Back in June 2019, when the UAE started issuing Golden Visas to the first batch of 6,800 investors and other nominees, it ushered in a new era of long-term residency for expatriates in the country. The move followed an announcement to this effect by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, a month earlier.
Ever since, the list of Golden Visa holders in the country has steadily grown to include not just high net worth investors, but also entrepreneurs, specialised talent, researchers and outstanding students, besides distinguished names, including celebrities, from overseas.
Considering it’s nearing three years already since the UAE Golden Visa was launched, it is a good time, perhaps, to find out what difference it has made to the recipients.
Indeed, as every Golden Visa aspirant wants to know, just how has life for Golden Visa holders changed during this time?
Stability, long-term planning
To begin with, the Golden Visa has undeniably provided residents a strong sense of stability. Many of them say it has given them the confidence to make long-term plans and commitments, both on the personal and professional front. Whether they have invested in a business or are doing a regular job, the Golden Visa has eliminated the insecurity of having to suddenly pack their bags and fly home within a 30-day grace period should things go wrong.
Some residents who lost their jobs during the pandemic say their new status went a long way in helping them survive the setback. Thanks to self-sponsorship under the Golden Visa scheme, they were able to stay on in the UAE with no undue pressure, look for alternate employment and land new jobs. They were also thankful that they could sponsor their spouses and children, including adult sons, where eligible, and keep the family together.
Besides self-sponsorship, many are availing the Golden Visa provision on full ownership of a business in the mainland, which in turn comes with a host of benefits. Foreign investors have been allowed to extend the visa to business partners, provided they have a stipulated contribution in the investment, besides getting advisors and executive directors on board on their sponsorship.
Blessing for travelers
The Golden Visa has also proved to be a big blessing for travelers. And who better to vouch for this than those residents who could fly back to the UAE from their home countries even amid flight suspensions during the peak of the pandemic? Like Emiratis and diplomats, Golden Visa holders were exempted from the travel ban, and some of them even flew solo, with entire planes of over 200 seats to themselves. A couple of businessmen who made headlines when they returned to the UAE under this exemption say it was a lifetime experience for which they are truly thankful.
Another positive of holding a Golden Visa concerns the sheer convenience and cost savings when it comes to visa renewals. Unlike other categories of visas, which must be renewed every two or three years, the Golden Visa provides an extended validity, with the need for renewal and the pre-requisite formalities, including medical fitness tests, coming up only after five or 10 years. The cost savings that this allows residents over the long term is certainly not lost on them.
Driving licence and other incentives
In addition to the above benefits, a number of incentives are being provided to residents with the Golden Visa. In Dubai, for instance, residents with a Golden Visa can get a driving licence without the need for training if they already have a valid licence issued by their home country. According to the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority, they only need to complete the knowledge and road tests.
In Abu Dhabi, the Abu Dhabi Residents Office (ARDO) has specially announced discounts on car purchases, priority booking for new releases, offers on stay, dining and spa treatments at premium destinations, besides reduced premiums on annual health insurance plans for Golden Visa recipients.
In a recent move, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) also launched a new banking proposition designed exclusively for UAE Golden Visa customers so they can benefit from mortgages at an attractive interest rate. New ADCB Golden Visa customers were also promised exclusive rewards.
That’s up until now.
By the look of things, Golden Visa residents can only expect the list of incentives across the emirates to grow as time goes by. And what matters is not just the perks and privileges. There’s also the immense pride and honour that comes with being nominated and granted the UAE Golden Visa. As a grateful recipient myself, I can say it’s a feeling I deeply cherish.