Hundreds of UAE business leaders have been granted 10-year residency visas under the government’s new golden card scheme.
Officials revealed the initiative was proving hugely popular, with dozens of prominent figures coming forward to apply each day.
So far, 400 people are known to have applied for and been awarded golden card status.
The scheme aims to boost foreign investment in the country, assisting existing firms and encouraging new companies to begin trading. The 10-year residency period can also be extended to the spouse and children of the cardholder.
“This historic move confirms that the UAE is a land of opportunity,” said Maj Gen Mohammed Al Marri, of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs.
“It has left people very happy. There is a great deal of enthusiasm for the visa.”
The gold card scheme was first announced in May this year by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.
He said the programme was the UAE’s way of welcoming “all those seeking to be a part of the UAE’s success story and making it a second home”.
The initiative aims to appeal chiefly to wealthy foreign investors, entrepreneurs, chief executives, doctors and other specialists in their fields, as well as outstanding students.
The criteria required to be eligible – such as salary or amount of potential investment – varies according to an individual’s profession.
Previously, the majority of foreign nationals living in the UAE were required to renew their residency visas every two or three years.
Balvinder Sahni, 47, a Dubai-based businessman from India who hit the headlines in 2016 after buying a car licence plate for Dh33 million, revealed he had been one of the first to be granted the golden visa.
The founder and chairman of RSG Group, a property development and management firm, moved to the UAE in 2006 but has worked in the Emirates since the mid-1990s.
Speaking to The National, the father-of-three said he was delighted by the scheme and felt honoured at having been asked to apply.
“For me, this visa is a blessing,” he said. “As a businessman, I feel more confident and have more clarity, and I will be buying more buildings and properties.
“My family was previously in Kuwait but I moved here because my investments were growing and it’s good to be near your investments.
“Sheikh Mohammed announced the gold visa on May 21 and I received a call the next day that I needed to present my passport.
“I felt honoured. This country always respects genuine business people. This is my home now, and I would love to live here forever.”
Other leading executives were quick to support the new initiative, saying the idea would inevitably boost confidence.
They said the move would not only attract new talent to the Emirates but also – just as crucially – help existing residents feel an increased sense of belonging and loyalty to the UAE.
Kamal Vachani, 58, group director of the Al Maya group, a retail and consumer goods conglomerate, was among the businessmen who received a golden card on Tuesday.
He said the visa felt like a reward for doing business in the UAE.
“We are constantly expanding in the country. Our company has been in this country for 39 years, we have 50 super markets and we will continue to expand,” he said.
“It gives us more confidence to think this place is our own. The UAE is already an easy country to do business and this is a great step forward.”
Wisal Ahmad, 41, chief executive of the Al Ibrahimi Group of hotels and restaurants, did not receive a golden card but said he planned to apply for one.
“On a fundamental level, it will create long-term asset building and create a multidimensional market with more demand for homes and durable goods,” he said.
“This will make people plan to stay longer; buy a home. It will help attract and retain talent.”