OWME Global Business Services


DUBAI / Relocation & Living

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 (HNWIs), even becoming a preferred alternative to traditional jurisdictions such as the UK, Switzerland, Monaco and Singapore.

With no taxes applied on individuals, straightforward administrative requirements and low processing costs, coupled with political stability, excellent accessibility and sunny weather all round, the UAE is indeed 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 time spent annually in the jurisdiction other than visiting the UAE at least once every six months
  • no requirement to effectively reside in the UAE
  • competitive costs for issuance and renewal of the residence permit
  • competitive costs of ongoing substantiation
  • presence of internationally recognized financial legal and tax service providers
  • primary hub and platform to access international business
  • political stability
  • pleasant climate

Residence permits

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
UAE government in June 2011 introduced a new system extending the validity of the visa granted to real estate investors for up to 3 years. The following rules and 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 Registrar)
  • 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
Corporate Structure
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 of 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. Usually, these options consist of "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, cinema, theaters, desert safaris, and there are many sporting facilities, restaurants and hotels. Women are permitted to work and can drive and move around unaccompanied.
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 license. 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 such as Italy, Japan, Iran, France, Germany, India and Pakistan as well as the international baccalaureate.
Medical services
The department of health and medical service provides medical care to all UAE nationals, visitors and resident expatriates. The department issues health cards to individuals that entitle them to subsidized consultation and free medicines. Fees on medical examination by consultants in hospitals are less for health card holders than for non-card holders while UAE nationals who hold health cards are exempt from these charges.
Working hours
Normal hours of work are 8 hours a day.
Relocation to Dubai described as "new Switzerland"
Dubai is widely described as the "new Switzerland". Many advantages exist for HNWIs in Dubai to fit this description, including:
  • pro-business and advantageous tax regime, no personal and corporate taxes, no capital restrictions and 100 percent repatriation of capital and profits
  • bank confidentiality and no exchange of information agreements with any country
  • sound and developed economy with significant natural resources, state reserves and growth prospects
  • mature, safe, well capitalized and regulated banking sector
  • banking system that allows 24/7 online transfer capabilities and cash withdrawals
  • stable currency pegged to the US dollar eliminating currency risks
  • a regime that prohibits unethical and high risk activities
  • no social unrest and low crime rate
  • abundance of high end accommodation facilities, marinas, entertainment, luxury lifestyle and world class shopping
  • business hub with significant commercial activity and profusion of top end office space, staff and executives for employment
  • word class health system
  • top international schools and universities at all levels
  • advanced telecommunications
  • air connections via world class airports with significant direct flights and major transit hub
  • a good climate, sunny for the most of the year at the sea cost

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