What is the UAE's cultural golden visa and how can artists and performers qualify?

Creative industry professionals could be entitled to a 10-year visa - here's how it works

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A new visa allows talented people from the world of arts and culture to live in the UAE for longer than before.

If you're an artist, curator, singer, dancer, performer or musician, you could qualify for the 10-year cultural golden visa.

The eligibility bar is set high, with a mandatory recommendation letter from a local or federal cultural authority to start the process.

After a month, I got an email to say 'congratulations you are selected for a cultural golden visa'
Ruxeena Musthafa, International Studio of Art and Galleries, Dubai

Ruxeena Musthafa, co-founder of the International Studio of Art and Galleries, Dubai, has been displaying her abstract canvasses in the country for more than 25 years.

“I feel recognised. I’m so proud to get a cultural golden visa for my work as an artist,” said the Dubai resident who hosts workshops for children, schools and adults.

“I appreciate the UAE for respecting art. Not many countries give this recognition to an artist.”

Golden bridge to art

The overhaul of the residency process is one of the biggest shake-ups of the country’s immigration policy in years.

“The UAE government has built a golden bridge that welcomes artists,” said Raka Roy, partner at Galadari Advocates & Legal Consultants.

“It is a hand stretched forward to the artistic community around the world and will build a global art community with the UAE as a hub.

“This will help the cultural and economic sector flourish.”

Ms Roy anticipated strong demand that would tap diverse artistic talent.

“Artists from other parts of the world can reside and contribute to the artistic pool of the UAE," she said.

“There is mixed population in the UAE who can afford and appreciate art so it’s a win-win for local and international artists.”

Who qualifies for a cultural visa

This covers fine art and performance artistes who have made their mark in the cultural sphere and have an established body of work.

Inventors, innovators, and exceptional talents in vital fields such as culture, art, sports and digital technology can obtain a golden visa regardless of their educational qualification, employment status, monthly salary or professional level. The visa requires a recommendation or approval from a federal or local government entity,” according to a UAE government website.

Ms Roy said the person should have have created original works.

“It could be paintings, a mural, [or] a written body of work by an author," she said. The visa also covers singers and people active in acting and drama.

Work of a high calibre “and credibility must be established”, she said

How long should I have lived in the UAE?

There is no requirement for the applicant to have lived in the UAE for a set number of years.

Can an artist who is not a UAE resident apply?

Artists with a visit or residence visa can apply provided they are in the country when submitting the application.

Letter from a UAE cultural authority

A recommendation from a federal or local government authority is vital to qualify.

For instance in Dubai, a "creative talented accreditation (cultural visa)" recommendation letter from the Dubai Culture and Arts authority is needed to begin the application.

“This letter is key,” Ms Roy said.

In-depth verification checks are conducted.

“From an immigration point of view, there is a filter and the cultural visa is not given to anybody who simply claims to be an artist,” she said.

There are parameters and guidelines. "They ask for a portoflio, the number of exhibitions, number of years the artist has been contributing," Ms Roy said.

To apply: https://dubaiculture.gov.ae/en/e-services/cultural-visa

Submissions for a recommendation letter

Artists must submit copies of their visa, passport and Emirates identity card.

Submissions should include a detailed CV that focuses on their cultural and art experience.

A portfolio can include pictures and video.

Is the cultural visa possible only if you receive a letter?

Yes, Dubai's immigration agency, GDRFA, specifies that a recommendation letter from a local or federal authority is a requirement to begin the application process.

Dubai Culture has listed details of the application process and cultural authorities in other emirates are expected to follow.

How long will it take?

There is no specified time but it has been known to take at least 30 days.

Acceptance or rejection will be confirmed via email.

It took Musthafa, the artist, a month to receive confirmation.

“They ask for certificates, they need to see how many years you have worked as an artist,” she said.

“After a month, I got an email to say 'congratulations you are selected for a cultural golden visa.'”

Once the nomination is approved, applicants receive an email link to upload the required documents.

Alternatively, they can visit an Amer centre with the documents to complete the process.

After either applying online or at the Amer centre, the application will be verified by the ICA and the artist receives the new visa.

How much does it cost?

The cultural golden visa can cost upwards of Dh3,000.

Charges cover submission, medical fitness application, cancellation of old visa, application for Emirates identity card, stamping of visa.

Artists who used the services of a public relations officer paid about Dh5,000 for the 10-year visa.

Step-by-step process

Apply for the accreditation letter from the Dubai Culture and Arts authority or equivalent.

Once this is received, apply for approval of the nomination from the ICA or the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship website.

Head to the Amer centre or apply via the GDRFA or General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs.

Final approval is based on GDRFA clearance.

If application is via the Amer centre, select the required service at the reception and submit all documents to the service centre official.

For applications through the GDRFA portal, download the application, select the service, attach documents and submit the request.

Requirements for Amer include a passport copy, residency or visit visa copy, digital photo, recommendation letter from a government entity.

Key information

Obtaining a recommendation letter from a cultural authority does not signify final approval.

This is conditional and part of procedures to obtain further approvals from other local and federal authorities.

Granting the visa is up to the discretion of authorities and is not open to appeal.

Authorities can reject an application without giving a reason.

Applications must be made by the artists, submissions from companies or service centres will not be accepted.

Portals to check

UAE website on golden visa for talented individuals: https://u.ae/en/information-and-services/visa-and-emirates-id/residence-visa/getting-the-golden-visa

Recommendation letter: https://dubaiculture.gov.ae/en/e-services/cultural-visa

Updated: October 12, 2022, 1:53 PM