Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 June 2019

The Golden Card scheme is part of a sparkling future for the UAE

For the first time, foreign nationals now have the chance to become permanent residents

Sheikh Mohammed said the visa scheme was 'our way to welcome all those seeking to be a part of the UAE’s success story'. Wam
Sheikh Mohammed said the visa scheme was 'our way to welcome all those seeking to be a part of the UAE’s success story'. Wam

News of the “Golden Card” permanent residency programme has been met with excitement across the UAE. Rightly so, given what it could mean for many foreign residents who have chosen to make their homes here.

It will also be greeted with pragmatic interest by those of us who have been in the Emirates for a number of years. Before coming to any conclusions about the scheme, we will wait until we understand all the practicalities, which will become clearer in the weeks and months ahead.

The idea of permanent residency in the UAE has not come out of the blue. We have been drawing closer to something like this for a few years now, but this announcement, via Twitter, by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, has triggered the feeling that we are in an era of truly immense change.

Other Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia are taking similar steps. Countries such as Singapore show the benefits of providing long-term stability for immigrants, in stark contrast to the charged political atmosphere surrounding this issue in the US and Europe.

This latest move by the UAE’s leadership underscores the nation’s warm welcome to those who seek to bring their skills and talents to the Emirates. The programme adds to the values of diversity and co-operation that the country stands for.

Placed alongside this Year of Tolerance and the principles of the Founding Father, highlighted during the previous Year of Zayed, it offers a clear picture of where the UAE is today and where it is heading in the future.

Thirty years ago, the nation did not have the scale and breadth of infrastructure that it has now, from aviation and ports to roads, hospitals and schools.

The rapid pace of development necessary to bring the leadership's plans to fruition required a specific approach, in order to concentrate talent, capital and resources, and create a society that stands as a beacon of stability in a volatile region.

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Business Extra: Golden Card permanent visas

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Reaching for the sky, the UAE first created Emirates and then Etihad Airways. Liberal trade policies allowed the country to become a global hub for the movement of goods. Giving foreign nationals the right to buy property in free zones accelerated the development of a burgeoning real estate sector. As a result, people and investment have flowed into the UAE.

As the country grew, so did the opportunities for wealth creation. Emiratis have enthusiastically participated in the development of their nation, presiding over its transformation into a place that grabs the world’s attention.

Increasing numbers of people from overseas continue to be drawn to the many opportunities offered by the UAE. Having built fulfilling work and family lives, many have spent years longer here than they initially planned. But all have done so knowing that their time in the Emirates was, ultimately, temporary.

That is, until now.

The UAE has evolved beyond a hard focus on the development of infrastructure. Accordingly, it is now placing increased emphasis on wellbeing, culture and the adoption and integration of cutting-edge technology.

The world has changed immeasurably in the past 10 years. The region continues to deal with the consequences of 9/11, the Iraq war and the financial crisis, but the internet and artificial intelligence have revolutionised the way we live and work. Paradigms have shifted and younger generations have different priorities to those of their parents.

At the start of this year, Sheikh Mohammed defined what kind of place Dubai is, based on eight principles. They included access to a fair system of justice, quality healthcare, the nurturing of talent and an environment of tolerance and respect.

A first batch of 6,800 Golden Card recipients has already been selected. While the initiative may not be for everyone, the possibility of permanent residency for foreign nationals speaks to an inspiring future.

In 2019, we have already had a visit from a Pope and hosted the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi. Next year Dubai will be home to Expo 2020. There are many more such events to come.

The UAE is on an exciting journey, and now there is a chance to become a permanent part of it. This is something meaningful to aspire to and builds on the feeling of belonging that is becoming increasingly essential to the country’s success.

Mustafa Alrawi is an assistant editor-in-chief at The National

Updated: May 23, 2019 10:37 AM

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