Wednesday, May 6, 2009

UAE Grants Multi-Entry Visas To Foreign Homeowners

Source : The Business Times, May 5, 2009

(DUBAI) The United Arab Emirates (UAE) said it would grant expatriate homeowners multiple-entry visit visas enabling them to stay six months at a time if they own properties worth at least one million dirhams (S$402,061).

Much-awaited legislation: Foreign homeowners in UAE will be allowed to stay six months at a time if they own properties worth at least one million dirhams

Property buyers had been waiting for legislation for years to clarify their residency rights in the second-largest Arab economy after many of the country's seven emirates allowed foreign investment in property in recent years.

Still, analysts said the government decree, issued on Saturday, needed more details on which properties would be eligible amid a real estate downturn that dragged Dubai property prices down 41 per cent in the first quarter.

'Greater clarity regarding visa and ownership rights of property owners would help to increase transparency and hence confidence in the market, perhaps providing a positive trigger for demand,' EFG-Hermes said in a research note.

Some developers in Dubai - home to the world's tallest tower and man-made islands shaped as palm fronds - had been offering foreign property buyers promises of residency visas if they bought properties.

But, according to a decree issued by UAE Minister of Interior Sheikh Saif bin Zayed al-Nahayan, 'owners of built-up properties can stay for six months from the date of entry into the country.'

After six months, owners would have to leave the country and would be granted re-entry only if they meet certain conditions, including that their property be wholly owned, built, worth least one million dirhams and fit for accommodation by a family.

The owner should also have a fixed income of no less than 10,000 dirhams a month, or the equivalent in a foreign currency.

The visit visa does not give the owner the right to work in the UAE, the decree said.

The UAE, the world's third-largest oil exporter, is a federation of seven emirates including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, each of which has adopted separate rules regarding foreign ownership of real estate.

'More clarity is needed,' said Sana Kapadia, vice-president, equity research at EFG-Hermes in Dubai. 'It depends whether it means one million dirhams at the time of purchase or if it is the current selling price.'

Real estate prices in Dubai, for instance, have tumbled 41 per cent in the first three months of 2009, according to property consultants Colliers.

Home prices rallied during a six-year boom spurred by Dubai's decision in 2002 to allow foreigners to invest in some properties on a freehold basis.

Now, many units are now selling for less than one million dirhams, according to real estate brokers.

'You'll find an apartment in Discovery Gardens, International City and Jumeirah Lake Towers for less,' said Vincent Easton, an independent property analyst.

Prices are even lower in smaller emirates such as Ajman and Ras al-Khaimah, he said, adding that the one million dirham benchmark could refer to a country-wide average price. -- Reuters

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