Residency through property ownership
The offer of residency linked to property ownership is not new in Dubai. It first made its appearance during the real estate boom of the mid-2000s. The later discontinuance of the scheme contributed to the cooling of the market, before global economics prompted the real estate crash in late 2008.
But a few years ago, the scheme was re-introduced without any great fanfare. As a result, property owners may now apply for residency status, subject to meeting certain conditions. Here, we take a look at the criteria and process surrounding investor visas.
Criteria for qualification
There have been some recent changes to the regulations surrounding investor visas. The main conditions that must be satisfied include:
the property on which the application is based must be valued at a minimum of AED one million (it is acceptable to submit the details of up to three properties with a total combined purchase price of AED one million or above)
the property must be freehold – it cannot be leasehold or off-plan
the property must be in a 'ready' condition – no visa will be issued if the property is still under construction
any mortgage on the property must not exceed 50% of the value of the property
the applicant must prove an income (in or out of the UAE) in the minimum amount of AED ten thousand per month.
In the event of joint ownership, each owner can apply for an investor visa if it can be shown that their individual contribution towards the property or properties is AED one million or more each.
Furthermore, property owners who are granted an investor visa can sponsor their immediate family members.
Duration and costs
As of January 2019, the investor visa is valid for a period of 3 years and renewable thereafter. The fees payable for obtaining the investor visa total c. AED 16,000.
Investor visa vs employment visa
An investor visa is purely a 'residency visa' that allows a property owner to reside in Dubai. It is not an employment visa, so it does not permit a property owner or their family members to work in the UAE.
If the property owner is subsequently employed in the UAE, then any investor visa they hold must be cancelled, and they must apply for a new residency visa based on his or her employment status.
The following documents are required when applying for an investor visa:
Good Conduct Certificate from the General Department of Criminal Investigations – Dubai Police headquarters
No Objection Certificate from the bank (if mortgaged)
Lease (if the property is rented out)
Proof of income.
Much publicity has been given recently to the new 10-year visa, the so-called 'Gold Card', which has been awarded to a small number of wealthy expatriates. But it's worth remembering that there is a more accessible procedure in place to obtain UAE residency based on investment in property rather than employment or wealth.
This has implications for many groups, including investors who are not permanently based in Dubai, but who would like the benefits that residency offers. It is also of relevance to those considering retirement in the UAE, with many seeing the 'grey dirham' as a growing influence in coming years.