UAE Citizenship Laws; Past, Present, and Future

Yesterday, in a historical move for the United Arab Emirates, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced the country’s adoption of new amendments to its citizenship law. The amendments were announced through a series of tweets.

Under these new amendments, the UAE will grant its citizenship to “investors, specialized talents & professionals including scientists, doctors, engineers, artists, authors”. It will also allow them to grant this citizenship to their families, and keep their existing citizenship. However, there will be clear criteria set for each category.

Today’s amendments are the first major change to the UAE nationality law No.17 of 1972 on Nationality and Passports, which states that anyone who was residing in one of the seven emirates in 1925 or before and continued to reside therein until the effective date of the law no. 17 of 1972, is a UAE national. Likewise, anyone born to an Emirati mother or father is a UAE national, and a foreign woman married to a UAE national is granted UAE citizenship. Prior to these amendments, the UAE nationality was acquired according to very strict rules by virtue of law, citizenship, or naturalization as per the provisions set according to Federal Law No. 17 of 1972 on Nationality and Passports.

These amendments represent a milestone in the history of the UAE. The country was known to restrict the naturalization process to very few and special cases and mostly ban dual citizenship. However, there has been criticism from several high-profile figures, including Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi, who challenged the fact that the children of female citizens don’t get the same rights as those of male citizens, so while the nationality has opened up to foreign investors, it still presents obstacles to locals.

In 2019, the UAE launched a permanent residency scheme for expatriates with a 10-year golden visa.

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