To live and work in the UAE, one has to apply for a residence visa. Of course, being a resident is not the same as becoming a citizen, which gives the person the right to vote, among other privileges. That being said, did you know that it is possible to apply for citizenship in the emirates?
ALSO READ: 12 Common Visa Questions about Dubai
People can apply for UAE nationality through the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) in each emirate. In this article, we shall discuss the requirements, procedure, and provisions under which a person can acquire citizenship.
Guide to Applying for UAE Citizenship
Based on Federal Law No. 17 of 1972 on Nationality and Passports, as amended by Federal Law No. 10 of 1975 and Decree Law No. 16 of 2017, a person may acquire UAE nationality by virtue of law, citizenship, or naturalisation.
Nationality by law includes anyone who is:
- Born in the UAE or overseas to a father who is a UAE national
- Born in the UAE or overseas to a mother who is a UAE national or to a father with unknown or without citizenship
- Born in the UAE to unknown parents; in other words, a “foundling”
People who may be granted nationality by citizenship include:
- A foreign woman married to a UAE national, with one or more children. They should have been married for seven years since the submission of application.
- A foreign woman married to a UAE national, without children. They should have been married for 10 years since the submission of application.
NOTE: For those with one or more children, if the husband dies or if the couple gets divorced within the period mentioned — the woman may be granted nationality if she remains a widow or divorcee, or if she got married to a UAE national after the said period.
Nationality by naturalisation may be granted to:
- An Arab individual from a neighbouring country, who has been displaced to the UAE and residing there for at least three years before the submission of application
- An Arab individual who has been residing in the UAE for at least seven years before the submission of application. He/she should have a lawful source of income, is of good reputation, and has not been convicted of any offence.
- A person who has been residing in the UAE since or before 1940 until the effective date of Federal Law No. 17 of 1972. He/she should have a lawful source of income, is of good reputation, and has not been convicted of any offence. He/she should also be proficient in the Arabic language.
- A person who has provided outstanding services to the UAE, regardless of the provisions stated in the Federal Law
By Presidential Decree
Notably, the President of the UAE may issue a decree granting nationality to a person, regardless of the provisions stated in the Federal Law.
Requirements for Acquiring UAE Nationality
Aside from the above provisions, a person who decides to apply for UAE nationality:
- Shall renounce his/her nationality of origin or any other nationality that he/she holds;
- Shall be proficient in the Arabic language;
- Shall hold an educational qualification;
- Shall have a lawful source of income;
- Shall be of good reputation and conduct;
- Shall not have been convicted for a felony or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude or dishonesty, unless rehabilitated;
- Shall obtain security approval; and
- Shall swear allegiance to the UAE.
Applications for UAE nationality are examined by an Advisory Committee, which is composed of seven members that represent the seven emirates of the UAE. The committee shall make sure that each application meets all of the legal requirements for citizenship.
ALSO READ: How to Choose the Right Kind of UAE Visa
If you belong to any of the categories mentioned above, then you may consider applying for UAE nationality. On the other hand, you can apply for a long-term visa instead, particularly if you are a foreign worker planning to eventually return to your home country.
DISCLAIMER: The above guide is presented for information-sharing purposes only. For more information about how to apply for UAE citizenship, please visit the UAE Government Portal.