Wondering if expats can get UAE citizenship and a UAE passport? We answer all of your questions here
5 December 2018| Last updated on 16 February 2020
We take a look at the Emirati nationality laws and whether expats can gain UAE citizenship or a UAE passport...
The UAE is an expat haven for any individual wishing to move, live and work abroad. So much so, that over 80% of the 9 million+ residents living in the UAE are expatriates, with the local Emirati population forming the remaining 20% - approximately.
Any individual new in or living in the UAE will be very well aware of the prosperous opportunities afforded to expatriates pursuing a career here, often combined with a high standard of living.
But while tax-free salaries and luxury living are extremely attractive to foreigners moving here, it has resulted in a staggering difference in population over the years.
As a result, there are strict Emirati nationality laws in place that govern who can receive UAE citizenship - and these laws are in place because of the declining Emirati population. In fact, there are fears of national identity loss across the country due to the large population of expatriates living here.
That's not to say that getting UAE citizenship as an expatriate is impossible.
And with the UAE passport being recently ranked #1 as the world's most powerful passport, you might be wondering how an expatriate can gain UAE citizenship and a UAE passport as a result.
Here's everything you need to know with our guide...
Permanent UAE citizenship vs. UAE residency
Citizens of the UAE have different rights, benefits and responsibilities compared to their expat neighbours who have temporary residency.
The UAE currently does not offer permanent residency to expatriates, but there is speculation as to whether this decision will be made to allow foreign investors to come to the country.
Without permanent residency options, it is difficult for expatriates to reside in the country long-term without an employer and/or sponsorship.
For older expats wishing to stay in the UAE past retirement age, there are different options on how you can do this; like getting a business investment visa, a property-based investment visa or a dependency visa by their own adult child.
Perks of being a UAE citizen
It is widely believed and often reported that Emirati citizens receive benefits due to their UAE citizenship; things like favourable treatment and better access to jobs in the country, as well as higher salaries, leniency from authorities and even having financial loans cleared by the UAE itself.
Healthcare and education is offered freely in abundance, plus interest free loans for housing from government approved funds are available to UAE citizens. Not only that, but it is rumoured that they also receive free water and electricity.
How expats can get UAE citizenship
The Emirati nationality law governs citizenship eligibility in the UAE, and is determined primarily by jus sanguinis.
It's important to bear in mind that UAE citizenship is managed by individual Emirates, and the final decision lies with authorities there - so make sure you have the correct details for the Emirate in which you reside.
Here's the different ways an expatriate can receive UAE citizenship, and thus the UAE passport.
Children born in the UAE to unknown parents are automatically considered to be Emirati citizens. The Federal Law (17) states that "a foundling shall be deemed to have been born in the State unless proved to be otherwise" if they are born in the UAE to unknown parents.
Children both to an Emirati father or an unknown or stateless father, and an Emirati mother are Emirati citizens by descent, irrespective of their place of birth - whether in the UAE or abroad.
Children born to an Emirati mother and a foreign father have the right to apply for citizenship once they reach the age of 18 years old.
A foreign woman married to an Emirati man may obtain citizenship, provided that the marriage lasts for 3 years. Although, she would usually be naturalised after 10 years of living in the country if married to an Emirati - instead of the 30 year wait as described below.
The woman loses citizenship if she divorces, and remarries a foreigner.
The wife of a recently naturalised male citizen may also become an Emirati citizen - their minor children will also become citizens of the UAE.
An expat may apply for UAE citizenship by fulfilling the following:
- they have legally lived in the UAE for over 30 years, or 7 years if an Arab citizen of Omani or Bahraini origin
- no residence limit exists for people who provide honourable services to the country
- legally earn a living
- maintain a good reputation
- have enough knowledge of the Arabic language
- no criminal record
However, naturalised citizens do not have the right to stand for elections. Arab citizens of Omani or Bahraini origins may stand for elections after 7 years.
Can I gain dual citizenship in the UAE?
Unfortunately no. Dual citizenship is not recognised in the UAE.
Once citizenship of another country is obtained, your UAE nationality must be given up.
The loss of UAE citizenship
A UAE citizen by descent may forfeit their UAE nationality in the following scenarios:
- if they engage in military service of a foreign state without an authorisation from the UAE
- if they act for the interest of an enemy state
- if they willingly accept the citizenship and be naturalised by the nationality of a foreign state
A citizen by naturalisation may additionally forfeit their UAE nationality in the following instances:
- if he commits or attempts to commit an act deemed dangerous against the state's security and safety
- if he is convicted repeatedly for disgraceful crimes
- if any forgery, fraud or adulteration appears in information used as proof for acquisition for the UAE nationality
- if he resides outside the UAE without an excuse for a period in excess of 4 consecutive years
UAE citizens are allowed to voluntarily give up their Emirati citizenship.