Expats: How to retire in the UAE

For the estimated 8.34 million expatriates currently living and working in the UAE, a growing number are approaching retirement age and are curi­ous about the options open to them if they decide to stay in the Emirates.

The UAE has become home to many, however, with no form of permanent residency avail­able to foreign nationals, it can be a challenge to reside in the country without employment. Under current regulations, the age of retirement for expatriate workers is 65 with some jurisdictions imposing restrictions on visa applicants as early as 60.

The good news is that measures can be taken to allow legal residency for retirees who are keen to continue working beyond retirement or for those who are looking to lead a more leisurely lifestyle. These include:

Business investment visas

A foreign national is eligible for an investor visa in the UAE if they incorporate their own business or invest in one; this allows retirees to either relax in their golden years or continue working during retirement. This visa involves varying levels of financial commitment, which depend on the location of the business and the minimum investment threshold required. In the UAE’s free zones, for instance, investors have a vast choice of company set-ups, including “flexi-desks” where individual units can be leased rather than an entire office space.

A retiree can also choose to incorporate a company in the mainland which would give them full access to the local market and flexibility to do business across the UAE. Depending on the structure of the company, however, they may be required to have a local sponsor or a service agent involved.

Regardless of the jurisdiction chosen, the controlling authority will issue a business licence which reflects the type of activity the company will be involved in, eg a professional licence will be given to craftsmen, artisans and the like.

With a valid business licence, foreign investors can then apply for a work and residency visa. The application process depends on the selected jurisdiction and will result either in a sponsorship by the governing authority, or through a self-sponsorship mechanism.

The visas are valid for three years in most free zones, and two years in other jurisdictions, and unlike many other visa types, a continuous stay outside of the UAE for six months or more will not invalidate the visa.

Property-based investment visa

If a retiree owns property that has an initial purchase price of Dh1 million or above, they are eligible for either a two-year investor permit in Dubai or a six-month renewable investor visa in other emirates. They can also be eligible for a visa or permit by owning multiple properties with a cumulative purchase price of at least Dh1m, depending on the location of the homes.

Remember, the property must be ready to inhabit, owned by the applicant and – if applicable – large enough to accommodate all members of the family.

A property can be mortgaged, however, to be eligible for the visa at least 50 per cent of the mortgage must be paid. Applicants must provide proof of income either from within or outside the Emirates.

Dependency visa

Retirees with an adult child working in the UAE can live here on a residence permit for dependents. While regulations for this visa type are not clearly defined and often considered on a case-by-case basis, the essential principals are a monthly salary of approximately Dh20,000 earned by the sponsor and a sufficient living space documented through an attested tenancy contract. A refundable security deposit is required from the sponsor and the visa is valid for up to one year. Both parents must be sponsored at the same time unless one is deceased or a divorce can be proven with appropriate documentation.

Additional considerations

Under UAE law, all residents must hold a valid health insurance policy. If you decide to call the UAE home after retirement, remember no national benefits are provided to expat retirees, making it crucial to have a sustainable source of income to cover your living expenses.

Nofisatu Mojidi is the relationship manager, worldwide private client practice at Fragoment UAE. With inputs from Marcin Kubarek, knowledge and content manager at Fragomen UAE

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