For decades, foreign professionals have played a key role in building the economies of Gulf states like the United Arab Emirates. Almost 90 percent of the country’s population is expatriate.
However, with a forecasted economic downturn due to the coronavirus pandemic and record low oil prices, a growing number of expatriates have begun to uproot.
Data firm Oxford Economics estimates that the UAE could lose 900,000 jobs among a population of under 10 million, meaning around 10 percent of its residents could be forced to leave during the ongoing pandemic.
Micha Emmett, the CEO of CS Global Partners, a London-based government advisory, credits the exodus in the UAE to a lack of citizenship rights offered to expats.
“Expatriates don’t have access to citizenship rights or social welfare benefits, which means you have no protection against expulsion by authorities and face a constant reliance on employment visas,” she said.
In February, Emirati officials took note of the exodus and announced plans to offer citizenship to select foreigners based on several criteria.
Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced that the new law would “allow granting the UAE citizenship to investors, specialized talents & professionals including scientists, doctors, engineers, artists, authors and their families. The new directives aim to attract talents that contribute to our development journey.”
Nonetheless, the foreigners must be nominated by UAE royals or officials, and the country’s Cabinet would ultimately get the final say.
The new policy seems like it is a big deal, but the specific details of the offering are not clear, said Emmett.
“The pathway to citizenship for expatriates is limited in scope as they have no agency to apply for citizenship in the UAE. It is more of a feel-good story than one that presents security to the UAE’s foreign workforce.”
“The reality is that this citizenship offer is really for the very small privileged handful of individuals that have lived in UAE for decades and decades but still have no rights to become citizens. It is not for those who come from countries with weak passports like Syria, Lebanon, India, and Pakistan.”
She explained that expatriates from countries with weaker passports resort to more promising avenues like Citizenship by Investment Programmes in regions like the Caribbean. Economic citizenship in islands like the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis has been a popular option in the Gulf for over a decade.
According to Emmett, CS Global Partners’ office in the Middle East has seen a sharp increase in interest in economic citizenship programmes like St Kitts and Nevis over the last two years, which does not have any travel, residency or language requirements.
The St Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment Programme
The St Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment Programme has long been regarded as the Platinum Standard of the industry and is known for its discreet approach, streamlined processing, and strict due diligence procedures. The Sustainable Growth Fund option is particularly popular amongst larger families who often have additional dependants, both children and grandchildren, to add to their application.
Under an extended limited time offer, families of up to four can gain citizenship for US$150,000 instead of US$195,000. After passing a strict vetting process and applying for a passport, new citizens gain the right to live, work, and travel to some of the most sought-after business hubs across the globe world.
“Citizenship by Investment can be the perfect Plan B to gain control and security for your family and your finances in difficult times like this pandemic.”
“You don’t have to wait for Royals to choose you. You get to decide,” Emmett concluded.