The golden card is a long-term residency programme announced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, in May, 2019. Not long after its launch, more than 400 investors and businessmen, including some of their families, had already been granted the visa, with dozens more receiving it each day.
Sheikh Mohammed said 6,800 investors and residents, worth an estimated Dh100 billion, and from 70 countries, were chosen to receive the visa.
In November 2020, Sheikh Mohammed set out a major expansion of the scheme. It will allow all doctors and PhD holders to secure a 10-year golden visa. Some scientists, big data and artificial intelligence experts will also be eligible, as will top scoring school pupils and their families, and university graduates with a GPA of 3.8.
Why was the programme implemented?
The idea is to create an attractive investment environment in the UAE, which further encourages business development and draws in new talent.
Long-term residents who have contributed to the country’s development are also being rewarded for their loyalty and encouraged to continue investing in the UAE.
The golden card was initially billed as a permanent residence system but the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs has since clarified that it is in fact a long-term 10-year visa that renews.
Is there such a thing as a permanent residency visa in the UAE?
Typically, the UAE does not grant permanent residency visas to expatriates but the golden card is a renewable 10-year visa, so the end result is the same: permanent residency in the UAE.
In June 2019, Maj Gen Mohammad Al Marri, Director General of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, said the visas would be renewed in 10-year increments.
"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," he said.
He said the visa would be renewed so 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 within 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 as 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 is 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.
"Here in the UAE we never look at age, colour, nationality or any other social circumstances, we are dealing with people as humans and not nationalities, we are all equal with no differentiation," he said at the time.
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 of work experience. They must also have a valid employment contract.
The expanded list from November 2020 is available here:
Who are some of the people that have received it so far?
What requirements must foreign investors meet?
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 of 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?
- 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 PhDs and 20 years' practical experience in their field.
- People who specialise in fields considered important to the UAE.
Under what circumstances are chief executives eligible?
- They must have completed a bachelor's degree or equivalent.
- Must have five years of experience or more.
- Earn a salary of Dh30,000 or more with a valid contract in the UAE.
- Have health insurance for themselves and their family.
Does the programme include art and culture specialists?
It does, but the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development must approve individual applicants.
What is the criteria for inventors?
Applicants must possess a patent that is considered valuable to the UAE economy and obtain patent approval from the Ministry of Economy.
More information on the application process can be found here: https://smartservices.ica.gov.ae/echannels/web/client/guest/index.html#/dashboard