This question is one of the greatest sources of debate between expatriates in the Emirates. It is one of the dilemmas among expats in the Emirates wanting to get dual citizenship. The answer, however, is basically a no; at the moment, at least. In fact, only citizens born in the Emirates or married to Emirates citizens can officially receive citizenship with a very limited amount of exceptions; in particular, a foreign national married to an Emirati can obtain citizenship only after ten years of marriage and proving that marriage has not been celebrated just with that aim in mind. In the latest years, however, there has been a push towards the creation of new possibilities for some categories of expatriates as well as clear processes for a path to citizenship.
Today, the UAE is a successful country thanks to a number of factors including the work of many foreigners who have spent several decades as residents and do not know any other home. Although no official announcement has yet been made, it is feasible that the Emirates government is taking into consideration the possible benefits of creating a naturalization process for businesspeople, scientists and entrepreneurs who can help continue the future growth of the country with their work and companies.
Up to today, even permanent residency in the UAE is not possible. In fact, residency is only temporary and normally valid for three years, but permits may be renewed. The process can be done as many times as foreigners like until they reach retirement age, after which the permit cannot be further renewed. The retirement age for expats is normally 60 years, although the Ministry of Labour can approve requests for work permits for people up to age 65. UAE is working on a special visa for some limited categories of people that can greatly contribute to UAE’s economy and lifestyle, but many expats who are now calling the country home are pushing for a widespread change in hope to be able to live in the country also after retirement.
As for citizenship paths, there are signs that changes are coming. In 2011 UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan signed a decree allowing children of Emirati mothers and expats fathers to obtain the citizenship. Thousands of new citizens were quickly naturalized: new lymph for the future workforce.
New provisions might be added eventually as the need to retain talents grows stronger in the UAE. A review of the paths to naturalization and a systematic and practical way for foreign individual to acquire citizenship of the UAE might be needed to give new impetus to the vitality of the country.
In this fluid situation, it is always better to check with experts on future developments in this field and for information on setting up a business in the UAE even as non-resident.