In waiting: Children of Emirati women


In UAE, children of an Emirati woman married to a non-Emirati man do not automatically qualify for citizenship and therefore are unable to benefit from full rights as a national

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Rasha Abu Baker

Published: Wed 23 Feb 2022, 11:54 PM

Last updated: Wed 5 Apr 2023, 8:23 AM

I feel very thankful to be Emirati and as a woman living in these enlightened times. Opportunities are vast. I also feel exactly as how my Emirati brothers must feel: safe and secure and protected by this government and our leaders.

I fully appreciate, and will never underestimate, this country’s honest and considerable efforts to constantly improve, innovate, and create. It has demonstrated its open-mindedness and proven its intentions to work harder and become better, fairer and more inclusive, time and time again. The efforts are truly commendable, and of course, we shouldn’t forget that this nation is only 50 years old. It is an infant in country years.

The big leaps this country is taking in terms of developing, amending and realigning its various systems and legal frameworks to ensure that people who choose to live here have the best chance at building an easy, convenient, safe and happy life for themselves and their children speak volumes about the adaptability of the leadership. The ever-evolving initiatives include opening a civil court for non-Muslims, decriminalising co-habitation and easing certain other restrictions in order to maintain the country’s attractiveness as a great place to live, and it has become obvious that these new and substantial initiatives are becoming commonplace. One such massive announcement recently was opportunities for expatriates to acquire the UAE Golden Visa and, in some cases, even the UAE citizenship.

I remember feeling so excited and happy at this inclusive and progressive decision. Finally, many hardworking expats who decided to call the UAE home and have genuine feelings of love and loyalty for this country can also feel a sense of belonging. It is such wonderful and welcome news, but when the initial excitement died down, I was left with one question: when will it be time to recognise nationality passed from men and women — proud Emiratis — to our nation’s children?

Let me clarify. In the UAE, the children of an Emirati woman married to a non-Emirati man do not automatically qualify for citizenship and therefore are unable to benefit from full rights as an Emirati national. As a woman living in this situation, I worry that my children and husband don’t have the automatic right to qualify for the same legal status as others.

There must be hundreds, if not thousands, of people in a similar situation, and it is discouraging that they haven’t yet been included in such ground-breaking programmes. While I certainly don’t begrudge those who can achieve this wonderful benefit by virtue of their circumstances, as an Emirati woman, I would love to be able to pass my nationality on to my children, or at least be able to apply for a Golden Visa for them instead of having to regulaly worry about renewing their visas for sponsorship every three years.

I am aware that on the one hand, under the current laws, Emirati mothers can apply for citizenship for their children after they have lived in the country for six years, or when the children of Emirati women reach the age of 18, they can apply for themselves, but on the other hand, the process can be long, confusing and complicated, requiring many approval processes, and is by no means guaranteed to succeed. It is worth mentioning though that children in this situation do enjoy free healthcare under their mother’s health insurance — a relief and a privilege to have.

However, having seen how open minded and accommodating the government is willing to be, I am ever confidant that as the UAE’s leadership continues along its path of easing the way for expats to live, work and build their lives in this amazing country, more new laws will be introduced that offer the same choices and opportunities to all families, no matter what their personal circumstances may be. —

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