UAE to offer some foreigners citizenship amid COVID-19 pandemic
United Arab Emirates says it will offer citizenship to some
DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates on Saturday (Jan 30) announced plans to grant some foreigners citizenship as part of efforts to stimulate its economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
This is a rare move for the Gulf state, where the status and its welfare benefits are jealously guarded.
The UAE previously gave citizenship to Palestinians and others who helped form the country's government after its formation in 1971. Others have received it over time as well.
Saturday's announcement by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai who also serves as the autocratic nation's prime minister and vice president, said "investors, specialised talents and professionals including scientists, doctors, engineers, artists, authors and their families" would be eligible for naturalisation under the new amendment.
Sheikh Mohammed wrote on Twitter that hereditary rulers in the country's seven emirates and at the federal level would nominate those for citizenship. Those granted citizenship also would be able to keep their initial citizenship.
It wasn't immediately clear if the citizenship also would grant rights to the UAE's cradle-to-grave social programmes for its people.
The UAE government said the amendment to the citizenship law "aims at appreciating the talents and competencies present in the UAE and attracting more bright minds to the Emirati community".
Citizens make up a small minority of the population of the UAE, which has a huge migrant labour force, largely from South Asia, some of whom are second or third generation residents.
The UAE also has a growing community of wealthy expats attracted by the low tax regime and the luxury megaprojects and tourist attractions of the larger emirates.
The wealthy oil states of the Gulf have long guaranteed their citizens a high standard of living through reserved jobs and a cradle-to-grave welfare system.
To protect it, they have seldom allowed naturalisations.
In November, the UAE announced plans to overhaul of the country’s Islamic personal laws, allowing unmarried couples to cohabitate, loosening alcohol restrictions and criminalising so-called “honour killings.”