Establishing Residency in UAE for Foreigners


The emirate of Dubai, with its strategic location, is less than a four hour flight for almost half of the world’s population. It is therefore, a convenient destination for expatriates from Asia, Australia, America and Europe, who find it is easy to go back home for the holidays or to visit their families. Perhaps the biggest attraction of holding a UAE passport, though, is the government’s wonderful efforts to care for its local population, most of who enjoy heavily subsidized property purchase schemes, free education for their children, highly discounted rates on food items and groceries and much cheaper utilities than expats. UAE nationals, in general, enjoy a high standard of living compared to many expatriates who decide to live and work here.

The UAE does not offer expatriates permanent residency like many other countries in the world.So, either you are either a citizen of Dubai (typically by birth as both parents have to be UAE nationals) or you are not. Up until now, the government has resisted the pressure to open up citizenship to expatriates for fear that this would dilute. Although people can obtain a residency visa and get it extended after fixed interval of time.

There are only a few ways anyone can obtain a UAE residency visa if they are not a GCC national. The ways are:

  • by work, whether as an employee or by setting up their own company and having a visa linked to that
  • by enrolling as a student at a UAE college or university
  • by buying a property that is worth in excess of Dh1 million.

The only other options are to be sponsored by a spouse, or by a son or daughter if you are dependent on them who are already residing in the country. In the case of a working age adult who wants to reside in the UAE they will need to find suitable employment. The time period for the employment visas are linked to the employment. For property owners, six-month renewable visas are available and most people can obtain short-term visit visas either on entry if they are from certain countries or by application.

Visa rules can change frequently. It is advised to check with the local UAE Embassy or Consulate before travelling to the UAE.

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