UAE: Recent changes to UAE citizenship laws improve investment landscape

The business landscape of the UAE has been steadily changing in the past few years with the rapid introduction of progressive measures. In a historic move on Jan. 30, 2021, the UAE announced the decision to open its citizenship to investors, specialized talents, and professionals.

The landmark judgment aims to broaden the nation’s talent pool by attracting and retaining the brightest minds to further the country’s development and progress. Professionals eligible for Emirati citizenship include doctors, engineers, scientists, authors, artists, and their families.

Increasing stability

The UAE has always been an attractive but transient hub for traders and investors. However, with the recent amendment that renders a tone of permanency, investors and highly skilled individuals are more likely to contribute to the country’s growth. Investment groups predict a boost in the flow of foreign investments that would enable the diversification of the economy and revenue sources. 

Facilitating integration

The decision will be significant for the country whose demographic landscape has historically been dominated by expatriates. The amendment will reassert the country’s identity as a residence pad for investors and skilled individuals and facilitate their integration into the national identity. The prospect of complete integration will instill more confidence and trust in investors and working professionals.

This will also result in enhanced commitment to the prospective citizens toward the development and progress of the country.

Improving competitiveness

In the short term, the announcement will increase investment opportunities and improve the UAE’s competitiveness in attracting investors and talented professionals who are willing to relocate to the country by providing them with greater stability and permanency. In the longer term, allowing residents to obtain citizenship will help create a more stable, diverse, and energetic society.

Associated legal reforms

Other than the changes in citizenship laws, the country has also carried out other reforms in social and legal spheres to enhance its appeal for expatriate residents and visitors. In 2019, the Golden Visa scheme was introduced, which allowed for talented expatriates and specialized professionals and entrepreneurs to apply for five and 10-year automatically renewable visas. 

The recent changes in foreign ownership regulations also go in conjunction with the government’s wider objectives to make the country an attractive economic destination. Financial advisers say the amended laws will allow foreign entrepreneurs and investors to establish and completely own companies in the country.

The changes also abolish the requirement of having an agent who is a citizen of the UAE for foreign companies to start a branch in UAE. The country’s policymakers are especially eager to attract entrepreneurs who can contribute to innovation-led growth and founders of startups to boost the UAE’s technology credentials. 

Overlapping initiatives will likely heighten regional competition over foreign talent. However, for now, the UAE remains high on the list of desirable locations for those expatriates and entrepreneurs looking to stay in or relocate to the Middle East. The progressive social and legal amendments made by the government will go a long way in ensuring that the country maintains this edge in appeal and desirability.


Published: 29 April 2021

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