Dubai has become a magnet for entrepreneurs, investors and savvy business owners in recent years, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, recent research projects that as many as 4,000 millionaires will migrate to Dubai in 2022, more than any other city in the world.
It’s little wonder that so many global citizens are choosing to operate their businesses from Dubai. As well as offering a famously high standard of living and lucrative opportunities for business owners, the government has introduced different visa options to make it easier for foreigners to settle down for longer. According to the UAE government, there are now more than 200 nationalities living and working across the region, with expatriates outnumbering UAE nationals significantly. But how easy is it to get Dubai residency and who is eligible?
In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about getting a Dubai residency, including the benefits, requirements, and process. We’ll explore the five most common types of Dubai residency:
- Residency through company formation
- 10-year Dubai Golden Visa
- Residency through proof of real estate investment
- Five-year Green Visa
- Retiree residency
- Remote working residency
- Employment visa
Residency through company formation
Registering a company in Dubai is one of the most popular routes to obtaining residency in the UAE. It means that entrepreneurs and business owners can combine the advantages of becoming a resident with the benefits of operating in a business-friendly environment. Competitively priced between 4,000–6,000 USD, this type of residency visa includes a business trade licence, bank account opening and the opportunity to apply for up to four visas for members of your family, which makes relocating even easier. It’s valid for three years and can be renewed too.
By setting up in Dubai, you can operate on a truly global scale, while enjoying benefits that help you maximise your profits and enhance your lifestyle. Entrepreneurs can enjoy zero income tax and 100% business ownership, alongside a strong banking system, first-rate infrastructure, and a strategic location with easy access to emerging markets in Asia, Africa and Europe.
To qualify for Dubai residency through company formation, you will need to register your company in Dubai mainland or one of its free zones.
10-year Dubai Golden Visa
When the UAE introduced the Golden Visa in 2019, it meant expats from across the globe could live, work and study in Dubai for up to 10 years for the first time. As of October 2022, the scheme has been expanded and amended to make it easier for investors, too.
To secure a 10-year visa, you must be an investor, entrepreneur, exceptional talent, scientist, outstanding student, humanitarian pioneer or frontline hero. You will need to meet specific requirements, such as a minimum investment spend, specific qualifications or minimum capital.
Real estate owners will now be eligible for the Golden Visa too, providing they meet specific requirements. Firstly, the property must be worth a minimum of AED 2 million. With the latest changes, investors can now gain residency by purchasing off-plan properties from an approved local real estate company, provided the value is more than AED 2 million. Investors can also now purchase a property with a loan, though it must be through a specific bank.
The Golden Visa offers tangible benefits for expats looking to live in Dubai. It means that you can live, work or study in the UAE for as long as a decade, without worrying about renewals. Business owners needn’t worry about finding a national sponsor, since the visa allows 100% ownership of enterprises on the mainland. There are other significant advances too, such as easy application for a UAE driving licence, family visas and an opportunity to apply for jobs and accept employment with any company.
Dubai residency through proof of real estate investment
Dubai’s real estate market is huge. According to research from the EU Tax Observatory, as of 2022 at least $146 billion in foreign wealth is invested in the Dubai property market – twice as much as real estate held in London by foreigners. If you’re planning on purchasing a property in Dubai you may be eligible for a residency permit. However, you won’t receive it automatically and not everyone will qualify. In order to gain residency through the property you will need to ensure:
- Construction on the property is completed by the time of purchase (unless applying for a Golden Visa)
- The property is residential, not commercial
- The property is valued at AED 1 million or more. You may also be eligible for a residency visa if you have multiple properties amounting to a total value of AED 1 million or more (unless applying for a Golden Visa)
- You have acquired freehold ownership rights over the property without restriction or leasehold rights for up to 99 years.
The good news is that anyone can buy property in Dubai, providing they can afford it. There is no age limit on purchasing property in Dubai. You can also buy property in joint ownership and still be eligible for residency in Dubai.
As discussed in the section above, the requirements for obtaining residency through the Golden Visa by qualifying through real estate purchase differ from the requirements for the standard length visa.
Five-year Green Visa
The newly introduced Green Visa allows talents, skilled professionals, freelancers, investors and entrepreneurs to reside in Dubai for up to five years without a sponsor or employer.
Skilled employees must have a minimum educational level of a bachelor’s degree, a salary of at least AED 15,000 and classify in the first, second or third occupational level.
Freelancers and self-employed individuals will need to obtain a permit, have an annual income of AED 360,000 and be able to prove their financial solvency throughout their stay.
Investors and partners will need approval from the local authorities and proof and approval of the investment. If you have more than one licence, the total invested capital will be calculated.
Dubai residency for retirees
Those looking to live out their retirement with a higher standard of living are in luck, as the UAE government offers residency to retirees. As of 2018, anyone living abroad or in the UAE who has hit retirement age may qualify for a retirement visa. This lasts for five years and can be renewed for another five. However, this option is only available for individuals aged 55 years and older who have one of the following:
- An active income of at least AED 20,000 per month
- Savings amounting to at least AED 1 million
- Property in Dubai worth at least AED 2 million
Dubai residency for remote workers
Another great option for gaining Dubai residency is through the Virtual Working Program, a unique strategy launched in 2020 that enables eligible foreign professionals and business owners to work remotely from Dubai for one year. Providing individuals and startups meet specific eligibility criteria, they can bring eligible family members and access services, such as schooling, too. The qualifying criteria include:
- Employees and company owners need to earn a minimum salary of USD 5,000 per month
- Employees must have proof of employment with a contract valid for one year from a current employer and the previous month’s payslip
- Employees and company owners must provide three months’ bank statements
- Company owners must provide proof of company ownership for at least one year.
A remote work visa offers a wide range of benefits, not least access to Dubai’s services such as utilities, medical and schooling. Dubai is also a digital-first nation, with some of the highest levels of internet connectivity. Once approved, individuals with a remote working visa can sponsor relatives, too. Plus, the cost of a remote working visa in Dubai is relatively affordable at USD 287 per person.
The final option for obtaining residency in Dubai is through an employment visa. To qualify for this visa, which is also known as the ‘pink visa’, applicants must be sponsored by a locally licensed and incorporated entity. So, you’ll need to have proof of a contract or job offer from a company based in the UAE. If the company you’re working for does not have an established presence in the UAE, getting hold of an employment visa can be difficult.
Unless you are applying for the new Green Visa, your employer is responsible for applying for your work permit, as well as any costs incurred during the process. Costs vary depending on whether authorities consider you to be a skilled or unskilled worker. There are four categories, ranging from high school education to a bachelor’s degree. These types of visa are usually valid for one or two years, depending on the length of your employment contract.
Conclusion – is it worth getting residency in Dubai?
In short, yes, it is worth getting residency in Dubai. As a resident, you’ll enjoy a whole string of benefits that are unavailable to foreign nationals. As a legal Dubai resident, you can open a bank account, enter and leave the country as you please and obtain long-term leases. Business owners can enjoy tax benefits such as 100% foreign ownership, 0% income tax and 100% repatriation of profits. If you’re considering relocating with your family, you can also apply for visas for them. Moreover, many residency visas, such as the retiree visa and the Golden Visa, offer residency for more than three years.
But while it is possible to secure residency in Dubai and the wider UAE through several different routes, the process is not necessarily straightforward. You will need to ensure that you meet specific criteria and have the correct documents for the best chance of success. As one of the UAE’s largest and most trusted business setup advisory firms, Creative Zone can help ensure your application for Dubai residency is as smooth as possible and guide you through the process, every step of the way.