Failure to close accounts or pay off debts could delay your departure or cause problems further down the line after leaving the UAE.

Moving home or to a new destination can be an organizational nightmare: You need to pack up your home, cancel your visa ­(and the visas of any dependents or maids), cancel any local insurance policies and sell any assets, such as cars or white goods, that you cannot take with you. But as well as getting documentation and belongings in order, a big part of your leaving process must be your financial affairs.

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Read any local newspaper and you will find reports of expats trying to leave the country only to be stopped at the airport because of outstanding debts. Worse still, some who do manage leaving the country then find that a bank account they thought was closed many years before is still open. The account may have been incurring fees for not meeting the minimum balance requirement; similarly, a credit card that wasn’t cancelled may be routinely charged for failure to pay off an outstanding balance.

A monthly fee of AED 25 on an account not meeting a minimum balance requirement may not sound like much. But left for several years, it can quickly build up to a sum of several thousand dirhams.

Therefore, the first thing you must do when you begin wrapping up your affairs here is to track back your financial history. What bank accounts do you have? Have you ever switched banks? Do you have any credit cards with another bank that you no longer use but have also failed to cancel? Are your loans paid off?

Do your homework

  • Go back through your financial history in the Emirates and note down all the loans, credit cards or bank accounts you may have had. You might be amazed by how many financial institutions you are tied to. Once you have a full list, contact all the banks to ensure all financial loose ends are tied up.
  • And before leaving, don’t forget to close any accounts with service providers, such as energy, phone, internet or television providers. Even a hire car account left open could come back to haunt you if there are any outstanding debts.

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Don’t get blacklisted

  • This process is important because the last thing you want is to have your name marked on the immigration system as an absconder or debtor. This happens when a financial institution or company opens a police case and initiates court proceedings against you over outstanding liabilities.
  • If this happens, the authorities would detain you if you ever attempted to re-enter the country. While a departing expat may think they are unlikely to return to the UAE, remember that Dubai, in particular, is now an international hub with many long-haul flights routed through here. Even if you are only in transit on your way to another destination, you could still be arrested.

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Do not be a victim of bank administration errors

  • If you have already left the country, a bank with any outstanding debts of yours may hand the issue over to a debt collection agency that could track you to your new destination. They will then demand you pay back the outstanding balance.
  • While you may have thought that particular account or credit card was closed, if there was any bank administrative error during that process, it will be you who is targeted.
  • Administrative errors do occur at banks or service providers, and accounts or debts that a customer consider closed or resolved can suddenly resurface months, or even years, later because they were not handled properly at the time.
  • Another way to check all your finances are in order, bar phoning every bank or service provider you have ever been involved with, is to check with the police if there are any registered cases against you – information you can obtain from any police station.
  • Remember this also applies to business owners as well. It is vital to ensure all your business affairs are finalised before you leave.

Don’t forget your savings either

  • Remember, you may have opened several different savings accounts, fixed-deposit accounts or set up a National Bonds account – so make sure to close these and take your cash with you.
  • Finally, those who consider deliberately leaving the country without paying off liabilities will end up losing their gratuity as well as being listed as a debtor. It’s something you will certainly regret further down the line.

[Compare savings accounts in the UAE | Related: How to switch banks in the UAE]