The United Arab Emirates plans to offer citizenship to a select group of foreigners in order to give expatriates a bigger stake in the economy. 

This policy shift was unveiled on Saturday and has been put into place to attract talent in order to boost growth in the UAE. The UAE houses the Middle East's finance and travel hubs along with millions of ex-pats. 

Although around 80% of the UAE's seven sheikhdoms population is made up from foreign residents,  they have lacked a clear path to citizenship, even if they were born and raised in the country.

"Oil-rich Gulf states have been forced to consider longer residency and limited citizenship for foreigners as they seek to attract investment and diversify."

Until now, citizenship in the UAE has been reserved for foreigners with special cases - such as service to the state. However, with the new changes being put into place, this will be formalised and widen such a process.

“The new directives aim to attract talents that contribute to our development journey,” Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum said. The changes being put into place will allow the UAE to grant citizenship to selected investors and professionals, including scientists, doctors, engineers, artists, authors and their families.

The law will also allow receivers of the UAE passport to keep their existing citizenship.

“It’s another milestone that comes along a transformation path of the UAE as a financial, trade and cultural hub, allowing for further avenues of economic growth,” said Mohamed Abu Basha, head of macroeconomic research at Cairo-based EFG-Hermes Holding.

“The wider the scope, the wider the positive economic implications of a qualitative growth in population and economic value added.”