Tim Elliot: Hello and welcome to another edition of Lawgical, the regular legal podcast from HPL Yamalova & Plewka, the Dubai-based law firm. Lawgical is still the Gulf Region’s first and only legal podcast. I’m Tim Elliot. I’m here on the 18th floor, socially distanced, at Dubai’s JLT, Jumeirah Lakes Towers with the firm’s Managing Partner, Ludmila Yamalova. Good to see you again.
Ludmila Yamalova: A pleasure to be seeing you too, Tim. Thanks for being back in our office.
Tim Elliot: Now, today on Lawgical, we’re talking about a recent announcement here in the U.A.E. this month that’s been welcomed by many of the country’s long-term expatriate residents, and there are many of us. The emirates has just begun providing retirement visas for those who are 55 years old and above, not you or I yet, Ludmila, I have to say, but let’s talk this through. This has just happened. Retired residents over 55 can now get a long-term residents visa. It lasts for a period of five years in the initial instance. It can be renewed if eligibility criteria are met. I guess we start there. What makes you eligible?
Ludmila Yamalova: Well, one is that as you rightfully said, you have to be above 55, or 55 and older. It’s good news for all those who want to benefit from this, but ultimately otherwise would not really consider themselves retirees at the age of 55. In this particular context, the U.A.E. did define a retiree as being the age of 55. Interestingly enough, from a legal standpoint, the law on this was approved back in 2018, in fact, September 2018, which is ultimately almost two years ago, but it wasn’t really put into effect until September 2020, and for now, this is important to highlight, is that Dubai seems to be at the forefront of implementing this particular law, more so than other emirates. Now the law is federal in its nature, so therefore, ultimately this particular visa will be available to residents of other emirates, but for now it seems that Dubai is still leading the charge. If anybody is wanting to explore this option, I just want to put that caveat out there that other emirates perhaps are not yet quite as ready to start issuing these visas as Dubai is. Dubai is not just ready, but also very eager because this this new policy, has been publicized quite broadly.
As you said before, the only applicability really, well, the main applicability is age, which is 55, and then is the financial criteria, so not all retirees can quality. Financially the applicants must meet 1 out of 3 financial criteria. (1) They must earn either a monthly income of 20,000 dirhams, (2) have savings amounting to at least 1 million dirhams, or (3) own a property in Dubai worth 2 million dirhams. The property, however, cannot be mortgaged and if you have more than one property which together amount to at least 2 million dirhams, this is also acceptable for the purposes of applying for a retiree visa.
Now, if you are one of the applicants who, for example, has some savings and whose property does not quite yet reach the value of 2 million, then if you add your savings of say 1 million dirhams and you have a property of 1.2 million, then those two particular values can be combined as long as they are cumulatively more than 2 million dirhams and qualify you to apply for the retirement visa. In other words, even if you have just savings, but a property that is less than 2 million dirhams, you can combine those two things as well to qualify.
Tim Elliot: Okay, so there is kind of, I guess, a mix and match approach when it comes to eligibility criteria. It seems reasonably straightforward to me. Medical insurance, I guess, has to be one of the prerequisites because it is for all other visa, isn’t it?
Ludmila Yamalova: For sure. In general, the medical insurance has now become part of our residence approval across the U.A.E. for the most part, but certainly in Dubai. It is coverage that is expected and in this particular case this is no different. If you think about it, it’s even more important because we are talking about retirees who will be older people. They, out of everyone else, would definitely benefit and require health coverage more so than perhaps younger people. Yes, there is also a requirement of health insurance, and in fact, if for some reason your application gets rejected, then there is a one-month grace period for you to request a refund of the payment of your health insurance coverage.
Tim Elliot: Let’s break this down a little bit further and look at the procedure and also, if we can, Ludmila, break down the costs to qualify.
Ludmila Yamalova: Yes. In order to apply you need to submit documents and depending on which one of these categories you fall into, for example, if you are applying on the basis of owning property that is over the value of 2 million dirhams, then you would go through the Land Department or RERA in Dubai.
In general, the documents you need to present is obviously a passport copy of the applicant, and by the way, also the applicant’s family can also qualify, and in that case you would submit passport copies of the spouse and the children and then also if you are applying for a family, then you have to submit a marriage certificate and they have to be legalized for purpose of the U.A.E. and a copy of the visa because sometimes some people may want to transfer their current visa to a retiree visa, so if you are doing that, you would have to present a copy of your visa and in that case also a copy of your emirates ID, a copy of the valid health insurance policy, current residential address, mobile number, email address, and other basic contact details about the applicant.
In regard to the supporting evidence that is required to show your eligibility, you would have to present the title deed. As part of the title deed, you would have to present the certificate from the Land Department of the value of the property. In most cases, it’s the Land Department that has inspectors and evaluators who would issue the certificate showing the value of the property. Again, remember the property has to be worth at least 2 million dirhams. In that case, you would have to present a title deed and the valuation certificate showing your property is worth 2 million dirhams and up. In the event you are doing it on the basis of your savings and your income, then you would have to present your bank statements, and if it’s income, and your salary certificates and such. So, depending under which category you applied, but you ultimately have to present some proof that you are financially liquid and financially stable to qualify for this particular visa.
Tim Elliot: What are the actual costs to get the visa stamped?
Ludmila Yamalova: For now, the costs that have been announced, there are different types of costs that go into the overall package, if you will, for the application. There is the medical test that all applicants have to undergo for the purposes of applying for this visa, and this is the same process that is required for any other residence visa. The medical test is 753 dirhams as of today, but costs are always subject to change. Also, this is important to highlight, this particular retiree visa is for five years. Current residence visas if you are in free zones are for three years. If you are outside a free zone are for two years. This is actually for five years, which obviously provides huge benefits, particularly for those who are looking to stay here long term. You would also have to apply for an emirate’s ID which at this time will be valid for five years because right now emirate’s IDs are limited to two or three years, so this would be five years and there is a cost of 572 dirhams. The visa application itself, which is about 900 dirhams, is 889 or so dirhams, closer to 900 dirhams for the visa, and then there is a management fee of 100 dirhams and then there is an additional fee per every dependent of 318 dirhams, but also obviously if you are applying for the dependents, the dependents will also have to pay for their own medical test fees and their own emirate’s ID fees, so you have to double or triple or multiply those fees for every dependent. Then on top of that fee, you have to pay health insurance. All in all, there is about, per applicant, per person, it’s about 2,300 dirhams, plus insurance, and then similar costs would apply for every additional person as per that application.
Tim Elliot: Essentially, it’s worth remembering that this is five years which is a bonus when you compare that to the standard visa criteria. You can sponsor dependents, so family members can legally join you and live here in Dubai in your retirement years. The aim, or I guess one of the aims here, Ludmila, is to increase that opportunity for Dubai, and then I guess the U.A.E. as this opens up, as you’ve mentioned, to allow it to become a preferred retirement destination.
Ludmila Yamalova: Yes, for sure. Certainly, the U.A.E. is well positioned to host and accommodate that contingent of the population. It is a very comfortable place to live with great infrastructure, great climate, and great services. Our freehold laws here do allow for foreigners to own freehold property at right. All of the benefits are there, perhaps for some of these motivations before that if you do want to buy property here then you want to have a residence visa because you want to be able to benefit from all of the other aspects of living in the U.A.E. just like any other resident.
For those who live in the U.A.E. you would know that everything here is linked to your residency, and that includes renting a car or even owning a car, opening up utilities, be it air conditioning or district cooling, as we call it here, or telephone services. You need to have, or if you want to rent property, you need to have a residence visa. For a lot of investors in the past who wanted to buy here, that became an issue. They could have a villa, but, for example, to own a car which they want to keep in that villa, they needed to have a residence visa. As a result, they were exploring other alternative ways of getting a residence visa for themselves because there was no, at least until recently, there wasn’t really a way to have a visa linked to property ownership. This allows for those who are looking perhaps to retire or to create a home for the long haul somewhere to apply on that basis, just basically making this their retirement home and then benefit from all of the typical benefits that come to residents of the U.A.E. But another benefit is that this particular visa, the retiree visa, does not require you to come back into the U.A.E., as other residence visas require it, on an annual basis. Other typical residence visas, the one perhaps that you and I have, employment visas, they require us to come back into the U.A.E. every six months. This particular visa does not require that commitment, which means for those that just want to make an investment here and come here every so often for a little vacation, all of a sudden, it makes it a lot more flexible for them to plan, or not plan for that matter, their future, instead of having to come back into the U.A.E. just for that particular requirement.
Tim Elliot: That makes some sense. I was reading the words of the Director General of Dubai Tourism. He says the program is going to boost the emirate’s tourism economy at a time when clearly tourism does need a boost at the moment in particular. If you think about the number of visits, maybe even frequent visits, from families or friends of retirees, and increasing visits from markets with a high population of retired people, that brings this into focus because there is a large population of expats from India and Pakistan here in Dubai. We all know that. It’s a relatively short plane journey from either of those two destinations to get to your holiday homes. It’s perfectly logical.
Ludmila Yamalova: For sure. In the past, many of them have already claimed the U.A.E., and Dubai in particular, as their home, but they’ve had to do it through different means. For example, the most common tool that they’ve used is just setting up their own companies, but with that you open up ultimately a fictitious company just for the sole purpose of having a residence visa, but with that comes so many other expenses. First of all, incorporation fees which are not insignificant. Then you have to pay annual company fees or license fees. Then for every company, you have to pay a tenancy fee because that’s how a lot of the companies here are set up. There is a requirement of having a lease. Even if it is a virtual or a flex-desk type of lease, there is still a payment to that. Then often when you have a company, then you also have to pay various third-party liability insurance and other types of insurance. The costs add up, and then ultimately to what end, if the only reason you want to be here is to be able to enjoy your property and call this your home for the long haul, so I think this is a great step forward. It’s a huge development. I can see how this would be of much benefit for a lot of people who have already been here more or less for the same purpose and have been looking forward to spending more time in the U.A.E. and now they’ll be able to avail themselves a five-year visa versus three and ultimately reduce the cost for its application.
Tim Elliot: This is the initial phase of the program. This is focusing on residents of the country who have worked in Dubai for more than 10 years. We know, because this is a federal law, that this is something that is going to be rolled out and opened up in Abu Dhabi emirate, for example, or Ras Al Khaimah emirate potentially, in the near future. What’s the reaction been like to the news? Anecdotally, I know and I understand, that is all you can really offer, but what have you heard from interested clients and friends?
Ludmila Yamalova: It is certainly very positive. We already have a number of clients who are now wishing to transfer from even investment visas because in Dubai we have had the option of investment visas and that is you get a residence visa if you own property that is worth at least 1 million dirhams, but they are three-year visas and there are costs associated with that. As those visas are now starting to expire and this particular new law is now being introduced, we already have a number of clients who have expressed interest in moving from their current residence visa, an investment visa, for example, to this retiree visa. It’s very positive. I assume this is just the beginning because obviously with COVID-19 still sort of banging at our doors we are not quite yet open to as many outsiders and to as many tourists and as many even returning residents as we were before. As things settle down on that front, I imagine (1) this will gain even more popularity as people start coming back, and (2) as authorities hash out their rules further. But for now, there is, in fact, just since September, a few weeks ago, there is a new website that was rolled out by the authorities which is www.retireindubai.com. For now, if you want to try to avail yourself of this option already, that is the website you want to go to and through the website there are relevant details, the kind of details that you would follow in order to submit your application. We are already starting to do this on our end, but I certainly envision there is a lot more interest and a lot more, I guess, development and evolution in terms of the user-friendly format as time goes on.
Tim Elliot: That’s another edition of Lawgical, how you can retire here in the U.A.E. soon. That website again, www.retireindubai.com. Expect it to be up and running soon. The relevant details should be there. As ever, our legal expert here on Lawgical today was Ludmila Yamalova, the Managing Partner here at Yamalova & Plewka in JLT in sunny Dubai. Always an education talking to you.
Ludmila Yamalova: Always lovely to be engaging in a debate with you.
Tim Elliot: If you have a legal question you need answered in a future episode of Lawgical or if you need a consultation with a qualified legal professional with U.A.E. experience, all you have to do is click Contact at LYLawyers.com, or you can WhatsApp directly, 00971 52 525 1611.