5,000)
  • Medical examinations (AED 2,000 to 4,000)
  • Emirates ID registration (AED 370)
  • Visa stamping (AED 1,150)

Your chosen investment amount for real estate or business will be the largest component. You will also need to factor in living expenses based on your lifestyle. Overall, from AED 500,000 to AED 10 million or more, the total cost of obtaining residency for investors in the UAE.

Employment and Business Opportunities in the UAE

One of the major benefits of relocating to the UAE is the wide range of employment opportunities in various sectors. Some of the booming industries include:

  • Banking and Finance – Major global banks have offices in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
  • Technology and start-ups – Dubai Internet City, Silicon Oasis, in5 incubator.
  • Tourism and Hospitality – High demand for staff in 5-star hotels and resorts.
  • Healthcare – New hospitals, clinics, research centers recruiting doctors, nurses, technicians.
  • Education – Teachers needed for international schools, universities.
  • Oil, Gas and Energy – ADNOC, global majors have presence.
  • Logistics and Supply Chain – DXB Airport, Jebel Ali Port are major hubs.
  • Construction and Real Estate – Mega projects underway, sales/marketing jobs.
  • Media and Marketing – Regional offices of global agencies and brands.

If you have your own business, the UAE offers great infrastructure and connectivity to expand across the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. There are over 45 free trade zones with 0% corporate tax for easy incorporation. Outside the free zones, 100% foreign ownership is now permitted.

Healthcare, Education and Lifestyle in the UAE

Some highlights of the facilities and quality of life you can expect in the UAE:

Healthcare:

  • Advanced private hospitals such as Medcare, Aster, NMC Specialty.
  • Highly qualified doctors trained in US, UK, India etc.
  • Affordable insurance plans starting from AED 500 per month.
  • Dubai Healthcare City has regional headquarters of Johns Hopkins, Mayo Clinic etc.

Education:

  • Schools follow UK/US/IB curriculum – GEMS, Taaleem, Foremarke, JESS.
  • Universities – American University Dubai, Heriot-Watt, University of Wollongong etc.
  • Options for Indian, Pakistani, Iranian, British, American, French, German, Japanese etc curriculum schools.

Lifestyle:

  • High-end malls and shopping centers such as Dubai Mall, Yas Mall Abu Dhabi.
  • Luxury hotels such as Atlantis, Armani, Burj Al Arab, Four Seasons.
  • World-class golf courses, marinas, polo clubs, equestrian centers.
  • Cosmopolitan nightlife, fine dining, events and performances.
  • Options for beachfront properties on Palm Jumeirah or villas on Emirates Hills/Jumeirah Islands.

Taxation and Property Laws in the UAE

The UAE offers very attractive taxation and property regimes:

  • No personal income tax.
  • No capital gains tax on investments.
  • No property or inheritance tax.
  • Corporate tax only for oil/gas companies and foreign banks.
  • 100% foreign ownership now permitted outside free zones.
  • Freehold real estate ownership allowed in designated zones.
  • No restrictions on repatriation of profits or capital.

So you can earn tax free income, invest without capital gains tax, own property outright, and easily repatriate funds. Some municipal fees for utilities or hotel taxes may apply. Overall, the UAE offers one of the most liberal tax and ownership regimes in the world.

Immigration Consultants and Legal Assistance

It is advisable to hire a legal consultant or immigration assistance provider when applying for residency in the UAE. Some key benefits include:

  • Expert advice on selecting the right visa category.
  • End-to-end application management and document submission.
  • Liaison and follow-up with government agencies.
  • Property purchase assistance – verification, title deed, mortgage.
  • Business formation services – licensing, shareholders agreement.
  • Facilitation of required visits to the UAE.
  • Proactive renewal reminders and assistance.

You can search online or ask for references to find a reliable immigration consultant. Many law firms also offer investor visa services. This streamlines the entire application process and helps avoid mistakes and delays.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the UAE offers an excellent environment for residency by investment, with a high quality of life, a thriving business ecosystem, and long-term renewal options. Obtaining a renewable 5 or 10 year Golden Visa by investing AED 2 to 5 million in real estate, business or stocks can open up tremendous opportunities for you and your family. With the right guidance, you can successfully navigate the application process and start the next chapter of your life in the UAE.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions about UAE residency through investment:

Can I buy citizenship in the UAE?

No, you cannot directly buy or acquire citizenship in the UAE. Only the Royal Family can grant citizenship in special cases. If you are a long-term resident of 10-20 years, you can apply for naturalization. However, even naturalization is not guaranteed – it depends on demonstrating good character and contribution to the UAE over a long period of time.

What is the difference between the Golden Visa and the Green Visa?

The Golden Visa is for investors, entrepreneurs, professionals and specialized talents. It offers a 5 or 10 year renewable stay. The Green Visa is for professionals, freelancers and self-employed persons in non-specialized occupations. It is valid for 5 years. The eligibility criteria are broader but the benefits are less than the Golden Visa.

What investments guarantee Golden Visa approval?

While no investment automatically guarantees Golden Visa approval, real estate investment of AED 2-5 million has the highest probability. Active business establishment or ownership also ranks high in terms of assurance. More creative investments such as stocks, mutual funds or bank deposits have lower success rates for residence visas.

Can I get a Golden Visa after completing my undergraduate degree in the UAE?

Yes, graduating with honors from an accredited university in the UAE qualifies you for a 5-year Golden Visa under the Outstanding Student category. You will need a minimum GPA of 3.8 for undergraduate programs. This is a great way to start your career in the UAE after graduation.

Can I buy a property with a mortgage to get the Golden Visa?

Yes, you can. You can take out a mortgage from designated UAE banks when investing in property to qualify for the 5 or 10 year Golden Visa program. The minimum amount remains AED 2 million for 5 years and AED 5 million for 10 years. The property must be held for the duration of the visa.

What are the requirements for renewing a Golden Visa?

An order to renew your 5 or 10 year Golden Visa, you will need to prove that you still meet the eligibility requirements that were in place when you first obtained the visa, especially in terms of investment thresholds. For example, if you originally invested AED 2 million in real estate, you will need to provide proof that you still own the property.

How long can I stay outside the UAE on a Golden Visa?

A key benefit of the Golden Visa is that you can stay outside the UAE for an unlimited period of time and your residency rights will remain intact. You do not need to stay in the UAE continuously to maintain the validity of your Investor Residence Visa. Just make sure you keep your supporting documents.

Can I sponsor family members on my Golden Visa?

Yes, with a Golden Visa you can sponsor your spouse and children up to the age of 25. Parents can be sponsored in certain cases if you can demonstrate sufficient financial support to cover their living expenses. Other relatives or domestic helpers cannot be sponsored.

What taxes will I have to pay on my income or investments as a Golden Visa holder?

The United Arab Emirates does not currently levy any personal income tax, capital gains tax, or wealth or inheritance tax. As a resident visa holder, you would only be required to pay 5% VAT on goods and services, municipal tax on property and customs duties on imported items. Professional fees may apply.

How long does it take to get approval after submitting my Golden Visa application?

It usually takes 2-4 months to receive approval and an entry permit after submitting a complete Golden Visa application. Security checks, background checks and approval procedures must be completed before the residence visa is issued. You must enter the UAE within 60 days of receiving your entry permit.

Can I obtain UAE citizenship directly through investment?

No, there is no direct route to citizenship through investment alone. To be eligible for naturalization after 10+ years of residence, you must demonstrate good character, contribution, Arabic language skills, knowledge of UAE history and culture beyond investment. Final approval is at the discretion of the government.

Does the UAE allow dual nationality?

In general, the UAE does not recognize or permit dual citizenship. However, when selectively granting citizenship to investors and talent, exceptions are made in some cases to allow dual citizenship. However, you should first consult the authorities regarding your specific country.

Can I buy property in Dubai with a Golden Visa?

Yes, with a renewable Golden Visa you can buy and own property in Dubai or other Emirates just like a normal resident of the UAE. You can buy vacant land, apartments, villas, townhouses, or commercial space, subject to regulations.