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The UAE: A Strategic Haven for High-Net-Worth Families

Philippe Amarante

Philippe Amarante

Philippe Amarante is the Head of Middle East at Henley & Partners.

The UAE has solidified its position as the premier destination for high-net-worth individuals globally, with a projected net inflow of over 6,700 millionaires in 2024 — more than any other country in the world.

This should not come as a surprise, as the UAE has been a top contender in attracting private capital and talent for quite some time. However, since investment-based migration is increasingly driven by a confluence of economic, geopolitical, and domestic social factors, the UAE provides a reliable, safe, and appealing environment for high-net-worth families.

The country's economic resilience, favorable tax policies, and world-class infrastructure, combined with its strategic location and political stability make it an ideal destination for global wealth and investment. There are multiple reasons behind the UAE’s attractiveness, such as premium real estate, investor friendly frameworks, large industrial announcements, and a highly sought-after residence by investment initiative, or golden visa.

Aerial view of Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai

Strategic vision and economic resilience

The UAE’s robust economic framework is a cornerstone of its appeal to high-net-worth families. For instance, the Dubai Economic Agenda ‘D33’ aims to double the economy by 2030 as well as to elevate Dubai into the ranks of the top three global cities for investment, living, and working. This ambitious plan involves a series of strategic initiatives designed to bolster economic growth, enhance the business environment, and improve the quality of life for residents. The agenda includes substantial investments in infrastructure, innovation, and digital transformation, positioning Dubai as a premier hub for international business and talent. Additionally, D33 emphasizes sustainability and smart city development, ensuring that Dubai remains a competitive and attractive destination for global investors and professionals.

This is complemented by Abu Dhabi’s Economic Vision 2030, which aims to revolutionize the emirate into a cutting-edge, globally competitive hub. It seeks to cultivate a vibrant business environment by implementing agile fiscal policies that respond swiftly to economic shifts and creating a robust financial system with stable inflation control. This enterprising strategy is dedicated to ensuring sustainable growth, positioning Abu Dhabi as a top-tier global destination for innovation, commerce, and investment, and driving long-term economic transformation and prosperity.

A testament to this long-term vision is the World Bank’s steady outlook for real GDP growth in the UAE for 2024 and 2025 of 3.9% and 4.1%, respectively, as well as a formidable ‘AA-’ Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer Default Rating by Fitch, which reflects the country’s moderate consolidated public debt level, strong net external asset position, and high GDP per capita.

Geographic advantage and trade agreements

The UAE’s strategic geographical location as a gateway between the East and the West further enhances its economic allure. This unique positioning facilitates international trade and investment, making it an attractive hub for global business operations.

Being home to the world’s 12th largest port, Port Jebel Ali, plays a pivotal role as it is strategically located at the crossroads of major global shipping routes connecting Asia, Europe, and Africa. This prime position enables the UAE to serve as a critical gateway for regional and international trade in the region. 

Supported by the extensive network of the two national air carriers, Emirates and Etihad Airways, the UAE is the gateway for trade and investment into emerging markets such as those in continental Africa and India. 

In May 2022, a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the UAE and India came into effect. This landmark trade agreement aims to increase bilateral trade in goods to USD 100 billion and trade in services to USD 15 billion within five years. By reducing or eliminating tariffs on over 80% of product lines, the CEPA enhances market access and trade flows between the two countries. The agreement also includes provisions for investment, services, intellectual property, and digital trade, fostering economic cooperation and creating opportunities for businesses to expand and thrive.

Additionally, this CEPA is expected to significantly boost non-oil trade, strengthen economic ties, and promote a collaborative business environment. The agreement has paved the way for enhanced cooperation in emerging technologies, climate action, and food security, underscoring the strategic importance of the UAE–India partnership. 

Favorable tax regime and accessible golden visa

A critical factor attracting high-net-worth investors to the UAE is its favorable tax regime. The absence of income tax, capital gains tax, and inheritance tax presents a highly advantageous fiscal environment for wealth preservation and growth. This tax advantage is particularly appealing to investors and business magnates seeking to optimize their wealth management strategies. 

The introduction of long-term residence visas for investors, entrepreneurs, and highly skilled professionals further augments the UAE’s attractiveness, providing a stable and secure environment for long-term planning and investment. UAE Residence by Investment, the country’s golden visa program, offers long-term residence to investors, entrepreneurs, and skilled professionals, with numerous investment categories available, including real estate, whereby investors can obtain a 10-year renewable residence visa by purchasing a property worth a minimum of AED 2 million (approximately USD 550,000).

Ultra-dynamic real estate market

With its wealth of luxury properties and high-end developments, the UAE’s real estate market is a significant draw for high-net-worth individuals.

In 2023, the Dubai Land Department recorded a historic 1.6 million real estate transactions, reflecting a 16.9% increase from the 1.368 million transactions in 2022. The total value of real estate transactions surpassed USD 173 billion, marking a 20% increase in value and a 36% rise in the number of transactions compared to the previous year. Real estate investments also saw substantial growth, with their value increasing by 55% to approximately USD 112 billion. There were 157,798 investments from 113,655 owners, including 71,002 new investors, representing a 20% increase. Notably, non-resident investors accounted for 42% of the new investors.

Premium quality of life and political stability and security

The UAE’s commitment to providing a high standard of living is evident in its world-class infrastructure, healthcare, education, and entertainment options. The nation’s ultra-modern cities, advanced transportation systems, and state-of-the-art facilities contribute to an exceptional quality of life, making it an attractive destination for high-net-worth individuals and their families. 

Furthermore, the UAE’s strategic investments in smart city initiatives and green energy projects underscore its commitment to innovation and sustainability, aligning with the values of environmentally conscious investors.

Political stability and security are paramount considerations for high-net-worth families when choosing a new residence. The UAE boasts a low crime rate and a stable political environment, providing a safe and secure haven for residents. The government’s proactive approach to ensuring safety and security further enhances the nation’s attractiveness as a destination for global wealth. Year after year, Abu Dhabi is ranked as the safest city in the world.

Cultural vibrance

The UAE’s cosmopolitan culture, characterized by a diverse expatriate population of over 200 nationalities living harmoniously and with a welcoming attitude towards newcomers, and vibrant social scene featuring numerous events, festivals, and activities, make the UAE one of the most social and multi-cultural countries in the world.

State-of-the-art immigration policies

Recent policy announcements and developments further underscore the UAE’s appeal to global citizens. The UAE’s Golden Visa program has been a game-changer, providing a stable and secure environment for expatriates. The government’s efficient response to the Covid-19 pandemic, including robust public health measures and a successful vaccination campaign, has reinforced the nation’s reputation as a safe and well-managed destination.

The UAE’s emergence as the leading destination for high-net-worth individuals once again in 2024 is the result of a well-crafted blend of economic stability, favorable tax policies, a thriving real estate market, exceptional quality of life, political stability, and a welcoming cultural environment. The strategic vision and ongoing commitment to innovation and development ensure that the Emirates will continue to attract and retain global wealth, solidifying its position as a premier hub for investment and wealth migration. As more high-net-worth investors and their families choose to reside in the UAE, the nation’s influence and appeal on the global stage will undoubtedly continue to grow.

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Henley & Partners assists international clients in obtaining residence and citizenship under the respective programs. Contact us to arrange an initial private consultation.


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