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Dubai billion-dollar secret: Why the world’s elite are whispering (and moving)

Beneath the glittering facade of Dubai, a quiet exodus is underway. Not of refugees fleeing war or poverty, but of billionaires, the captains of industry, the titans of finance, discreetly packing their bags and whispering of a new El Dorado in the sun-drenched sands.

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Gone are the days of seeking havens in the Swiss Alps or Caribbean retreats. The sheikhs of the United Arab Emirates have woven a siren song for the world’s ultra-wealthy, a symphony of tax-free havens, sun-kissed extravagance, and desert-forged ambition that’s proving irresistible to those with more money than they know what to do with.

But why Dubai? What hidden alchemy has transformed this once-sleepy trading outpost into a magnet for the world’s wealthiest? Is it the promise of boundless luxury, where million-dollar apartments come with private helipads and million-dollar cars line the boulevards? Or is it a cunningly-crafted web of financial sorcery, where fortunes can be multiplied in the freewheeling bazaars of the digital currency exchange?

Perhaps it’s something more profound. Perhaps it’s the intoxicating whisper of a new frontier, a place where ambition, unshackled by the iron grip of regulation, can soar on the thermals of unfettered capitalism. In Dubai, billionaires aren’t just residents; they’re founding fathers, architects of a glittering Xanadu rising from the desert sands, a testament to the power of wealth and the audacity of dreams.

But whispers have a way of turning into shouts. What began as a trickle of the ultra-wealthy is fast becoming a flood. And as the spotlight on Dubai intensifies, the questions multiply. Is this paradise or mirage? A land of opportunity or a gilded cage for the restless rich?

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Journey into the heart of Dubai

In this article, we’ll delve into the seductive allure of Dubai, peeling back the layers of luxury and ambition to uncover the truth behind the billionaire migration. We’ll meet the power players, the visionaries, and the sceptics who are shaping the city’s fate. We’ll explore the financial labyrinths, the legal loopholes, and the moral quandaries that come with building a playground for the 0.01%.

So, buckle up, dear reader, as we embark on a journey into the heart of Dubai, where the whispers of billionaires are about to become a deafening roar.

There has been an increase in high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) choosing Dubai as a residence, it’s crucial to consider the following:

Secrecy: The idea of mass “secret” migration among billionaires isn’t entirely accurate. While some individuals might prefer privacy for personal reasons, many HNWIs openly choose Dubai due to its attractive benefits. News articles, reports, and real estate agencies often highlight these high-profile relocations.

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Reasons for relocation

The factors drawing HNWIs to Dubai are diverse and not necessarily secretive. Common reasons include:

Tax benefits

Dubai boasts a zero personal income tax, capital gains tax, and inheritance tax, making it financially appealing for wealthy individuals.

Luxury lifestyle

The city offers extravagant amenities, including exclusive resorts, designer shopping, fine dining, and world-class entertainment.

Business opportunities

Dubai is a growing hub for international trade, finance, and innovation, presenting lucrative business prospects for entrepreneurs and investors.

Safety and security

The city maintains a high level of safety and security, making it a desirable place for families and individuals seeking a secure environment.


Geographic location

Dubai’s strategic location at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa provides convenient access to major markets and travel destinations.

Scale of migration

While the number of HNWIs choosing Dubai is increasing, it’s important to understand the context. Dubai’s total population is roughly 3.5 million, with estimates suggesting a few thousand HNWIs residing there. While this population segment is growing, it doesn’t constitute a mass migration in the traditional sense.


  • There is an observable trend of HNWIs choosing Dubai as a residence, driven by attractive tax benefits, luxurious lifestyle, business opportunities, and a safe environment.
  • The claim of “secret” migration isn’t entirely accurate, as many relocations are publicly reported and motivated by transparent factors.
  • The scale of migration, while noteworthy, doesn’t represent a mass exodus of billionaires.

Remember, generalisations can be misleading. Individual motivations for relocation are diverse, and attributing all HNWIs choosing Dubai to secretive intentions wouldn’t paint an accurate picture.

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Obtaining residency through investment

There are two main pathways for obtaining residency through investment in Dubai:

1. Investment in business

Minimum investment: AED 10 million (approximately USD 2.7 million) in a new business established in Dubai.

  • Additional requirements:
    • The business must be registered with the Department of Economic Development (DED) in Dubai.
    • The investment must be held for at least 3 years.
    • The business must employ at least 10 Emirati citizens or residents (exceptions may apply).

2. Real estate investment

  • Minimum investment: AED 5 million (approximately USD 1.35 million) in a property in Dubai.
  • Additional requirements:
    • The property must be freehold (owned outright, not leased).
    • The investment must be held for at least 5 years.
    • The property must be worth at least AED 2 million (approximately USD 545,000) if located outside specific designated areas.

There are some general prerequisites for all applicants under the investment immigration programme:

  • Valid passport with at least 6 months remaining validity.
  • Good health and character clearance.
  • Proof of sufficient financial resources to support themselves and their dependents in Dubai.
  • Medical insurance covering the applicant and their dependents.

Additional points:

  • Investment amounts are subject to change, so it’s advisable to confirm the latest figures with relevant authorities.
  • Professional assistance from immigration consultants experienced in the Dubai program is highly recommended.
  • Processing times for residency applications can vary, so plan accordingly.

Remember, while investment options offer a path to residency, obtaining citizenship in Dubai is a separate and more complex process.

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Elusive route to Dubai citizenship for high-net-worth individuals

Obtaining citizenship in Dubai, although appealing due to its benefits, isn’t readily available and involves specific requirements and limitations. Here’s a breakdown of the key points:

General restrictions

Direct purchase of citizenship: This is not possible in Dubai. Citizenship isn’t granted solely through investment or financial means.

Potential pathways


Citizenship is granted to individuals born in the UAE who:

  • Have an Emirati father (born in the UAE or abroad).
    • Have an Emirati mother (born in the UAE or abroad) in the absence of a legally established father or a stateless father.
    • Descend from long-term Arab settlers in the UAE (families settled before 1925 and remained until 1972).


This path requires fulfilling stringent criteria and a lengthy process:

  • Residency: Continuous and legal residency in the UAE for at least 30 years for ethnic Arab settlers or holders of a residency visa.
    • Proficiency in Arabic: Fluency in spoken and written Arabic is essential.
    • Good character and reputation: No criminal record or involvement in activities deemed harmful to the UAE.
    • Financial stability: Proof of a stable income source.
    • Oath of allegiance: Swearing loyalty and commitment to the UAE’s laws and constitution.

Exceptional merit

This category caters to high-achievers in specific fields:

  • Doctors/Specialists: Renowned experts in high-demand scientific fields with significant contributions and experience (usually 10+ years).
    • Scientists/inventors/creative talents: Individuals with exceptional achievements in their respective fields.
    • Investors: Significant investors contributing to the UAE’s economy through substantial investments in specific sectors.

Additional notes:

  • The process for naturalisation and exceptional merit cases can be lengthy and complex, often requiring sponsorship from influential individuals or entities.
  • The UAE government holds discretionary power in granting citizenship, and approvals are not guaranteed even if requirements are met.
  • While permanent residency options through investment exist, these don’t automatically lead to citizenship.

It’s crucial to note that the information provided here is for general guidance only. For accurate and up-to-date information, it’s highly recommended to:

Remember, obtaining citizenship in Dubai is a demanding process, and navigating its complexities requires thorough research and expert advice.

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