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DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates has adopted amendments that would allow the Gulf state to grant citizenship to investors and other professionals including scientists, doctors and their families, the government said on Saturday.

"The UAE cabinet, local Emiri courts and executive councils will nominate those eligible for the citizenship under clear criteria set for each category," Dubai's ruler and UAE Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said in a twitter post.

"The law allows receivers of the UAE passport to keep their existing citizenship," Sheikh Mohammed added.

It was unclear if new passport holders would benefit from the public welfare system. The UAE spends billions of dollars each year on free education, healthcare, housing loans and grants for its estimated 1.4 million citizens.

Foreigners in the UAE usually have renewable visas valid for only a few years tied to employment. The government in recent has made its visa policy more flexible, offering longer residencies for certain types of investors, students and professionals.

Last year, the government extended its "golden" visa system - which grants 10-year residency in the Gulf state - to certain professionals, specialised degree-holders and others.

An oil and gas producer, the UAE's economy has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices, prompting tens of thousands of expatriates to leave.

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