The UAE ushered in the start of a new golden era last year to secure the talents of its brightest and best residents for decades to come.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, announced the launch of a golden card visa scheme 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 forward-thinking 10-year residency scheme aimed to attract workers in the fields of health, engineering science and art.
Long-term residency was also extended to the spouse and children of the cardholder.
"Throughout history, the UAE opened its doors to millions of people looking to pursue their dreams and better their lives," said Sheikh Mohammed when the project was launched.
"The golden card is our way to welcome all those seeking to be a part of the UAE’s success story and making it a second home."
Eighteen months on, the door is now open for many more people to set up home long-term in the UAE.
UAE expands golden card scheme
On Sunday, the UAE announced a significant expansion of the golden card scheme, allowing any medical doctor to qualify for the long-term visa.
In addition, a wide range of scientists and data experts will be able to easily secure long-term residency.
The list includes people with backgrounds in computer and electrical engineering and those with AI and programming expertise.
High-scoring pupils who leave high school with top marks will also be eligible – as will their families. Students leaving universities with a GPA of 3.8 will also be included.
How does the visa work?
The visa offers 10-year residency on a renewable basis.
As long as the recipient continues to meet the conditions of the visa, they can renew for a further 10 years when it is due to expire.
Typically, expatriate workers must renew their work visa every two to three years.
The golden visa offers greater stability for those planning to invest and build long-term careers in the Emirates.
"After 10 years, [the visas] are continuous for another 10-year period every 10 years. There are medical insurance and other procedures that need to be done in between, but it comes without any extra conditions," said Maj Gen Mohammad Al Marri, Director General of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, last year.
He said the visa would be renewed as long as residents continued to satisfy the terms and conditions under which they were granted the visa.
But if investors decreased in worth or their business failed duringn those 10 years, "things would be looked at on a case-to-case basis", Maj Gen Al Marri said.
Golden card holders can travel freely becaus there is no minimum requirement for staying in the UAE – for example, if the golden card carrier leaves the UAE for longer than six months, their visa would still be valid.
Who was already eligible for the golden card?
In May 2019, the UAE Cabinet approved 10-year residency visas for five categories of expatriates: investors, entrepreneurs, chief executives, scientists and outstanding students.
Maj Gen Al Marri said there was no age restriction on applicants.
It was announced that executives with a salary of Dh30,000 or more can apply for the visa, too. The applicant should have at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent and five years' work experience. They must also have a valid employment contract.
What are the requirements for investors?
At least one of the conditions below must be fulfilled:
A deposit of up to Dh10 million in an investment fund in the UAE.
Owner of a company with Dh10m in capital or a partner in a company with a share of up to Dh10m.
In addition, all the conditions below must be met:
The investment fund must be fully owned rather than funded through a loan. Proof must be provided.
The investment should be held for at least three years.
The investor must provide a comprehensive insurance document for themselves and their family.
What are the requirements for entrepreneurs?
They must own a successful project valued at Dh500,000 or more in a certified field in the UAE.
Must have approval as a certified business incubator who founded the project.
Must provide a comprehensive health insurance document for themselves and their family.
Which specialists in their field are eligible?
Professors from any one of the top 500 international universities, approved by the Ministry of Education, can apply.
Those who have obtained an award or certificate of appreciation in their current speciality are also eligible.
Scientists who have contributed to major studies or research.
Those with doctorates and 20 years' practical experience in their field.
People who specialise in fields considered important to the UAE.
Who has received the golden visa so far?
The golden visa has opened up an avenue for long-term residency to everyone from global sports stars to stalwarts of the business community.
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.
Notably, footballing great Cristiano Ronaldo and tennis champion Novak Djokovic received golden card visas this year.
Ronaldo is a keen visitor to the UAE while Djokovic has regularly brought his star power to the country's premier tennis tournaments.