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Welcome to our Know-How Hub here at The Dubai Navigator.

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Acquiring UAE Citizenship - Everything You Need to Know

The UAE citizenship is one of the most difficult to obtain, and do not expect this to change anytime soon.

With 90% of the UAE's residents being foreigners, there is a real threat to locals and the continuation of Emirati culture and traditions if any foreign resident was given access to UAE citizenship.

Foreigners can obtain UAE citizenship if they meet strict requirements.

The UAE's Federal Law No.17 of 1972 on Nationality and Passports defines who is granted UAE citizenship.

As of 2023, UAE citizenship is granted automatically only in a select number of cases:

  • If you are born to an Emirati father

  • If you are born to an Emirati mother, if the father is stateless or unknown

  • If you are born in the UAE, and your parents are unknown.

Aside from the above options, you may obtain UAE citizenship through naturalization. Naturalization refers to obtaining UAE citizenship in case you already possess another country's citizenship. Naturalization procedures vary based on the individual involved:

  • Any Arab with citizenship from Bahrain, Oman and Qatar can obtain UAE citizenship after residing in the country for at least 3 years

  • Any Arab citizen who has resided in the UAE for at least 7 years and has a stable source of income

  • Any foreigner who has resided in the UAE for at least 30 years and speaks fluent Arabic.

  • Any foreigner who is granted citizenship by a UAE government leader, e.g., to recognize extraordinary leadership in business, or honorable services for the country

Naturalization also requires that the individual has not been charged with a serious crime or felony.

The UAE does permit dual citizenship since 2021.

How commonly do foreigners get UAE citizenship?

The UAE started to grant citizenship based on government decree (rather than length of residence) to foreigners in 2021. The country has even set up an official government website with information on who can be granted UAE citizenship. And while the minimum requirements for citizenship may be as simple as owning UAE property, being a doctor or scientist, or being an entrepreneur, the emphasis still lies on being "sponsored" by a high-ranking UAE government official. In fact, the UAE's national cabinet has to approve any naturalization of a foreigner if based on the candidate's extraordinary accomplishment(s) alone.

So far, few if any cases of foreigners receiving UAE citizenship by decree have become public. The Russian-born founder of instant messaging service Telegram, Pavel Durov, is the most notable example. With a net worth of more than $15 billion, he is also one of the richest UAE citizens, showing that UAE citizenship remains highly restricted.

A Good End

The good news is that you can reside in the UAE for the long term, even without UAE citizenship or being employed here, thanks to the large number of highly generous UAE residence visas available to foreigners.

Acquiring UAE citizenship, won't be necessary to fully benefit from the UAE's tax-free regime. In fact, unless you are a US citizen earning above $120,000/month, obtaining a second citizenship is likely not even worth it as we discuss in detail in our article on second citizenships.


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