Sana Bouchedid and Remy Hachem - How this Dubai based singer applied for her 10-year cultural visa
Sana Bouchedid (right) applied for her 10-year Cultural Visa earlier this year. Her husband, too, was able to get the 10-year visa under her sponsorship. Both Bouchedid and Hachem are musicians based in Dubai. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Wondering what the experience is like applying for the Golden Visa under the ‘creative people of culture and art’ category in Dubai? Check out what Dubai-based vocalist and vocal coach Sana Bouchedid has to say about her personal experience.

Since the announcement by the UAE government expanding the eligibility criteria for the 10-year Golden Visa, many visas have been issued to different categories of applicants – investors, entrepreneurs, outstanding students as well as pioneers of humanitarian work. One of the categories, as per the new announcement, was that of outstanding specialised talents. This category includes doctors, scientists, creative people of culture and art and others.

For each of these categories, you would first need to receive a recommendation letter from the concerned authority in your field of specalisation.

For Bouchedid, who is a Lebanese national and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Jazz Musicology, this authority was Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture). She is married to Remi Hachem, who is also a professional musician. Together, they opened their music school and recording studio ‘Sonocraft Studios’ in Lebanon, back in 2016. The couple moved to Dubai in 2020 to explore the region, and were on a visa from their newly registered company in the UAE.

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“Am I eligible for applying for the Dubai Golden Visa under the ‘creative people of culture and art’ category?”

This was the question Bouchedid asked herself before beginning her journey applying for the visa. After navigating the website of Dubai Culture –, Bouchedid decided to give it a try as a singer, given the fact that her experience in the field aligned highly with the criteria for this particular category.

Different categories under the Cultural Visa
These are the specialties you can select from, to apply for the Cultural Visa:
1. Artist
2. Actor
3. Archeologist
4. Architect
5. Author
6. Calligrapher
7. Cinema fashion designer
8. Cinema interior designer
9. Cinema lighting engineer
10. Cinema sound engineer
11. Creative content creator
12. Critic
13. Culinary art
14. Cultural content creator
15. Curator
16. Dancer
17. Designer
18. Digital artist
19. Editor
20. Fashion designer
21. Fine art
22. Graphic designer
23. Interior designer
24. Jewellery designer
25. Lecturer
26. Movie maker
27. Music arranger
28. Music composer
29. Musician
30. Photographer
31. Poet
32. Publisher
33. Researcher
34. Scriptwriter
35. New register
36. Singer
37. Story teller
38. Theatre sound engineer
39. Theatre, cinema author
40. Theatre, cinema director
41. Theatre, cinema makeup artist
42. Theatre, cinema producer
43. Theatre fashion designer
44. Theatre interior designer
45. Theatre lighting designer
46. Translator
47. Writer

Bouchedid started her application in July 2022. Depending on the volume of applicants and the complexity of the applicants’ profile, it may take time for the approval to be granted. For Bouchedid, she got her approval via email in early September 2022.

One day after Bouchedid got her approval, she also received a recommendation letter via email titled ‘Certificate of accreditation for the category of creators of culture and art’, along with her name, from Dubai Culture.

Here are some points worth noting, at this stage, as per Dubai Culture:

• Obtaining the approval from Dubai Culture does not equal to final approval of the Golden Visa, it is a conditional approval as part of the required procedures to obtain other approvals from local and/or federal authorities concerned with issuing the visa.

• The age allowed to apply for the approval is 25 years and above.

• Dubai Culture reserves the right to reject any application without clarifying the reasons.

• Dubai Culture will not receive any application submitted by companies or service centres, as the submission is by the applicant personally.

From the beginning…

Step 1: Filling out the cultural visa request form

Bouchedid first filled out the request form for the cultural visa on the website.

According to Dubai Culture, this service revolves around granting the Creative and Talented Accreditation Certificate (also known as recommendation letter), to issue a long-term cultural visa in order to attract talented people, artists, and creators. You can access the form by visiting this link:

Get your documents ready

To apply for Dubai Golden Visa through ‘creative people of culture and art’, you will need to prepare the following documents, according to Dubai Culture:

• Creative portfolio (a profile including your name, specialisation and nationality, experiences, artistic productions or services, including achievements, contributions, and participations)
• Professional CV
• List of awards and recognitions
• Details of community contributions
• Academic credentials
• Memberships and affiliations
• Employment type
• Income sustainability/financial stability
• Passport copy
• Emirates ID copy (If applicable)
• Current visa copy (If applicable)

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“I had all the documents as a soft copy and uploading them was very easy. The hardest part was creating the artist portfolio and it actually took me a couple weeks to complete,” Sana said.

She shared details of the creative portfolio she built, to submit to Dubai Culture:

• A list of her social media profiles (Facebook, Instagram and Youtube)
• Links to some of her TV appearances (Interviews and performances)
• Link to her professional website
• Posters of the events she participated in, organised, or performed in
• Pictures of her stage performances
• Pictures of her with celebrities she worked and/or performed with
• Links of her students’ TV appearances – some of her students participated in the famous talent show ‘The Voice Kids’.
• Pictures of her students performing on stage and recording at the studio.

I had all the documents as a soft copy and uploading them was very easy. The hardest part was creating the artist portfolio and it actually took me a couple weeks to complete.

- Sana Bouchedid, Dubai-based vocalist and vocal coach

Besides the creative portfolio, Bouchedid also provided other documents as per the list provided above. However, her first application was rejected. She was successful in her second attempt.

“It may have been rejected because my CV was not updated properly. I did not give the complete picture of my achievements, and although I mentioned that I was a vocal coach and had lots of my students performing and appearing on TV, I did not include picture evidence or links to their videos. I also missed mentioning my TV appearances,” Bouchedid said.

After the first application was rejected, she went through all her documents, reached out to her students and gathered evidence to support each documentation including her achievements, awards, recognitions, and her community contributions.

Learning from Bouchedid’s experience, it is important for you to follow documentation guidelines in the links provided above, create a comprehensive creative portfolio listing all details in your career stories, and provide related evidence.

Step 2: Receiving the approval from Dubai Culture

Following this she got her approval and letter of recommendation from Dubai Culture. After this begins the process of applying for the Golden Visa.

Step 3: Applying for the Golden visa

With the approval and recommendation letter in hand, you can then start the visa application process.

Here are the documents you need in this step, as per the Amer Centre. Amer centres are responsible for processing visa requests on behalf of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) Dubai:

• Emirates ID Copy or Dubai visa copy (if applicable)
• Passport copy
• Dubai Culture approval and recommendation letter
• White background recent photo
• Curriculum vitae

You have the option to submit your application online as well as through an Amer centre.

As for Bouchedid, there was a link for her to continue with the visa application process online in the emails she received from Dubai Culture. The email also suggested to her that she had the option to go to an Amer center to continue the process.

She decided to apply for the visa with the help of a third-party service centre, to whom she handed over all her required documents. She started her application with them on September 23, 2022, and got the pre-approval of her application after seven working days.

She also received an email asking her to go for her medical fitness test and to cancel her current residence visa to complete the Golden Visa process.

She also called Amer Centre to confirm which of these steps she should complete first – cancel the visa or go for a medical fitness test. As per the suggestion from Amer Centre, she went for the medical test first. She received the result within the same day. She then proceeded to cancel her residence visa.

As soon as she canceled her visa, which was on October 20, 2022, the final approval of her Golden Visa was issued. She instantly got an email stating that she can proceed for the visa stamping process.

The next day, she went to a nearby Amer Center with her passport, and they stamped the new visa on her passport.

Sponsor visa for Bouchedid’s husband

One of the many benefits of the 10-year Golden Visa is that it allows you to sponsor your immediate family members for the same duration. Once she had her Golden Visa, Bouchedid applied for her husband’s visa under her sponsorship.

How much did it cost?

While there was no cost involved in the Cultural Visa request form, once you receive the accreditation certificate from Dubai Culture, these are the costs you will have to keep in mind for the subsequent steps:

- Residency fees - Dh2,790
- Emirates ID fees – Dh1,070
- Medical test fees – Dh268.26

Tips to keep in mind

• Prepare your artist portfolio early.
• Have an exisiting visa, with the duration long enough for you to proceed for the Golden visa application.
• Proceed for the medical test first, wait for the result, before cancelling your old visa.