A Guide to the UAE’s Golden Visa Programme
In 2019, the UAE first announced its Golden Visa, a long-term residency program, designed to boost the country’s economy by attracting foreign investment and encouraging skilled and talented individuals to live and work in the UAE.
Since its launch, it has proved to be incredibly popular, with approximately 65000 visas issued to date, and it continues to generate significant interest among prospective investors and existing UAE expats.
Key features of the Golden Visa?
One of the primary benefits of the Golden Visa is that it allows foreign nationals to live, work and conduct business in the country without the need for a national sponsor. Standard residence visas in the UAE require sponsorship by an employer which makes it incredible difficult for foreign nationals to stay in the country once their work contract expires. The Golden Visa removes this issue and allows the holder to self-sponsor their residency.
The Golden Visa is issued for a period of 10 years and is renewable upon expiry. Although not defined as permanent residency, it effectively allows the holder to stay in the country indefinitely. This has given expats in the UAE more stability and an increased sense of permanency.
Golden Visa holders can sponsor family members, including spouses and children regardless of their age. Previously male children could only be sponsored up to the age of 18 and female children, until marriage. This restriction has now been removed. Additionally, domestic staff can also be included under sponsorship.
Family members rights to remain
In the event the visa holder dies, family members can stay in the UAE for the permit’s full duration. This gives family members greater security in their residency.
Stays outside the UAE
There is no restriction on the maximum amount of time that can be spent outside the UAE in order to maintain the validity of the Golden Visa. This is particularly advantageous for individuals with business obligations outside the country that have to travel frequently.
Who is eligible for a Golden Visa?
The Golden Visa can be obtained in a variety of different ways and eligibility can be categorised as follows:
Professionals in any field can apply for the Golden Visa as long as they meet the following criteria:
- The applicant must have a valid employment contract in the UAE and be classified in the first or second occupational level as per the classification of the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE).
- The applicant must have a minimum educational level of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.
- The applicant must be earning a salary of at least AED30,000
Real Estate Investors
Eligibility for the Golden Visa through real estate investment is contingent on one of the following requirements being met:
- Purchase a property with a value of at least AED 2 million
- Purchase a property with a loan from an approved local bank
- Purchase an off-plan property for at least AED 2 million from an approved real estate agent
Entrepreneurs and business owners
Entrepreneurs and business owners are eligible for a Golden Visa if:
- Their company is UAE registered, categorised as an SME, with an annual revenue of at least AED 1 million
- The individual is the founder or co-founder of a previous business that was sold for a sum of not less than AED 7 million
Individuals with exceptional talents
This category is open to individuals with particular talents in fields such as art, culture, digital technology, sports, medicine and law. There is no requirement for a specific educational qualification, employment status or salary. Eligibility is based entirely on approval from a federal or local government entity.
Scientists and researchers that meet the following requirements are eligible for the Golden Visa:
- Hold a PhD or master’s degree in engineering, technology, life sciences or natural sciences form the world’s best universities.
- Have received a recommendation from the Emirates Scientists Council.
Outstanding students and graduates
Eligibility for the Golden Visa in this category requires that the individual have graduated from one of the world’s top 100 universities or have shown academic excellence by obtaining an average mark of 95% in the high school certificate from a public or private school. For university students that have not yet graduated, they should have a cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of no less than 3.75 or its equivalent in specific scientific disciplines. The visa also includes the students’ families.
Applications under this category can be submitted through the Emirates Schools Establishment.
In recognition of their efforts and sacrifices, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, lab technicians, ambulance workers and other frontline staff licensed by the UAE health regulatory bodies are all eligible for the Golden Visa.
In many cases, employees in this field have found that as their existing residence visas are reaching their renewal date, they have automatically been upgraded to the Golden Visa without the need for application.
This category rewards those that have helped in times of humanitarian crises or have aided charitable efforts or associations of public benefit.
Eligibility under this category is for those considered as distinguished members of international or regional charitable organisations, volunteers and sponsors of humanitarian efforts or recipients of recognition awards in humanitarian fields.
How to apply for the Golden Visa
To find out if you qualify for a Golden Visa, you can contact the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) in Dubai, which has set up a team to handle enquiries about eligibility and the application process. You can also register your interest and apply directly on the UAE’s Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) website. For applicants based in Abu Dhabi, enquiries are handled by the Abu Dhabi Residents Office.
To apply, you should access the ICA website, select “visa – Golden Visa – Nomination Request for Golden Residence – New Request”. Then complete the application form, submit all requested documents and pay the fees.
You will receive an email with notification of the outcome of your application within approximately 30 days and if successful, you will receive a link to upload the required documents for the visa. Once this has been done, your application will be verified by Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship and the visa will be issued.
How much does the Golden Visa cost?
The cost of the Golden Visa depends on whether you apply from within the UAE or from outside and on the category which you apply under.
For applications received from the UAE, the cost is between AED 2,800 and AED 3,000. For those applying from outside the UAE, it costs between AED 3,800 and AED 4,800.
There is also a charge of AED 1,000 for a medical examination and the processing fee for the Emirates ID.
Health insurance will also have to be purchased separately, with costs for a basic package starting from AED 800 annually.
How can Global Link help?
Global Link has over 16 years’ experience working with local and global business, providing bespoke consultancy services for company incorporation in Dubai and the wider UAE.
If you need advice on the UAE’s Golden Visa or for any other company incorporation, visa or PRO services, please do get in touch with us on +971 4 553 9901 or email us at [email protected] and we will be happy to assist you.