The UAE has been one of the preferred working locations for expats given its warm climate and tax advantages.
And when the country introduced its golden visa scheme in 2019, it undoubtedly attracted a lot of interest.
The visas issued are for either five or 10 years.
The requirements for both are very similar, with one of the main differences being the sum required to be invested: for the former its at least AED5m in a property in the UAE, while the latter is of at least AED10m (£2m, $2.7m, €2.3m) in a local investment fund.
Nigel Sillitoe, chief executive of UAE-based Insight Discovery, has recently been granted a 10-year golden visa in the country, and he spoke with International Adviser about his experience in getting one.
He found the application “very straight forward”, also helped by the fact that he hired a public relations officer (PRO), as they deal with government agencies in the UAE.
“I was nominated back in January  and received my 10-year residency within six weeks,” he said. “There are three ways to apply, either directly via the government golden visa website, being recommended by an influencer – such as a senior Emirati – or being a VIP being courted by the prime minister’s office.
“Unfortunately, I never received my call from the PMs office,” Sillitoe jokingly said.
He started looking into the scheme after several friends and business contacts obtained one – as he said now over 50,000 people in the UAE have been granted a golden visa.
“When I investigated further, it soon became obvious that I would be mad not to apply, ” he added. “Besides the status of being granted a golden visa, the main benefit is that I no longer have to apply to renew my residency every two years.
“More importantly, it saves money as the upfront fee for a 10-year golden visa is just AED4,500, a big saving over renewing your residency every two years over 10 years.”
If applicants cannot secure a recommendation, however, self-sponsorship can be an attractive route, Sillitoe said, especially for employees of a company.
“Let’s take the example of an executive working for a financial advisory business in Dubai,” he said. “If this individual decides to take some time off or is fired, with a golden visa they can stay in the country and maintain their bank accounts and rental agreement.
“If, however, you don’t have a golden visa, you lose your job and cannot find a new role within three months, which will in turn provide you with a two-year residency, you have no option but to leave the country and have your credit cards and bank accounts closed.
“The only way around this is to set up a company and sponsor yourself, however, this can be pretty expensive, plus you still have to renew your residency every two years.
“Another benefit is that if there was another covid variant and the UAE introduced a new travel lockdown, if you were stuck overseas but held a golden visa you could still enter the country. This exemption I believe only applies to Emiratis and golden visa holders.”
Sillitoe emphasised how important it was for him to have a professional figure guiding him through the process.
“I outsourced it to a PRO, a great investment considering it cost just AED1,000.”
He did warn future applicants to make sure the PRO they choose is accredited with the golden visa agency.
Sillitoe said that, before applying, candidates should make sure they have a “a terrific biography, which spells out your career, how long you have lived in the UAE, what contribution you have made and your future plans whilst living here”.
People should also time their applications right and make sure they make their submissions during a period where they don’t have any travel plans because “the PRO will need your passport for what could be just one week or several weeks, depending on where you are within the queue”.