In our previous article, we provided an overview of how you can secure UAE residency status through ownership of property in Dubai. The article generated significant interest – particularly among those interested in retirement options – so we thought it might be useful to explore this subject in more detail.
Types of visa
There are various types of visa available to those wishing to enter and live in the UAE, including (but not limited to):
- one or three month visit visa
- multiple entry visa
- course study visa
- three month medical visa
- one month tourism visa
- two year employment visa.
Here, we are looking at the visa available for those who have purchased property: the three or five year property visa.
Unsurprisingly, there are various conditions that need to be met to become eligible for a three or five year property visa. Simply owning a property doesn't cut the mustard. We categorise the main requirements below.
For the three year visa, the property must be worth at least AED 1 million – not at the time of applying for the visa, but at the time of purchase. With the recent market decline, a property under that threshold now may have been over it when it was purchased, and could therefore still qualify.
Recent changes in the regulations have meant that now up to three properties can be included in an application, as long as their combined value meets the AED 1 million threshold. In the case of the five year visa, the applicant must have invested AED 5 million in the property, rather than AED 1 million.
The property must have freehold title. If you are a leaseholder, then no matter how long the lease is for, or how much the property is worth, you will not be able to use that property to support a property visa application.
Previously, the property needed to be residential. Now it seems it can be residential, commercial (eg office) or industrial (eg warehouse); it cannot be an undeveloped plot of land, however. Note that the property must be a completed property – off-plan properties that have not been completed will not be acceptable to the authorities.
Previously the property had to be unencumbered. More recently, the authorities will accept properties that are mortgaged, provided at least 50% of the property value has been paid. The AED 1 million property value provisions still applies.
Note that where there is an Islamic mortgage in place, the property will usually be owned by the bank and leased to you as the mortgagor under a long-term lease, with the rental payments equating to the mortgage installments. In that case, the property will not qualify, as you will fall foul of the freehold requirement. If you are applying for the five year visa, the property must still be unencumbered.
It is possible for jointly owned properties to be used to support residency applications, provided the value of the share of each applicant meets the AED 1 million threshold level. In the case of joint ownership by spouses, the AED 1 million threshold is shared by both partners, so a 50/50 jointly owned title to a AED 1 million property is sufficient.
A property visa entitles you to reside in the UAE for the three or five year duration of the visa. It does not entitle you to work in the UAE.
Therefore, if you have a property visa and you decide to take up employment, you will need to cancel your property visa and apply for an employment visa.
A number of documents will be requested at various stages of the property visa application process. These include:
- title deed of the property
- NOC from the bank (in case the property is mortgaged)
- passport of the applicant
- current visa of the applicant (if applicable)
- Good Conduct Certificate issued by the Dubai Police
- passport sized photograph of the applicant.
Although the procedure involves multiple government departments and agencies, including the Dubai Land Department, the Dubai Police and the Dubai Department of Economic Development, most of the submissions can be made at the offices of the Dubai Land Department, where the other departments and agencies have representative offices.
It is now possible to obtain three or five year UAE residency visas based on freehold property ownership of residential, commercial or industrial real estate. The property in question can be mortgaged and can be owned by one or more parties. The regulations are still evolving, but always in a way that makes it easier for such visa applications to be made.
We anticipate that this will be of particular interest to those wishing to retire in the Emirates. Previously, retirement had signaled a 30 day deadline to pack up and leave the country, one that you may have worked in for most of your life. The property visa now offers an alternative to those fortunate enough to own property here, enabling them to stay in their adopted homeland into their autumn years and beyond – viva the grey dirham!