Thousands of people in the UAE have now been awarded a golden visa in recognition of their exceptional status.
The 10-year residency permits are given to people who have made an outstanding contribution to the country, have highly-prized skills or work in key industries that are crucial to economic growth.
Most recently, dozens of high school students who achieved high grades were granted golden visas for themselves, their parents and siblings.
The visa process is different from applying for a normal residency permit. The National found out how.
What are golden visas?
Golden visas were introduced in 2019. They are designed to enable foreigners to live, work and study in the UAE without the need for a national sponsor and with 100 per cent ownership of their business on the UAE’s mainland.
These visas are issued for 10 years and as long as the recipient continues to meet the conditions of the visa, they can renew for a further decade when it is due to expire.
Normal expatriate workers must renew their visa every two to three years.
Golden visas are different to Emirati citizenship, which can only be granted to individuals nominated by government or royal court officials.
Who can get a golden visa?
Golden visas can be granted to investors, entrepreneurs, individuals with specialised talents, researchers in various fields of science and knowledge, and bright students with promising scientific capabilities.
Sometimes individuals are nominated for golden visas by senior Emiratis or government bodies, and in other circumstances people apply online.
If an individual is awarded a golden visa, then their spouse and children can also apply.
How do the authorities decide who is eligible for a golden visa?
The following categories of people are entitled to apply for a 10-year residence visa in the UAE.
1. Individuals with public investments of at least Dh10 million. The investment may take many forms, such as:
- A deposit of at least Dh10m in an investment fund inside the country
- Establishing a company in the UAE with capital of not less than Dh10m
- Partnering in an existing or new company with a share value of not less than Dh10m
- Having a total investment of not less than Dh10m in all areas mentioned, on condition that the investment in sectors other than real estate is not less than 60 per cent of the total investment.
The golden visa includes the spouse and children of the holder, as well as one executive director and one adviser. It can also be extended to include business partners, on the condition that each partner contributes Dh10m.
2. Individuals with specialised talents
This includes people in the fields of science and knowledge, such as doctors, specialists, scientists and inventors, as well as creative people in the fields of culture and art.
If you hold a PhD or a patent you are eligible, but there are other conditions regarding how the specialised talents are defined, as outlined on the UAE's government portal.
All categories of applicant are also required to have a valid employment contract in a specialised field of a priority in the UAE.
How do you apply for a golden visa?
Applicants need to register their interest on the UAE's Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) website.
There is a special area for golden services.
If you are from one of the eligible categories, but have not yet been nominated, then you should apply via the box labelled "Visa - Golden Visa - Nomination Request For Golden Residence - New Request".
There is an online form which requests your personal details, plus the category under which you believe you can be nominated.
You will also need your Unified Identification Number (UID) - a six-digit number automatically assigned to anyone who enters the UAE.
Dubai's immigration service, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, has also set up a new team to handle applications for golden visas and other important individuals.
Called "You are Special", the service can be accessed 24-7 online or by calling 800 5111.
How do exceptional pupils or graduates apply?
The Golden Residency is granted to outstanding students who have obtained an average rate of at least 95 per cent in the high school certificate from public or private schools, and to university students from inside or outside the country who have a cumulative GPA of no less than 3.75, or its equivalent in specific scientific disciplines.
The visa includes the students' families.
Applications for Golden Residency are submitted through the Emirates Schools Establishment.
How long does the nomination process take?
Within 30 days you will receive an email notifying you of the outcome of your application to be nominated.
Once your nomination has been approved, you will receive an emailed link to upload the required documents for the visa.
Within weeks of uploading your documents, your application will be verified by the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship, and you will receive your visa.
If you are currently residing within the UAE, you will be given a temporary one-month visa, and will be required to convert your temporary visa into the residency permit during this period.
What if I am applying from outside the UAE?
If you are currently residing outside of the UAE, you will be given a six-month visa to enter the UAE, explore the opportunities, and settle.
The six-month visa for talented individuals is only single entry.
During this period, you will be required to convert your temporary visa into the residency permit.
Does my golden visa qualify me to work in the UAE?
To work in the UAE you need to have a valid employment contract, work permit or a licence.
However, the UAE's Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has started to issue work permits for golden residency holders.
These are required by those who were unemployed when they received their golden visa and wish to start working for a specific employer, and by those who plan to start a new job with a new employer.