35 celebrities who received the UAE's golden visa: from Shah Rukh Khan to Giorgio Armani

The scheme acknowledges cultural contributions by regional and international talents

The UAE's 10-year golden visa is the most cherished ticket in the regional entertainment industry.

Ever since the government scheme was introduced in 2019 to attract investors, it has been expanded to also acknowledge the cultural contributions made by creatives, including actors, singers and composers, spanning the Arab world and beyond.

From Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan to Lebanese pop stars Elissa and Najwa Karam, here are 32 cultural personalities, in no particular order, who have been granted the golden visa.

1. Mohammed Ramadan

2. Shah Rukh Khan

3. Ragheb Alama

4. Izu Ani

5. Elissa

6. Najwa Karam

7. Reif Othman

8. Ola Farahat

9. Mohamed Sami and Mai Omar

10. Marwan Khoury

11. Nadine Nassib Njeim

12. Nelly Karim

13. Kosai Khauli

14. Walid Toufic

15. Sanjay Dutt

16. Annabella Hilal

17. Karen Wazen

18. Latifa El Arfaoui

19. Ali Kanaan

20. Hany Shaker

21. Jessy Abdo

22. Myriam Fares

23. Mohanlal

24. Mammootty

25. Tovino Thomas

26. Suniel Shetty

27. Prithviraj Sukumaran

28. Sonu Nigam

29. Safia Alemary

30. Karim Fahmi

31. Boney Kapoor

32. Imad Benaomar

33. Giorgio Armani

34. Ali Zafar

35. Fakhr-e-Alam

1. Mohamed Ramadan

The Egyptian actor and rapper was granted the visa last September. Speaking to The National, he said the permit allows his production company to invest even further in the UAE.

True to his word, Ramadan released two lavish videos for hit singles Ya Habibi and Versace Baby, both of which were shot in the Dubai using local talent and crews.

2. Shah Rukh Khan

The King of Bollywood was the first Indian celebrity to be given the coveted visa. Khan is not only a frequent visitor to the UAE, but also has a house on Palm Jumeirah and was even named brand ambassador of Dubai in 2016.

3. Ragheb Alama

When the Lebanese crooner announced he was a golden visa recipient in February, it cemented what he already knew: the UAE is home.

Alama's two sons, Khaled and Loui, are long-term residents of Dubai and work in the entertainment and fashion sectors.

"The happiest thing for me is that my children are in Dubai," Alama told TV programme The Insider.

"As a father, all I want for my children is to live in a place that is completely safe, fair, where there is opportunity, positivity and vision.”

4. Izu Ani

Popular chef Izu Ani, the man behind a number of restaurant concepts in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, was awarded the UAE golden visa in April.

"To me, Dubai is not a transient place, it is somewhere that we can call home, rather than just pass through. It is a destination that allows us to grow,” the Nigerian-born, London-raised chef said in a statement at the time.

5. Elissa

The Lebanese pop star announced her status in a low-key fashion by retweeting an Arabic newspaper report on October 9.

The article features a picture of Elissa holding the document outside the Dubai branch of the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship.

6. Najwa Karam

The pop star posted her joy at receiving her golden visa on her 55th birthday in February.

"May God cherish the UAE's leadership and people," she said. "This happened on my birthday so the joy has doubled."

7. Reif Othman

Dubai restaurateur Reif Othman is one of the most recent figures to receive the golden visa. The chef, known for his left-field approach to cooking Far Eastern dishes, has been an active force in the city's food and beverage scene since 2009. He received the 10-year residency earlier this year along with his wife and children.

8. Ola Farahat

The Canada-born fashion influencer and entrepreneur announced on Instagram she received the visa this week. “An absolute honour to have been granted the golden visa by the UAE – living here has opened up doors to opportunities and dreams.”

9. Mohamed Sami and Mai Omar

Egyptian director and screenwriter Mohamed Sami and his actress wife, Mai Omar, announced they had received the golden visa on Tuesday. In an Instagram post featuring a photograph of Dubai Downtown’s luminous skyline, Omar thanked Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, for the honour, as well as the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority for supporting regional artists and creatives.

10. Marwan Khoury

The romantic crooner and composer expressed his love for the UAE in March when announcing his visa status.

"Thank you to the United Arab Emirates, which honoured me with granting me the golden residency," he said on Instagram.

11. Nadine Nassib Njeim

The Lebanese actress received the UAE golden visa in May. Njeim, lauded for her roles in series such as Five Thirty and Al Hayba, also announced the news on Instagram. "I am happy to be in the country of safety and security," she wrote.

12. Nelly Karim

Nelly Karim's passport now has page dedicated to her golden visa.

Speaking to web show ET Bil Arabi in March, she said she was grateful and relieved she can come back and forth to the UAE for the next decade as she pleases.

"There is no space in my passport for any new visa stamp,” she said.

“This is due to my frequent visits to Dubai, whether for work or tourism.”

13. Kosai Khauli

Qusai Khouli, Njeim's co-star in Five Thirty, was also awarded the golden visa earlier this year. The Syrian actor is renowned for his star turn in the hit television series Bab Al Hara, as well as for his portrayal of the Egyptian khedive Ismail Pasha in the 2014 historical drama Saraya Abdeen. He is a regular in the UAE and has been spotted several times in cafes and restaurants across Dubai.

14. Walid Toufic

The five-decade career of Lebanese singer Walid Toufic was recognised by authorities when awarding him a golden visa.

The Enzel Ya Gameel singer took to Instagram to pay tribute to the aspirational appeal of the UAE. "Thank you from my heart, dear emirates and thank you to Dubai: the land of creativity and progress."

15. Sanjay Dutt

Sanjay Dutt became the latest Indian celebrity to get the golden visa when he was awarded the residency in May. “Honoured to have received a golden visa for the UAE,” he wrote, announcing the news in a Twitter post. Like most of the others on this list, the 61-year-old actor is a frequent visitor to the UAE and spent most of Ramadan this year with his wife and children.

16. Annabella Hilal

Annabella Hilal first made regional waves when she was crowned Miss Lebanon in 2004 and a nominee for Miss World in 2006.

However, it is her near two-decade broadcasting career that is responsible for her receiving the UAE golden visa in October last year.

She has presented several popular programmes, including Arab Idol and The Voice.

17. Karen Wazen

The Lebanese-British influencer and fashion entrepreneur lives in Dubai with her husband and three children. She began her digital career through the Karen's Choice blog in 2016. Her online following now boasts more than six million on Instagram alone.

She announced she'd received the golden visa in May. "Dubai has been my home for the past nine years and I’m so thankful for all the doors it has opened for me and my family," she wrote on Instagram. "I am thankful for the safety it has given us and constant inspiration and growth and hope it has instilled in us."

18. Latifa El Arfaoui

Posting a photo of herself holding her golden visa-laden passport beside a UAE official in February last year, the Tunisian singer could not hide her delight.

"This day is one of the happiest days of my life,” she said.

“Thank you to the beloved UAE and thank you to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid for granting this golden residence permit, which has recently begun to be granted to artists, writers and scientists.”

19. Ali Kanaan

The Syrian poet was awarded the UAE golden visa earlier this week. Kanaan, known for his journalistic writing as well as his translation and poetry, spent years in Japan teaching Arabic literature at the University of Tokyo. Earlier this year, he commended the UAE government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

"What the UAE has achieved is a source of pride for every Arab," he said, as reported by Emarat Al Youm.

20. Hany Shaker

The veteran Egyptian singer and composer is set to make the UAE a family base after he and his wife received their golden visa last month.

“All thanks and appreciation to the beloved UAE for the gift of golden residency for me and my wife,” he said on Twitter.

“My best wishes to the beloved UAE people and government for continued success and prosperity.”

21. Jessy Abdo

The Lebanese actor and singer received the golden visa earlier this month. Abdo, who has more than two million followers on Instagram, took to the social media platform on Wednesday, June 9 to thank Dubai for its efforts in bolstering arts and culture.

22. Myriam Fares

The Lebanese pop star made the announcement on her Instagram account on July 29 along with with images of herself with the Dubai skyline as a backdrop.

The Ghmorni singer thanked the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority for facilitating the process.

“I am very proud of having received the honour of golden residency from my second country, the United Arab Emirates,” she wrote in the caption.

“All thanks to Dubai Culture & Arts Authority and gratitude and respect to this generous country, its rulers and people.”

23. Mohanlal

South Indian superstar Mohanlal became the latest celebrity to receive the long-term residency on Monday, August 23. The Kerala actor posted a picture of himself with Mohammed Ali Al Shorafa Al Hammadi, the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development. Lulu tycoon Yusuff Ali was also seen in an accompanying video.

"My grateful thanks to HE Mohamed Ali Al Shorafa Al Hammadi for bestowing upon me the golden visa for the UAE. Am indeed honoured," the star, 61, posted.

With a career spanning more than four decades and 340 films across many South Indian languages, Mohanlal is one of the most respected names in the industry. His last film, Drishyam 2, a sequel to the critically acclaimed 2013 film, was released in February and earned rave reviews.

24. Mammootty

Another South Indian star, Mammootty, 69, received the UAE golden visa at the same event as Mohanlal. The actor, who predominantly works in Malayalam films, also thanked Al Hammadi and Lulu chairman Ali in a Twitter post.

"My sincere gratitude to HE Mohammed Ali Al Shorafa Al Hammadi for my UAE Golden Visa! Many thanks to my brother @Yusuffali_MA for helping make this happen," he said.

Mammootty's latest film, One, in which he played the chief minister of Kerala, received glowing reviews.

Earlier this month, the star marked his 50th year in the film industry. Mohanlal was one of many stars to congratulate him.

"Today, my brother completes 50 glorious years in the film industry. I feel so proud to have shared the screen with him in 55 memorable films and looking forward to many more. Congratulations Ichakka!" Mohanlal posted.

25. Tovino Thomas

The Kerala star, known for Malayalam films such as his breakthrough Guppy (2016) and Mayanadi (2017) also earned his Golden Visa on Monday, August 30.

"Extremely grateful to receive the Golden Visa for the UAE. Truly honoured and humbled. Looking forward to a memorable association with this beautiful nation," the actor, 32, posted on Instagram, along with a picture of himself with UAE officials as well as Jamad Usman, the chief executive of Emirates First.

Thomas's latest film, the action movie Kala, was released on Amazon Prime Video, and received positive reviews from critics.

26. Suniel Shetty

The Bollywood actor, who was a top star in the 1990s, also earned his long-term UAE visa on Tuesday, August 24.

"A big Thank You to the visionary leaders and the government authorities of the UAE. Thank you so much for the honour," the actor and businessman posted.

Emirates First CEO Usman, who accompanied the actor, also shared a video from the event.

Shetty, 60, made his Bollywood debut in 1992 with the film Balwaan, and become one of the top action stars in the industry. He was last seen in the gangster drama Mumbai Saga, which hit cinemas in March.

Shetty's daughter Athiya Shetty, 28, made her Bollywood debut in 2015 with Hero, while his son Ahan Shetty, 23, is set to star in his first movie, Tadap, scheduled for release on December 3.

27. Prithviraj Sukumaran

The South Indian star, who is more popularly known by one name, Prithviraj, received his Golden Visa on Wednesday, September 15.

"Getting the Golden Visa before joining Gold," the actor posted on Instagram, referring to his upcoming film.

Working mostly in Malayalam films, Prithviraj made his debut in the 2002 romantic movie Nandanam before starring in a number of commercially successful and acclaimed films such as Classmates (2006), Vaasthavam (2006), Ennu Ninte Moideen (2015) and Ezra (2017).

In 2019, he made his directorial debut with Lucifer, in which he starred with Malayalam icon Mohanlal. The action film is currently the highest-grossing Malayalam film in history, with a sequel, L2: Empuraan, in the works.

Prithviraj, who made his Bollywood debut with the 2012 film Aiyyaa, has also sung for a number of Malayalam films.

28. Sonu Nigham

The popular Bollywood singer has called the UAE home for more than a decade and that relationship will continue courtesy of his special visa.

Nigam thanked UAE authorities for the recognition and described the country as a source of inspiration.

“I am grateful to the UAE Government for honouring me with the golden visa,” he said. “From the time I came to Dubai for the first time in 1994, it has been a part of my growing up and also been a witness and catalyst to my artistic and professional journey.”

29. Safia Alemary

The veteran Egyptian actress, known for roles in hit films Amra'a we Amra'a and Nawarat Wal Wahsh was elegant as ever when posting a picture of her holding her passport page emblazoned with the golden visa.

"Praise God I received the golden visa from the United Arab Emirates," she said before going on to thank the country's leadership and the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority.

30. Karim Fahmy

The Egyptian actor, who completed a star turn this Ramadan on the blockbuster series Al Ikhtiyar, thanked Abu Dhabi authorities for granting him a golden visa in September.

He said: "All my thanks and respects to the UAE's leadership and its people."

31. Boney Kapoor

The seasoned Bollywood producer and his family will continue call Dubai home thanks to his golden visa status.

Kapoor, the husband of late actress Sridevi, posted news of his status on Twitter in September: "Grateful to Dubai government for granting me and my family a 10 years golden visa. Dynamic and kind hearted leadership. Best Destination."

32. Imad Benaomar

The Moroccan crooner has been using the UAE as his base for some time.

That stability is now further enshrined after Benaomar announced that he received a golden visa earlier this month. "Thank you UAE government and people for their support to innovators and distinguished people in various fields," he said. "The next stage will be better."

33. Giorgio Armani

The famed Italian fashion designer, who opened his Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, 10 years ago, was honoured with the golden visa on October 24.

“In many ways, Dubai is the opposite of what is normally associated with Armani, a kind of reverse image of the things I hold dear: it is highly visible, ostentatious and frenetic,” the designer, 87, famed for his understated aesthetic told The National ahead of his One Night Only special show to mark the anniversary of his hotel as well as 40 years of his brand on October 26.

“But there is also an aspect that is very Armani and resembles my character, a quality we have in common: it is without doubt a place focused on the future, fast moving, where the imagination knows no bounds. Nothing and nowhere can be compared with the wonder of Dubai, conceived and raised with the sole purpose of astonishing the world," he said.

34. Ali Zafar

The Pakistani pop star and actor, who performed at the Expo 2020 Dubai on October 21, shared on Instagram that he'd been given the golden visa.

"Honoured to be the first Pakistani actor to receive the #GoldenVisa by the UAE government," Zafar posted on Twitter.

Zafar, 41, also took to the streets of Dubai to celebrate his country's historic win against major rival India at the T20 World Cricket Cup. He posted a video, which showed him waving out of a moving car as cricket fans danced outside.

"Check out these guys celebrating Pakistan's victory," Zafar says in the video. "I'm enjoying, guys."

However, Zafar may not have been aware of another Pakistani actor, Fakhr-e-Alam, being honoured with the visa earlier this year.

35. Fakhr-e-Alam

A Dubai resident for 17 years, Fakhr-e-Alam was handed the 10-year UAE residence visa on June 27. A trained pilot, the actor, singer and TV presenter, 45, told The National he was thrilled to be regarded an ambassador of his country.

“The UAE has given me opportunities that I could have not imagined having back home, in terms of access to global markets, because I'm also an entrepreneur and a businessman,” he said.

“I was super happy that the UAE has recognised my work – not just acting in movies, or television and presenting and music, but also the fact that I became the first Pakistani to fly around the world in a single-engine airplane.”