Second citizenship industry shows strong potential

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Countries around the world, including the UAE, are offering passports to wealthy and skilled foreigners to boost economy

By Michelle D'Souza

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Published: Wed 25 Aug 2021, 10:38 AM

The citizenship-by-investment industry is gaining momentum around the world.

Tiny nations with big dreams have recognised that the globalisation of business is fuelling demand for the globalisation of citizenship. High-net-worth individuals (HNWI) are willing to pay or invest handsomely for passports that make it easy to run their worldwide businesses — and to hedge their lifestyles in the same way they hedge their investment portfolios.

Several countries (many in the Caribbean) now treat passports as a new global asset class, selling them legally on the open market akin to government bonds. The requirements to acquire a foreign citizenship have also been simplified. Fees are paid either directly or as investments in local businesses or property. Some countries also require applicants to spend a certain number of days a year in their new home.

The economic collapse worldwide caused by the Covid-19 pandemic gave another incentive for smaller nations to woo businessmen and traders to set up their ventures and become citizens. In Antigua, citizenship-by-investment represents 15 per cent of government revenue and 20 per cent of all foreign investment.

UAE citizenship programme

The UAE too announced a citizenship programme for investors at the start of this year. The new scheme allows investors, innovators, scientists, artists, and specialised talents to get UAE citizenship. The nation affirmed that it will hand out passports to foreigners with in-demand skills, in a significant break from past policy.

In line with its core emphasis on diversity and tolerance, under the directive of the President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Cabinet chaired by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, approved the amendments of the Executive Regulation of the Federal Law concerning nationality and Passports.

Announcing the new citizenship law, Sheikh Mohammed tweeted, “We adopted law amendments that allow granting the UAE citizenship to investors, specialized talents & professionals including scientists, doctors, engineers, artists, authors and their families. The new directives aim to attract talents that contribute to our development journey.”

“The permanent residency “Golden Card” will be granted to exceptional talents and everyone who positively contributes to the success story of the UAE. We want them to be permanent partners in our journey. Residents are an indispensable part of our country,” he added.

The step aims to appreciate the talents and competencies present in the UAE and attract more bright minds to the Emirati community in a way that will contributes to the development and prosperity of the country.

Sheikh Mohammed delved further into the new amendments with a series of tweets. "The new directives aim to attract talents that contribute to our development journey," he announced. The Dubai Ruler explained that the UAE Cabinet, local Emiri courts and executive councils will nominate those eligible for the citizenship under clear criteria set for each category.

"The law allows receivers of the UAE passport to keep their existing citizenship," tweeted Sheikh Mohammed.

Eligibility for Emirati citizenship

The changes in UAE's citizenship law outlined several different categories of eligible residents and offers a wide range of benefits, including the right to establish or own commercial entities and properties.

In order to qualify to become citizens, investors will need to own a property in the UAE, while doctors and other medical specialists must be focused on a scientific discipline in demand in the country. Scientists are required to be actively involved in research and have at least 10 years’ experience. They also should have contributions in the scientific field such as winning a prestigious scientific award or securing substantial funding for their research during the past 10 years. It is also mandatory to obtain a recommendation letter from recognised scientific institutions in the UAE. Inventors must have obtained one or more patents for their creations, while intellectuals or artists “should be pioneers in the culture and art fields” and have won international awards to prove it. Creative talents including intellectuals and artists should be pioneers in the culture and art fields and winners of one or more international award(s). A recommendation letter from related government entities is mandatory as well.

In case one qualifies, other requirements include swearing the oath of allegiance; committing to abide by the Emirati laws; and officially informing the respective government agency in case of acquiring or losing any other citizenship. Furthermore, as per the amendments, the citizenship can be withdrawn upon breach of the conditions.

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