How Does Dubai Residency Work?

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A couple look at Dubai residency paperwork together.

Dubai is one of the seven emirates that make up the country of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Commonly referred to as a Dubai Residency Visa, this is essentially a visa to live and work in the UAE. There are a few different ways to obtain residency in Dubai:

  • investing in real estate
  • working for a UAE company
  • enrolling in a university
  • retiring in the UAE.

If you are living in the UAE under a residence permit and you leave the country for more than 6 months, your permit becomes invalid and you cannot re-enter the country without applying for a permit once again.  

The duration of your stay in Dubai as a resident varies depending on the type of residency you hold. Employment residencies are typically valid for two to three years, but residency obtained through property ownership or significant investment is often ongoing as long as the property is owned or the investment is maintained. Entrepreneurs can receive residency for a specific period linked to their business performance. The Golden Visa is a long-term residency program which can provide extended stays in the UAE ranging from 5 to 10 years. This special visa is merit based and is usually provided to outstanding students, scientists, entrepreneurs and investors.

Becoming a Citizen of Dubai

Becoming a citizen of Dubai (i.e. of the UAE) is a bit more complex than obtaining residency. The UAE follows a policy of limited citizenship and historically has avoided granting citizenship to expatriates, except in rare cases and under specific circumstances. Citizenship in the UAE is mainly based on heritage. If you are born to Emirati parents or have Emirati heritage, you are more likely to be eligible for citizenship.

One way to obtain citizenship in Dubai is by long-term residency. Visa holders who have lived in Dubai for 30 years will be able to apply for citizenship. Dubai citizenship by “exceptional merit” was one of the latest initiatives announced by the UAE to bring exceptionally talented people to the country. Some appropriate applicants can include:

  • Doctors with at least ten years of experience and who have been recognised for their scientific contribution in their field and hold a membership in a reliable organisation in their field.
  • Scientists with at least ten years of experience and have been awarded at least one prestigious international award or research grant in their specialist area.
  • Innovators with at least one original invention, at least one international award, and a recommendation from a government agency that would specialise in their field.

Employment in Dubai

To secure employment in Dubai, individuals often need a job offer from a local employer, who becomes their sponsor throughout the process. In Dubai, a sponsor is someone who helps you obtain residency. If you are an entrepreneur, your sponsors are your own companies. The sponsor guides you through paperwork and ensures you follow residency rules.

The employer starts the visa application, which will then need documentation and a medical examination. Once the visa is approved, the individual can enter Dubai and the employer assists in obtaining a residence permit. Residency permits usually require periodic renewal, which typically is managed by employers.

Other various visas  include the “Green Visa” which is a more recent residency scheme by the UAE government to attract remote workers, entrepreneurs and skilled professionals. These allow you residency in Dubai without a local sponsor and include certain benefits like healthcare, education and banking access.

Renewing and Cancelling a Dubai Residency

Residency permits in Dubai typically come with an expiration date and it is important to be aware of the renewal process. Employers often play a significant role in managing the renewal, ensuring that their employees can continue to stay and work in the country legally. The renewal process usually involves submitting updated documents, where employers would liaise with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) at the federal level and General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) on the local emirate level in order to secure an extension the residency permit.

Residency can also be cancelled under certain circumstances. This might happen if an individual decides to leave their job or if there are changes in personal circumstances that affect the residency status. In the case of employment termination, the employer will typically initiate the cancellation process.

Gopher Burrow