Emirati mothers who have waited years to share their citizenship with their children say their lives are forever changed now that their sons and daughters have been granted Emirati passports.
On Monday, the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship announced that 3,354 children born to Emirati mothers and foreign fathers would receive UAE citizenship, following a directive from the President, Sheikh Khalifa.
Children born to Emirati mothers and foreign fathers are not automatically entitled to UAE citizenship.
They take the nationality of their father at birth and, since 2011, have been entitled to apply for an Emirati passport when they turn 18.
Recent changes to the law allowed mothers to apply for citizenship on behalf of their children after their sons and daughters have lived in the UAE for at least six years.
Emirati Abeer Salem Al Matrooshi, 46, applied for UAE citizenship for her three children, aged between 12 and 22, four years ago.
On Monday, she was told that her two daughters and son, who were born and raised in the UAE but have Egyptian citizenship, would be among the thousands to receive new passports.
“You have no idea what this means to the thousands of mothers like me. This will change our lives,” said Ms Al Matrooshi, a dentist.
“It means security and stability for us. We are finally not worried about the future of our children or living in the fear that they might one day have to go back to a country they have never known or visited.”
Ms Al Matrooshi met her husband while studying medicine in Egypt and they married soon after.
“My generation and the one before me married non-Emiratis because, at the time, we were pursuing our higher education and many Emirati men only had high school degrees and would join the police or army.
“It was very difficult for us to get along with Emirati men who only had high school degrees and had never travelled abroad. It was the price we had to pay for our education,” she said.
Umm Sami was another to receive good news for son on Monday.
The Emirati has seven children with her Omani husband, whom she married aged 16. Each of her children are over 18 years old and she said she has been applying for their citizenship for as long as she can remember.
Years ago, all but one of her children were granted an Emirati passport and on Monday, they were told her youngest son would follow suit.
“This meant so much to us because my children did not have the nationality. It was hard for them to get jobs and many had to go back to Oman,” said Umm Sami, who works for the government and asked that her full name not be disclosed.
“It broke our family apart but now we are finally reunited again.”
She said he children struggled to find jobs, with many companies preferring to hire Emiratis as part of a drive to employ more UAE nationals.
“I could not even get them any summer jobs and, because my husband gets paid so little, it was a huge burden on me.”
Moza Al Kharoosi, 27, was among of the first batch to be told she would receive UAE citizenship on Monday.
Born to an Omani father, Ms Al Kharoosi has seven sisters — two of which were previously granted Emirati citizenship.
She now plans to apply for a government scholarship so she can travel abroad to continue her studies in dentistry.
“I can now finally pursue my education. Previously we couldn’t afford it and my dream was to specialise,” she said.
Ms Al Kharoosi first studied dentistry at Sharjah University but always hoped to specialise further.
“We never expected this to be honest. We were always told we would get citizenship ‘soon’ but never expected it to actually happen. We still can't believe it. It feels like a dream," she said.
Fedaa Morshid said she has been praying her children, aged between 17 and 24, will be among the thousands to receive UAE citizenship from the moment she heard the announcement.
Ms Morshid and her Pakistani ex-husband have struggled to pay for their five children to study abroad and she said having an Emirati passport will help.
“I was so happy when I heard the news. I’m not sure it came out for my children yet and I have been praying hard ever since. I did hear it was only for children whose fathers are from the GCC but I hope that isn’t true,” she said.
“The passport will make a huge difference for us. The least being that I can send them on scholarships to study abroad.”
Her children have each excelled academically but only Emirati citizens are eligible for government scholarships.
She said her children have also struggled to find jobs, believing they have been turned away because of their nationality.
Her son, Saeed, 19, is a ice hockey player but, until 2017, was not allowed to represent the UAE team in international tournaments.
“They gave him a temporary passport to travel with them and we are very grateful for that," Ms Morshid said.
"He has known no home other than the UAE. This is home."