Relocation and Living in UAE
11 September, 2017
Over the past years, the UAE has increasingly emerged as one of the most popular jurisdictions worldwide for the relocation of high net worth individuals (HNWI), even becoming a preferred alternative to traditional jurisdictions such as the UK, Switzerland, Monaco and Singapore.
With no taxes on individuals, straightforward administrative requirements and low processing costs, coupled with political stability, excellent accessibility and sunny weather all round, the UAE is a very attractive proposal as a residency jurisdiction.
The UAE's position has further been reinforced by the ongoing tax backlash in other hubs eg amended UK regimes pertaining to non-doms, first signs of erosion of the lump sum tax system in Switzerland as well as plans from various countries to tighten the screw on Europe's tax havens.
Why relocate in the UAE
- exemption from income tax and wealth tax for individuals
- no quotas on the number of issued residence permits
- no requirement to obtain a fiscal quitus from the foreign country
- no minimum requirement regarding the time spent annually in the jurisdiction other than visiting the UAE once every six months
- competitive costs for issuance and renewal of residence permits
- competitive costs of ongoing substantiation
- presence of internationally recognized financial, legal and tax services firms
- primary hub and platform to access international business
- political stability
- pleasant climate
Individuals, other than UAE and GCC citizens, must have a residence visa if they want to live in the UAE. Obtaining a residence permit is the primary condition for being considered as resident in the UAE. As a general rule, one has to have a sponsor in order to apply for a residence permit in the jurisdiction.
For many expatriates, the company that employs them will act as their sponsor and secure them residence visa. For those who do not come on an employment contract, there are two other ways for obtaining UAE residency:
- investment in real estate/property residence visa
- set up of corporate structure to act as sponsor
Real estate investor/property residence visa
The UAE government in June 2011 introduced a new system extending the validity of the visa granted to real estate investors up to 3 years.
The following conditions govern the issuance of a real estate investor visa:
- the property is built and ready for accommodation
- the applicant proves ownership (title deed issued by the Land Registry)
- the property is worth minimum AED 1 million (equivalent to US$300.000) with no mortgage
- the applicant's income is higher than AED 10.000 (US$3.000) monthly
The other way to obtain residency is through a corporate structure.
As a general rule, one has to have a sponsor in order to apply for a residence permit in the jurisdiction. For foreigners, setting up a company is a practical way for obtaining sponsorship.
As far as the company is concerned, it must have physical presence in the UAE. In that regard, the most interesting and cost effective options are proposed by free zones situated in the northern emirates. They also offer flexi desks or flexi offices.
There is little crime in the UAE and the country is clean, with modern facilities. Foreign newspapers, magazines, films and videos are readily available. Alcohol is available for consumption by non-muslims in certain emirates and may be consumed at home, in hotels and on licensed club premises.
There is also a wide range of entertainment available including clubs, cinemas, theatres, desert safaris and many sporting facilities, restaurants and hotels.
The UAE has a comprehensive road network with driving on the right hand side of the road. Taxis are the main form of public transport. Visitors may hire a car if they hold an international driving licence. Major international car rental companies operate in the UAE.
There are government schools in all the emirates providing free primary and secondary education to UAE nationals. There are private foreign schools offering the academic curriculum of the UK, the US and other countries including Italy, Japan, Iran, France, Germany, India and Pakistan as well as the international baccalaureate.
The Department of Health provides medical care to all UAE nationals, visitors and resident expatriates. The Department issues health cards to individuals that entitle them to receive subsidized consultation and free medicines.
Fees on medical examination by consultants in hospitals are less for health cardholders than for non-cardholders while UAE nationals who hold health cards are exempt from these charges.
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