Emirati nationality law

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Federal Law No.17 of 1972
Emblem of the United Arab Emirates.svg
Parliament of the United Arab Emirates
Enacted byGovernment of the United Arab Emirates
Status: Current legislation

Emirati nationality law governs citizenship eligibility in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The law is governed by Federal Law No.17 of 1972 concerning nationality and passports. It is primarily jus sanguinis. Foreigners may be naturalized and granted citizenship, but the process is limited due to the declining Emirati population and fears of national identity loss.[1] Gulf Cooperation Council citizens (except Qatar) are allowed to live in the UAE without restriction and have the right of freedom of movement.[2]

Birth in United Arab Emirates[edit]

In general, birth in the United Arab Emirates does not, in itself, confer Emirati citizenship as its law utilize jus sanguinis policy. Exceptions are made for foundlings.


According to United Arab Emirates Law No.17 of 1972 the following shall be deemed an Emirati citizen by law:[3]

  • Any Arab family settled in any of the member Emirates during or before year 1925, and who has maintained his regular residence until the date of enforcement of this law.
  • A child born in the United Arab Emirates or abroad to an Emirati father.
  • A child born in the United Arab Emirates or abroad to an Emirati mother and whose affiliation to the father is not legally established.
  • A child born in the United Arab Emirates or abroad to an Emirati mother and of unknown or stateless father.
  • A child born in the United Arab Emirates of unknown parents. Unless otherwise established, the foundling shall be deemed born in the State.

Children born to an Emirati father or an unknown or stateless father and an Emirati mother are Emirati citizens by descent, irrespective of the place of birth. Until 2017, children born to an Emirati mother and a foreign father had the right to apply and receive the Emirati citizenship once they reached age 18 if they desired.[4][5] This law has been amended in October 2017 and Emirati mothers can now confer the Emirati nationality to their children once they reach 6 years old.[6]


A foreign female married to an Emirati male may acquire citizenship provided that the marriage lasts for at least 7 years with the condition of having at least one child, or 10 years in the absence of children. The wife of a naturalized male citizen may also acquire the Emirati citizenship.[3]


Naturalization is limited due to fears of Emirati national identity and conservative culture loss which are both considered under threat due to foreigners outnumbering the native Emirati people 5 to 1.[7]

According to federal law number 17 of 1972, nationality is granted to a foreigner if he or she fulfills the following conditions and is:[3]

  • An Arab with ancestral origins in Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar who has settled in the United Arab Emirates legally for at least 3 years and has maintained a good reputation and has not been convicted of crimes.
  • Arab individual who enjoys full legal capacity, has continuously and lawfully resided in the member emirates for at least 7 years directly before the date of submitting naturalisation application, has lawful source of income, is of good reputation and good conduct, and not convicted for any offence involving moral turpitude or dishonesty.
  • Any person with Arabic proficiency who has settled in the United Arab Emirates legally since 1940 and has maintained a good reputation and has not been convicted of crimes.
  • Any person with Arabic proficiency who has settled in the United Arab Emirates legally for no less than 30 years with at least 20 years spent after effective date of law 17 of 1972 and has maintained a good reputation and has not been convicted of crimes.

United Arab Emirates state citizenship may be granted without observing specified residency periods in the following instances:[3]

Any person who wish to apply for naturalization has to be proficient in Arabic language, has a legal source of income and a continuous residence in the United Arab Emirates, has an academic qualification, does not have a bad reputation, and has not been convicted of any crime. A person convicted for misdemeanor or dishonesty may apply on the condition of fulfilling recuperation or rehabilitation. A wife of an Emirati national does not need to have an academic qualification to be eligible for naturalization.[3]

Nationality is granted after the fulfillment of the following:[3]

  • A state security background check.
  • A ceremony in which the person is sworn allegiance to the United Arab Emirates.

The right to vote or the right to a nomination at parliament or governmental authority is limited to the citizens who are Emirati citizens by descent. Nationality is only granted once.[3]

Dual citizenship[edit]

Dual citizenship is prohibited by the law of the UAE.[8][9]

Loss of citizenship[edit]

A citizen by descent may forfeit the nationality in the following instances:[3]

  • If he or she engages in military service of foreign state without an authorization from the United Arab Emirates government and despite been instructed to abandon the service.
  • If he or she acts for the interest of an enemy state.
  • If he or she willingly accepts the citizenship and be naturalized by the nationality of a foreign state.

A citizen by naturalization may additionally forfeit the nationality in the following instances:[3]

  • If he or she commits or attempts to commit any act deemed dangerous against the state's security and safety.
  • If he or she is convicted repeatedly for disgraceful crimes.
  • If any forgery, fraud or adulteration appears in information used as proof for acquisition of nationality.
  • If he or she resides outside the United Arab Emirates without a valid excuse for a period in excess of four consecutive years.

Citizens are allowed to voluntarily give up Emirati citizenship.

Renouncing citizenship is viewed as a shame within the Emirati community, as citizenship is usually attributed to the Emirati community sense of national identity, its particularly hard to attain, and it entitles the holder various benefits.[10]

Travel freedom of Emirati citizens[edit]

Visa requirements for Emirati citizens
  Freedom of movement
  Visa free access
  Visa on arrival
  Visa available both on arrival or online
  Visa required

As of 9 October 2018, Emirati citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 161 countries and territories, ranking the Emirati passport 21st in the world terms of travel freedom (tied with Barbadian and Israeli passports) according to the Henley Passport Index.[11] As of 2 December 2018, Emirati citizens had a visa-free or visa on arrival access to 167 countries and terrirotires, ranking the Emirati passport 1st in the world in terms of travel freedom according to The Passport Index.[12]

Lawful permanent residency[edit]

In May 2019, in an attempt to establish the United Arab Emirates as home to the large number of expatriate population, the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced a permanent residency scheme.[13] Subject to additional criteria, investors and professionals in healthcare, engineering, science and art would be eligible for permanent residency, also called Gold card. The permanent residency scheme is expected to generate foreign investment, encourage entrepreneurship, and attract engineers, scientists and students of exceptional caliber.[14] 6800 investors whose total investments exceed Dh100b, comprise the first batch of gold card recipients.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sooud Al Qassemi (22 Sep 2013). "Give expats an opportunity to earn UAE citizenship". gulfnews.com. Retrieved 21 Feb 2015.
  2. ^ "UAE visa information". emirates.com.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Federal Law No. 17 of 1972". UAE Ministry of Justice. Retrieved 2018-01-23.
  4. ^ Issa, Wafa (30 November 2011). "Children of Emirati mothers, expatriate fathers offered citizenship". The National. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  5. ^ "CHALLENGES TO CITIZENSHIP IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA REGION" (PDF). London School of Economics. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  6. ^ Abdulmalik, Asma (29 November 2017). "Emiratis are united by values". Gulf News.
  7. ^ Habboush, Mahmoud (10 October 2013). "Call to naturalise some expats stirs anxiety in the UAE". Reuters.
  9. ^ https://transferwise.com/au/blog/how-to-get-citizenship-in-the-uae
  10. ^ "More than 250 Emiratis have switched to become British citizens in 22 years, UK figures show". 22 May 2014.
  11. ^ "Global Ranking – Visa Passport Index". Henley & Partners. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  12. ^ "UAE passport is world's strongest for visa-free travel". Times of Israel. 4 December 2018.
  13. ^ Dubai, WAM (May 21, 2019). "Sheikh Mohammed announces UAE permanent residency scheme". Khaleej Times. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  14. ^ Reynolds, Rory; Talwar Badam, Ramola (May 21, 2019). "Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid unveils gold card for permanent-visa residents". The National. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  15. ^ Report, Staff (May 21, 2019). "Shaikh Mohammad launches permanent residency system in the UAE, benefits 6,800 investors in the first batch". Gulf News. Retrieved May 28, 2019.