Thiruvananthapuram: The Lulu group chairman, MA Yusuff Ali became the first expatriate to get United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) first gold card permanent residency. Unlike the long-term visa of five to 10 years for businessmen and talented individuals, the gold card gives permanent residency of the UAE to the holder.

Brigadier Saeed Salem Al Shamsi, executive director of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs, handed over the gold card to Ali in Abu Dhabi.

The Abu Dhabi based Ali became the first of 6,800 investors to receive the permanent residency. The first beneficiaries are investors with total investments exceeding Dirhams 100 billion.

Ali, who hails from Kerala's Thrissur, has been based in the UAE for more than 45 years. He is considered as one of the biggest business leaders in the Middle East region with his retail and hospitality empire spread across the world, with more than 170 hypermarkets and shopping malls. Lulu employs are more than 50,000 people comprising 42 nationalities.

He was ranked the richest expat in UAE by the Forbes magazine. He has become the first of 6,800 investors with total investment exceeding USD 27 billion to receive the gold card under a scheme announced last month by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai.

Commenting on the honour, the Kerala billionaire said, “(It is) A very proud and emotional moment in my life…I am sure this new Gold Card permanent residency scheme aimed at key investors, who have played a defining role in the nation building process, will further boost UAE’s image as one of key investment and business global hubs as well as attract and retain new investors here.”