Tim Elliot: Welcome to Lawgical, the U.A.E.’s first legal podcast. My name’s Tim Elliot. Lawgical comes to you from the Dubai-based legal firm, HPL Yamalova & Plewka here in JLT, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, and as ever, I’m joined by the Managing Partner, Ludmila Yamalova. Nice to see you again.
Ludmila Yamalova: Good to be here, Tim.
Tim Elliot: Today it’s all about visas once more. We’ve talked a lot about visas with good reason because there has been so much change this year, Ludmila, but in particular today, we’re talking retirement and retirement visas. Now more and more people are considering staying here in the U.A.E. as careers draw to a close, I guess, and the U.A.E. government has taken steps to facilitate that and to attract people to stay as well. I wanted to look specifically at the retirement visa. It’s a new category. I know that there is no set retirement age for expats here in the U.A.E., but let’s just run through how you get a hold of and what you need to prove to get yourself a retirement visa.
Ludmila Yamalova: Yeah. As you rightfully said, this is a new type of visa. It is specifically aimed at attracting retirees to either come to the U.A.E. or to those who have been in the U.A.E. to stay here. By the way the importance of this particular visa is not to be underestimated because there are so many of us in the U.A.E. that have been here and have made this our home, and we don’t really want to leave. A lot of people have worked here their whole live, and this is what they know, and this is what they love. This is where their families are, or this is where they feel comfortable, and they don’t want to leave. However, they have come of age where either they are too old to work, in one way or another, either physically or legally, or for example, they don’t want to work anymore because they have made their fortune, they have earned enough, and so they just want to retire.
In the past, there was always a problem with people like that. Often people either had to continue to work longer just to be able to continue to stay in the country, or they would have to get all sorts of visas based on companies they without open as a shareholder and investor in a company, more or less an empty company, like a shell company because it did not really do anything, but it allowed people to stay in the country and to continue to have residency, in the past, on the basis of an investment in a company did not have an age limit. There were a lot of these kinds of people that would have these kinds of companies or under the same companies there we be groups of them. While it still was in interesting and certainly perhaps beneficial business model for the country because it would continue to bring money into the country, ultimately it was using a company as a vehicle designed for purpose A and repurposing it for purpose B. It was ultimately using a company for a different purpose than what it was originally set up to do and how it was meant to exist.
Or a lot of people just had to leave. They had to leave because even if they would apply for a visa, they were not sure they could get healthcare insurance. Let’s face it, when you are retiring, in most cases, we have an excellent medical system, and you really need to make sure that you have healthcare coverage. A lot of people would leave.
There were a lot of those people and now there is a specific visa that allows them to continue to claim the U.A.E. as their home and stay here specifically as retirees.
Then, there were a lot of those who lived here and worked here and then ultimately retired and wanted to continue to come back into the country, not necessarily be based here full time, but because of the history and the connections that they have in the country, they want to continue to come back, but as retires. How would you continue to come back here? How would you have residency here and continue to come back and visit your family and friends, if you no longer have a job? There is that category of people.
Then there are those, and this is not to be understated either, those who perhaps have come to the U.A.E. a few times but never really lived here, or even those who have never even been to the U.A.E. and now are looking at retiring. When you look at retiring, where do I go? Because retiring means what? You need to have a nice and comfortable place to live with pretty mild weather. I guess some without object to the U.A.E.’s mild weather in the summer, but for the most part, at least eight to nine months a year, we have very, very pleasant weather, and a lot of retirees do love sunshine and we have a lot of that here. Plus, there is infrastructure in terms of hospitality, food and beverage, entertainment, and more importantly, security and safety, and equally important for a lot of people is that the easy of travel and accessibility to the rest of the world, being able to move around. Most important, perhaps, is the medical system, because if you are looking at this place and you are retirement age, you want to have access to good medical care. For those of us who have lived here long enough, we can attest to how much our medical care has improved, and more importantly , the quality of the doctors that this country has been able to attract and now maintain and sustain and the quality of doctors that now love this country and want to stay here in the long run.
Tim Elliot: Did you know – I mean, I can attest to that. As you know, I’ve had some health issues recently and my experience of the medical system here, I have nothing but good things to say. I can see exactly why, in terms of priorities, it is right at the top level.
Ludmila Yamalova: This is it. Now the U.A.E. basically has all the elements for the recipe, all the ingredients for the recipe to attract retirees to come and live in the country and either continue to live here or at least have a base here or attract brand new people altogether. We have dealt with a few of these, by the way. We have had people in Europe that are looking to retire, for example, a European couple that is looking to retire and they are looking around the world. Where do we go to live? Now we have the freedom. We have the freedom because we are both retired. Or even a single person that is retired, now I have the freedom of movement, so where do I go? They literally roll out the map and they look. Where in the world do I go? Where is it friendly? Where is it safe? Where is it accessible? Also, don’t forgot, commercially appealing.
This is an interesting element that I perhaps did not always look at or think of so much, but recently I attended a conference basically on taxes and high net worth individuals and the factors that they look at, in particular in terms of taxation. When you retire, your obligation to pay taxes does not go away. Did you know that, Tim?
Tim Elliot: I’m aware of that. Yeah. Taxes, they never disappear.
Ludmila Yamalova: They only disappear when you disappear. Yes. I digress here for a second, but so often, perhaps a little less now, but clients would come to me and say, I want guarantees, I want guarantees. I would say, listen, what we say in the U.S. is the only things we can guarantee are death and taxes. Until recently, as far as the U.A.E. was concerned, we could only guarantee death because we didn’t have taxes. Now we have taxes, and they are coming in other shapes and forms. Now we are a lot more like America or will be.
Tim Elliot: What a joyful podcast this is.
Ludmila Yamalova: Death and taxes. But yes, taxes, going back to retirees, when you retire, in fact, your pension is still taxable in most countries. The factors of taxation and in finding a base where you can capitalize on the most commercially reasonable and sensible place for you to live, it’s a big factor because when you retire, obviously, your pension is, in most cases, perhaps less than the salary that you drew before and your expenses also go up. They go up in terms of medical expenses. You don’t have the same kind of opportunities to continue to earn as you would have before. Perhaps you have more social security and similar kinds of payments to make here and there. Taxes are a big deal for retirees because they still have to pay taxes. They want to know where they can live comfortably, have access to all of these facilities, in particular medical care, and have the ability to have quality of life, and yet, not be so inundated by taxes that it is hard for me to breathe. This is mostly a problem for you and me, Tim, but it is apparently a big problem for a lot of people who are high net worth individuals who are retired. They really have to pay a lot of money. This is what I learned in this recent conference I went to. A lot of people have big headaches. We don’t have those headaches, but there are these big headaches. Where do I now settle in my retirement age so that I perhaps minimize the tax payments that my mini fortune basically claim as a toll on an annual basis.
Tim Elliot: I think maybe we just rich in different ways, in other ways. They are just not financial ways.
Ludmila Yamalova: Yes, of course. Our souls are rich.
Tim Elliot: Yes. Isn’t that the truth. Let’s say you sat and you thought about it. I like Dubai. I like the infrastructure. I like the entertainment. I like the fact that the medical system is top notch. I like the sun. That is a huge draw, living somewhere bright makes an enormous difference to your life. You decide you are going to come and live in Dubai, in Abu Dhabi, in Ras Al Khaimah, or wherever here in the U.A.E., you want to have the appropriate residence status. You don’t want that hanging over you when you retire. How do you get yourself a retirement visa?
Ludmila Yamalova: First of all, importantly, what constitutes retirement age, so for the purposes of the retirement visa, remember this is specific and a specialized, dedicated retirement visa under the U.A.E. immigration law, which is Cabinet Resolution 65 of 2022 and Article 52 in particular, under this law, the retirement age – are you ready, Tim?
Tim Elliot: Go on.
Ludmila Yamalova: It is 55. If you are the age of 55, for purposes of a retirement visa in the U.A.E., you can be considered if you want to be a retiree. You want another one? You ready for another one?
Tim Elliot: Go ahead.
Ludmila Yamalova: Or, there is another one. You can also qualify for this retirement visa if you have been working basically in service for at least 15 years.
Tim Elliot: Okay. And that’s in the service of one employer?
Ludmila Yamalova: No., just a service business, just employment, just work. In other words, let’s say if you started working and you have been working for from the age of 30, at 45 you could be retired.
Tim Elliot: Don’t I just wish.
Ludmila Yamalova: Yes. That is if you started working at 30. If you started working at 25, or 20, you could even retire at 35 or at least you could apply for it. You could apply and qualify for this retirement visa. Let’s face it, with the influences and social media these days, there are a lot of those who could retire at the age of 35 because financially they are well off and able to park themselves in one place and live in leisure.
Tim Elliot: Just drive around in your super car at that point.
Ludmila Yamalova: Yeah. Then too, if you have basically been in service for these 15 years, employment service, then you would also qualify. Either 55 years of age or you have been working, obviously, perhaps consistently, for at least 15 years, you could apply. There is that. Now, the specifics other than age, what are the specific qualifications and condition? There are different types of retirement visas, but ultimately, they are all based on the financial investment into the country.
Tim Elliot: Right.
Ludmila Yamalova: Your financial investment can come in different forms and shapes.
One, you might have a real estate investment in the U.A.E. in the amount of at least 1 million dirhams. You could have a unit, a condo, something here that is real estate, and by the way, you don’t need to be living there. You could even be renting it out, but if it is worth at least 1 million dirhams that would qualify you in terms of your financial commitment or investment in the U.A.E.
Or you can have a financial deposit in the country of at least 1 million dirhams, which means ultimately having money in the bank. If you have 1 million dirhams, we are talking about $330,000.
Either an investment that is worth $330,000 or you have that amount of money sitting in a local bank account, a U.A.E. bank, would qualify you, or if you have a fixed income of at least 240,000 dirhams per year.
For example, let’s say you have a pension. That would be income. Real estate investments, if you are receiving rent, for example, that is also your investment. You could also claim retirement residency here if your income is about $80,000. Basically, you could have a property somewhere that you invested in or it could be a pension. If you are receiving a regular pension, that would also qualify you if you have about 20,000 dirhams a month, about $7,000. If you receive that on a monthly basis, that would qualify you for this retirement visa.
Tim Elliot: Okay. The retirement visa stipulations are met financially. How long does a retirement visa last?
Ludmila Yamalova: This retirement visa is issued for five years. By the way, this is a proper residence visa for U.A.E. residency. You can derive all of the benefits from a residence visa like you would from any other residence visa. It is not a tourist visa. It is not a visiting visa. It is for U.A.E. residency that it is issued.
Tim Elliot: That means you receive an emirates ID, every type of bank account.
Ludmila Yamalova: You would be able to buy a car, to rent properties, and all of that. You are a full resident of the U.A.E. This residency visa is issued for five years. It is renewable for the same period basically as long as the same factors remain in place, which is your financial commitment and investment here. You also need to show health insurance. That is also one of the requirements. There are also application fees and so on and so forth, but these are smaller requirements, but yes, health plans insurance you definitely need to have here as well. But all in all, that is it. You have to be 55 years or more, or 15 years in service, you have to have at least 1 million dirhams or $330,000 of investment in the U.A.E., or you have a fixed income and health insurance, and you can apply for a five-year retirement visa in the U.A.E. This can be your retirement base. The visa is issued for five years and it fairly easy to renew for another five years.
Tim Elliot: Retirement visas in accordance with Article 52 of the U.A.E. Cabinet Decision 65 of 2022. That is all about residency for foreigners. I have to say again, Ludmila, I keep saying this, but I’m trying to get my head around the number of changes we have seen, more evidence of massive changes in the visa system.
Ludmila Yamalova: Indeed, sweeping changes, and all for the better.
Tim Elliot: It really is. That’s another episode of Lawgical, retirement visas here in the emirates. This time, Ludmila Yamalova was with me, as ever, the Managing Partner here at Yamalova & Plewka. Thank you.
Ludmila Yamalova: Thank you, Tim.
Tim Elliot: Find us at LYLAW on social media, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, in particular, and LinkedIn. There is a huge ever-growing library, hundreds of podcasts on all kinds of legal matters here in the U.A.E., and all free to listen to wherever you find your podcasts. If you’d like a legal question answered in a future episode of Lawgical or you’d like to talk to a U.A.E. experienced qualified legal professional, contact LYLawyers.com.