Expats in the UAE remaining beyond retirement age
Abu Dhabi - The allure of the United Arab Emirates is leading more expats to explore ways of making the country their permanent home once they retire, overcoming rules that can force them to leave when they hit 60.
Under current laws, foreign workers 60 years old or older face compulsory retirement and companies can cancel their employment visa, giving them 30 days to leave the country, even if they want to remain in the UAE.
However, expats who want to spend a currently tax-free retirement in the emirates rather than returning to their native country are taking advantage of options, such as starting their own business or investing in one, which enable them to stay once they attain senior-citizen status.
Consultancy firms are gaining business as they deal with a growing number of inquiries from expats who are planning for the day when decisions over their future in the Gulf Cooperation Council country could be taken out of their hands.
Syam Panayickal Prabhu, managing director and senior consultant for Aurion Business Consultants, which facilitates company free zones in Dubai and Sharjah, said: “People over the age of 60 can retire and settle in the UAE with utmost freedom and peace of mind.
“They can approach consultants like us and we assist them to register a company in a free zone, according to their budget and the activity they want to focus on — business consulting, trading or anything else.
“After registering the company, they can take a visa under that company as an investor or managing director.”
Prabhu said that, while the approval of the immigration authorities is required, there is usually “no impediment” to obtaining a three-year visa in Dubai’s free zones or a two-year visa in free zones elsewhere in the UAE.
“This means that they can have a peaceful retired life in the UAE,” he said.
He said it is clear why remaining in the UAE is an attractive proposition for many expats, especially those whose home countries are experiencing turmoil or economic uncertainty.
“The UAE is a country that is strategically located, having connectivity with all the major cities of the world, a high level of security and safety, ultra-modern infrastructure, a stable currency pegged to the dollar and a workforce from several countries,” he said. “Retiring people find the UAE to be a safe haven, where they can buy property, settle and live at comparatively less expense without compromising on the quality of life and luxury.”
An investor visa provides temporary residence to its holder, which lasts for a maximum period of three years and enables sponsorship of family members. To qualify for an investor visa, expats must prove they have sufficient funds to make a significant investment into a UAE company or create a business in the country.
Immigration authorities must approve the prospective investment for the visa to be sanctioned.
Hassan Elhais, a legal consultant at Al Rowaad Advocates, said establishing a commercial entity in the UAE or becoming a legal shareholder in an existing company are the most convenient and popular options for expats who want to stay in the country after the age of 60.
“Unlike the age restriction imposed by the Ministry of Labour for employment visas, the age restrictions in case of investor and partner visas are much more relaxed, if at all applicable,” he said. “This is in line with projecting the UAE as an investor-friendly nation.
“The availability of a better lifestyle combined with surplus savings from employment could be one reason why expats are more inclined to pursue UAE residency.”
Dubai resident Katja Quraysh said she would like to stay on long after her work visa expires.
“I would like to have the option to stay, instead of being forced to go back to Germany,” said the 35-year-old employee of an engineering company. “Our kids were born here and I feel very connected to and settled in this country.
“As we are Muslims, I also feel at ease being able to practise our religion easily and still have a very liberal way of life.”
Briton Maxine English, a Dubai resident who has lived in the UAE for more than 20 years, echoed the sentiment.
“I would love to be able to retire properly and not just ‘work out ways to stay forever’, which is what my family is doing,” said the 34-year-old events planner.