On Saturday, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, detailed a new, formal process through which the country's foreign residents can obtain Emirati citizenship. The announcement means that the world's most talented people have the chance of a permanent home in the UAE, and an opportunity to integrate fully into the national identity.
Internationally recognised scientists and inventors, as well as doctors – especially those in high-demand sectors – can be nominated by the country's officials and rulers. Artists, creatives and intellectuals of sufficient renown are also eligible – a recognition of the fact that the vitality of a society extends beyond just its technical expertise. The directive of President Sheikh Khalifa, which has become law through amendments of the executive regulation of the law on nationality and passports, means a new chapter for expatriates has begun in the UAE.
This new avenue to citizenship will come with responsibilities and can be withdrawn if the recipient breaks Emirati law. But it is the latest iteration of a drive to render the UAE a global centre of excellence. In 2019, the Golden Visa scheme gave talented people in specific sectors the chance to obtain a 10-year, renewable residency permit, which also extends to their families. Last year, the programme expanded to include people from a greater number of fields, including exceptional students.
The most ambitious global citizens are increasingly open to the prospect of working abroad. The UAE is among a group of nations that aspire to attract this spirit. Other countries with talent visa schemes include the US, UK and Singapore.
The new policy also introduces dual nationality. Recipients of UAE citizenship can keep their original citizenship.
Nowadays this trend is shifting, as changes to residency laws increasingly offer talented people the chance to remain for longer. Granting citizenship to certain foreigners is the strongest gesture yet that the UAE can be a permanent base for them to realise their potential. For decades, people from diverse backgrounds have contributed to the rapid development of the country. Workers from all over the world continue to do so, attracted by ambitious projects, favourable employment conditions and a safe and tolerant society. Many, however, have had limited opportunity to stay for the long haul.
Minister of State Zaki Nusseibeh linked the creation of the new laws to the UAE's culture of tolerance. Granting citizenship is significant beyond the permanent right to work. It gives the recipient a more fundamental connection to the country. No matter how globalised our world is becoming, we intrinsically seek a place to call home. With an Emirati passport, leading experts in the nation will now be able to do so.
The UAE has set itself hugely ambitious developmental targets, aiming by 2071 to be one of most advanced nations in the world. While talent knows no borders, gathering world-leading expertise in one place catalyses innovation.
This will not only benefit those with an interest in pushing the boundaries of science, medicine, culture and innovation. It will weave new threads into the fabric of the UAE's evolving heritage, further enrich this nation's identity and help to secure its future.