The UAE announced Saturday it is opening a path to citizenship for select foreigners, in a rare move for the Gulf where the status and its welfare benefits are jealously guarded.
Dubai ruler and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al-Maktoum said "investors, specialised talents and professionals including scientists, doctors, engineers, artists, authors and their families" would be eligible for naturalisation under the new amendment.
"The UAE cabinet, local emiri courts and executive councils will nominate those eligible for the citizenship under clear criteria set for each category," Sheikh Mohammed said.
"The law allows receivers of the UAE passport to keep their existing citizenship."
The UAE government said the amendment to the citizenship law "aims at appreciating the talents and competencies present in the UAE and attracting more bright minds to the Emirati community".
Citizens make up a small minority of the population of the UAE, which has a huge migrant labour force, largely from south Asia, some of whom are second or third generation residents.
The UAE also has a growing community of wealthy expats attracted by the low tax regime and the luxury megaprojects and tourist attractions of the larger emirates.
The wealthy oil states of the Gulf have long guaranteed their citizens a high standard of living through reserved jobs and a cradle to grave welfare system.
To protect it, they have seldom allowed naturalisations.
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