Dubai has awarded more than 150,000 golden visas since the long-term residency scheme came into force.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, announced the launch of the initiative in May 2019 to give exceptional workers and foreign investors the opportunity to establish deeper roots in the country and allow the nation to benefit from their expertise.
Sheikh Mohammed said the renewable 10-year residency scheme aimed to attract workers in the fields of health, engineering, science and art.
Long-term residency is also extended to the visa holder's spouse and children.
Dubai's General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs said 151,666 golden visas had been issued since 2019.
Golden visas have been granted to a variety of people, from global celebrities and stalwarts of the business community to health workers who served on the front line during the Covid-19 pandemic.
High-achieving pupils in the country are also eligible to receive a golden visa.
Golden visa recipients include Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, founder and chairman of VPS Healthcare; Dr Azad Moopen, chairman and founder of Aster DM Healthcare; Firoz Merchant, founder of Pure Gold Jewellers, and Yusuff Ali, chairman and managing director of Lulu Group.
Footballing star Cristiano Ronaldo and tennis champion Novak Djokovic received golden visas in 2020.
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 key people.
Called “You are Special”, the service can be accessed 24-7 online or by calling 800 5111.
The residency department said it had dealt with more than 15.5 million visa entry requests since 2019.
The department said a shift to digital services had improved the efficiency of its operations.
“Achieving these results is the outcome of the efforts of all the department’s staff,” said Lt Gen Mohamed Al Marri, Director General of the government body.
“Transforming to digital services contributed to reducing the number of customers visiting service centres by 80 per cent.”