Whether you own property in the UAE, or are just considering investing, it’s worth understanding the rules, regulations and options available to you for UAE residency visas.

Property markets in the UAE are fast-moving and new laws are often introduced with little or no warning. At the height of Dubai’s real estate crisis in 2009, policymakers in the UAE made the decision to unify certain regulations relating to the issuing of property-linked visas.

There are certain rules that all Emirates follow; however, there are also additional measures that can vary by Emirate.

UAE federal law for 6-mth residency

According to the federal decree, investors outside or within the UAE are eligible to apply for a multiple-entry visa after they purchase a property in the country. This visa is valid for six months and can be renewed as soon as the property-owner/ resident leaves the country.

The visa application and renewal costs AED 1,100.

However, there are certain requirements:

  • The property must have a value of at least AED 1m
  • The title deed must be issued in the property owner’s name and will be the same name on the subsequent residency visa.
  • Therefore only one person can be listed on the title deed as the owner to apply for residency.
  • This individual should provide proof of a minimum monthly income of AED 10,000.
  • The property must be complete.
  • No information appears to be publicly available about whether the visa can be extended to cover family members.

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Property-owners will have to apply to their respective immigration authorities to get the six-month visa:

  • Dubai – Department of Naturalization and Residency (DNRD)
  • Abu Dhabi – Department of Naturalization, Residence and Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior
  • Sharjah – Sharjah Naturalization and Residency Department (SNRD)
  • Ras Al Khaimah – Ras Al Khaimah Immigration Department
  • Ajman – Ajman Immigration Department
  • Fujairah – Department of Naturalization and Residency Fujairah
  • Umm Al Quwain – General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs Umm Al Quwain

Sponsoring family via UAE property

Property owners who get the six-month visa can also sponsor their family members (immediate and dependents). The cost is AED 250, and AED 250 for renewal – all applicants will have to do standard medical tests.

All visa-holders must exit the country to re-apply for a new visa if they want to return.

Although this visa permits residency for six months, it is still regarded as a type of visit visa. There is no official legislation that suggests that these visa-holders are able to work in the UAE.

Dubai 2-year residency for property-owners

Dubai has tried to make this process more seamless for investors looking to buy property in the emirate. In 2012, the Dubai Land Department (DLD) introduced new rules that would allow investors who already have a title deed (and no mortgage on the property) to apply for a two-year residency visa:

  • As with the federal law, the property must be worth at least AED 1m.
  • In addition to the title deed, the applicant must submit a passport copy, passport photograph
  • In addition to the AED 1,100 for a property visa, there is an additional clerical fee of AED 410.
  • The DLD will issue the property owner a certificate to be given to the Department of Economic Development.
  • The Department of Economic Development will then issue an ‘investor’ trade license, at a cost of AED 2,000 per year.
  • Once finalized, the property owner can then visit the immigration unit at the DLD to get their two-year residency visa.
  • The processing time can take up to one month.

Unfortunately, buyers with an active mortgage in place are not eligible for the visa until the loan amount is paid off in full, as they must hold the title deed to the property.

In addition, it’s important to note that, although the property investor visa does give the owner residency, it technically does not allow him/ her to work. A separate work visa must be obtained for that.

And, if the property is sold, the visa-holder will need to re-apply for residency by other means.

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Sponsoring family via the 2-year route

According to Emirates Conveyancing, the property-owner with an investment visa can go on to sponsor their family at a cost of AED 6,000 per applicant. Maids, however, cannot be sponsored by residents with this visa.

Changes afoot?

Although the rules and process to apply for this type of visa can be complicated, there are signs that some restrictions may be eased in the near future.

Recently, authorities in the UAE have hinted at the introduction of a ‘golden visa’ for investors, targeting people who invest in bonds, property and local businesses.

In essence, it would unify the processes and allow for a more lengthy residency period.

It follows similar measures already introduced by some EU countries, that have succeeded in attractive significant levels of foreign direct investment into European economies.