The new citizenship law in the UAE (or United Arab Emirates) was recently announced and has been met with a lot of curiosity. The previously strict rule of not giving citizenship to foreigners was recently revised to now allow ‘talented’ individuals an opportunity to call UAE their homeland. While this news seems exciting from the first gaze, the intricacies of the law are blurry and what this means for normal immigrants in the country is yet to be discussed.
The new law only grants citizenship to certain individuals. These individuals also need to possess qualities that are deemed as ‘talented’ and can be seen as an asset to the economy. According to the Hindustan Times, professionals from arts, medicine and business can appeal for citizenship for their families and themselves. However, the requirements for the application process are based on their career field. For example, eligibility for a doctor is based on what he or she specializes in. It needs to be a specialization that is in demand in the UAE with a contribution to important research in their field. They will also need to have more than 10 years of experience and possess membership in a recognized organization specific to their field. The Emirati government’s goal is to add people who can contribute to the country in every aspect to build the economy. This means that the criteria to be eligible for citizenship are exceptionally narrow and challenging. While professionals of high income and expertise may find it easy to procure citizenship, the same cannot be said for low-income immigrants with jobs that are not mentioned in the eligibility criteria. According to Cross Link International, the new law will help in the process of expats being able to retain dual citizenship which was previously banned by the Emirati government.
According to Global Media Insight, almost 88.52% of the population is composed of immigrants and expats. Most of these immigrants work in construction, hospitality and provide manpower that is crucial for the country’s growth as a developed nation. However, most of these immigrants are on a visa that is tied to their work field. Many work for years and live in the UAE only to eventually move back to their home country. The new amendments that were done to the citizenship law overlook many of the immigrants who have contributed to the thriving of the economy. For many living in the UAE, it is a dream to one day call the country their home. The citizenship law in the UAE is passed through nomination by an official or a UAE royal and has to be approved by the country’s Cabinet. This means that each person is examined thoroughly before being considered for citizenship. The prospect for an immigrant who is not a wealthy individual to get citizenship in the country would be extremely difficult due to this new approach.
While these new changes do open up the country and allow inclusivity in terms of more foreign investment and socio-cultural changes in the long term, the details of what the newly appointed citizens would receive from the government are still unclear. This is because the current citizens already enjoy an array of benefits as the government spends billions of dollars on free education, healthcare, property loans, and etc. However, it is also important to note that in the long run, it would be exhaustive to extend the same benefits to all of the country’s new citizens too.
The current immigration system does not serve many benefits to visa holders in the country. Most expats working in the country use a work visa which needs to be renewed and the naturalization process in the UAE usually takes around 30 years. The human rights situation for many immigrant workers is poor. Especially since the pandemic started many have been stranded with no way to get home while most employers did nothing to help. These conditions are mainly experienced by workers that companies source from countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh for workforce. This can be used as a reminder of how important these immigrant workers are for a country that heavily relies on tourism using its infrastructure. These workers contribute a large aspect to the country’s growth and its GDP. Yet, there is a need for reforms in sectors regarding the treatment of immigrant workers.
For the most part, the new citizenship law in the UAE is focused on increasing foreign investments and driving up the incentive for foreign nationals to come and contribute to the UAE’s economy. This law has both its advantages and disadvantages and therefore needs to be examined before proceeding. The law does not benefit all the sectors of the Emirati economy. The long-term effects of this law are yet to be determined and so for now one can only hope that the new changes bring a positive outcome.
By Lithia Anil – YLT Staff