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Gulf countries launch permanent residency schemes

By Saifur Rahman

The oil-rich Gulf countries have started to introduce permanent residency to wealthy foreigners in order to retain the existing businesses and attract more foreign investors to support the economic growth.

Within days after Saudi Arabia announcing a ‘Green Card’ scheme for wealthy foreigners, the UAE on Tuesday announced a similar package – Golden Card – to retain the super-rich expatriates and attract more.

Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum on Tuesday announced the Golden Card scheme to grant permanent residency benefits to investors, entrepreneurs, specialised talents, researchers, and outstanding students.

“The Golden Card offers unprecedented benefits to the cardholders and their families, while creating an attractive environment for business and growth. The new permanent residency initiative has identified the first 6,800 qualified expats from over 70 countries, to benefit from the Golden Card scheme’s unprecedented benefits,” a statement by Dubai Government Media Office said.

The move comes weeks after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) report suggests that tighter financial conditions weigh on GCC economies.

The IMF has projected 2.8 per cent real GDP growth for 2019 compared to the earlier forecast of 3.6 per cent. According to the latest IMF projections, the UAE economy grew by 1.7 per cent against the October forecast of 2.9 per cent in 2018. GDP growth in GCC countries is expected to improve slightly to 2.1 per cent in 2019, up from 2 per cent in 2018.

The current investments of the identified 6,800 residents are estimated at Dh100 billion.

“The permanent residency Golden Card will be granted to exceptional talents and everyone who positively contributes to the success story of the UAE. We want them to be permanent partners in our journey. Residents are an indispensable part of our country. Throughout history, the UAE opened its door to millions of people seeking to pursue their dreams and better their lives. The Golden Card is our way to welcome all those seeking to be a part of the UAE’s success story and making it a second home,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said in a statement.

“We launched a new Golden Card system to grant permanent residency to investors and exceptional doctors, engineers, scientists and artists. The first batch of 6,800 investors with Dh100 billion worth of investments will be granted the Golden Card.

Welcoming the move, Atif Rahman, Director and Partner of Danube Properties, said“The UAE’s new Golden Card for permanent-visa residents will help to get more foreign direct investment and will boost FDI investment in the UAE, especially in Real estate sector as it is one of the strongest industry in this region.

“This initiative will change the economic landscape of the country and will have a profound impact in the UAE’s economy as a game-changer. It will also help creating new jobs in the real estate industry and overall. We are blessed with visionary leadership who continuously thrive to create economic opportunities for all of us and I am really happy to know the latest announcement. This is a new beginning and will help us grow in the UAE.”

Permanent residency is not a new scheme for countries willing to attract foreign talents. Singapore introduced permanent residency schemes decades ago and has benefitted in attracting foreign talents. The latest moves by the UAE and Saudi Arabia might be seen by many analysts as ‘too little, too late’.

“While for many years, specialized citizenship and residency by investment firms, such as Bluemina have even helped individuals from the Arab region gain citizenship in select countries in Europe (such as Malta, Cyprus) and the Caribbean (such as St Kitts & Nevis, Grenada) through their citizenship/residency schemes.”

“One of the key limitations of these schemes are that they target the super-rich people – who might already possess a permanent residency or passport of developed countries such as Canada, US, UK or Australia. So, the new schemes by Saudi Arabia and the UAE might not attract new investment, but help offer a comfort zone for the super-rich foreigners who will not have to renew their residency after every two or three years,” said an economic analyst, requesting anonymity.

However, Imran Farooq, Group CEO of Samana Group, who specialises in immigration services, welcomed the move, saying, “The latest ‘Gold Card for permanent-visa residents’ announcement by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, will strengthen Dubai’s position globally and will play a key role in attracting larger investment.

“The UAE’s leadership understands the needs of the country and we are very thankful to the country’s leadership for creating new opportunities. This is a good news for all of us as this will help the UAE’s overall economy and real estate sector to grow further with more FDI and will also help to solve the current economic downturn.”

Meanwhile, a new UBS bank survey found that the UAE investors are among the world’s most optimistic. High net worth individuals and business owners globally are optimistic and looking for opportunities to invest as markets rebound in 2019, according to UBS Global Wealth Management’s new quarterly Investor Sentiment survey.

The survey, which polled more than 3,600 wealthy investors and entrepreneurs in 17 countries, including the UAE, points to a rebound in bullish sentiment in the first three months of 2019 as markets recovered from the late-2018 slump. While respondents held a large proportion of their assets in cash, many expressed willingness to invest it, results show.

“With 83 percent of UAE investors optimistic about the local economy, and 78 percent expressing optimism on the global economy, the Gulf state registers as the most bullish of all regions surveyed. UAE investors hold similarly optimistic views on equities, with 80 percent of respondents in favour of local stocks. They are also among the most likely to have plans to invest more (62%), second only to Latin American investors (66%),” the report says.

Globally, fifty-one percent of investor respondents were optimistic on the global economy versus 21 percent who were pessimistic. Business owners were especially positive, with 62 percent optimistic and 15 percent pessimistic. Even more – 60 percent of investors and 68 percent of business owners – expressed optimism on their own region’s economy.

Ali Janoudi, Head of Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa at UBS Global Wealth Management, says: “It is encouraging to see such optimism paired with a strong desire to invest from UAE respondents. The findings confirm our view that the UAE should be considered a growth region for our business.”


Also published on Medium.