Complex Made Simple

Can expat retirees look forward to staying in the UAE?

Last week, the UAE announced a historic piece of legislation, one that will allow expats to have a future beyond retirement in the budding Gulf nation.

However, there are some caveats which will not automatically make every single expat retiree eligible for this visa. As for the greater picture, life for expat retirees is about to change.

New visa rules 

According to a government announcement earlier this week, the UAE will make a new visa available to expat retirees over 55.

“To come into effect from 2019, the decision offers visa renewal eligibility for expatriate retirees above the age of 55 if they have an investment in a property in the country worth $545,000 (AED 2 million), or financial savings of no less than $272,245 (AED 1 million), or an active income of no less than $5,445 (AED 20,000) per month,” the Emirates News Agency (WAM) said.

This new law visa will allow expats to seek a long-term life plan, as they can remain in the country indefinitely, as long as they renew this visa every 5 years.

The caveats attached to the new rules are interesting, however. As the UAE can’t realistically facilitate every single expat were they apply for a retiree visa, they limited eligibility to individuals who have business holdings in the country, or those with enough capital to invest, whether in property as they stake a permanent life in the country, or whether they seek to invest in a business endeavor.

The official retirement age, amended in 2011, is 65.

READ: VAT refunds to make tourism cheaper in the UAE?

Retirement in the UAE is becoming more and more feasible 

Given the new ownership law that was announced earlier this year, which allows 100% ownership of UAE-based businesses by foreign investors by the end of the year, expats are given even more reason to consider a retirement plan in the Gulf nation.

In fact, it is not far-fetched to assume that both pieces of legislation are cut from the same cloth, sequenced one after the other to change the expat retiree landscape in the country, pushing for more foreign investment as a means for economic diversification.

“According to the World Bank, the UAE is one of the top 10 countries in the world that will experience the largest increase in the share of people aged 60 and over between 2000 and 2050 – that’s a rise of more than 22%,” Thomson Reuters reported.

This number was released a couple of years ago, and could change drastically after the implementation of the new visa rule.

According to Thomson Reuters, in order to legally reside in the UAE post the standard retirement age, one of the following three options was available:

-Set up a consultancy company

-Obtain sponsorship through a family member/dependent

-Become a resident in a continuing care retirement community

The new visa will see these option significantly expanded, opening up more opportunities for expats seeking to spend the rest of their life in the UAE.

READ: UAE should ‘call’ off its block on VoIP: Evidence abounds

Is the UAE ready for expat retirees?

Given the robust and future-oriented changes the country is seeing, the UAE is very well positioned as a place ideal for expats.

The quality of life in the country ranks high. According to a 2018 survey by the HR consultancy Mercer, Abu Dhabi and Dubai rank as some of the greatest in the Arab world for quality of life and infrastructure. Quality of life improved 12.2% in Dubai and 12.1% in Abu Dhabi.

Currently, there is no income tax to speak of, and VAT is still negligible at 5%.

UAE is working on making its country as secure and sustainable as possible. With the most diverse economy in the GCC, it is relying less and less on oil revenues to support the economy, which means that the UAE is well prepared for an unpredictable future, with technology investments high on the government’s priorities.

The country is equipped with state of the art facilities and retirement homes, with Dubai Healthcare City playing a major role.

READ: Brand preference, price, key to buying UAE life insurance

Real estate sector to get a boost

With an abundance of supply and decreasing demand, the real estate sector will make a recovery following the implementation of the new law.

Property portal Bayut believes that “ announcement paired with the earlier announced 10-year residency visa and 100% ownership of foreign companies, is expected to boost the real estate transactions in 2019 as many residents seek permanence in the country’s safe and secure environment.”

“Apart from encouraging retirees to buy properties in the UAE, the move will also promote younger professionals and investors from across the world to invest in the region and truly consider the country as their second home,” they stated.

READ: New UAE visa regulations bring shift in how expats live and work