Dubai: When Dr Horst Hoeller bought his three-bedroom flat in Jumeirah Beach Residence in 2003, his intention was clear: buy a property in order to obtain an investor's residence visa, so that he can retire from his position as Managing Director of 3M Gulf, retain his cars, pump euros into his UAE bank accounts and enjoy winter in Dubai and summer in Austria.
However, at the time of renewal of the investor's visa in October, things went awry. Hoeller was informed by Tecom (which deals with visa issues for JBR investors) that investors' visas are a thing of the past. "I've been a retired man for the past four years. I bought this property thinking it would be my ticket to stay here. If the rules had changed, I should have been informed," says the Austrian.
Hoeller had already transferred approximately 2 million euros (Dh10 million) into his bank account here with the intention of investing in the UAE.
"Without a residence visa, I can't have a local bank account, get a driver's licence, own cars, apply for visas… Shockingly, when I made an appeal to Tecom, I was informed that the best they could do at this point is issue me a six-month multiple-entry visa."
This is pointless, seeing that citizens of the European Union don't need a visa to enter Dubai. "With a tourist visa, I would have to sell my cars, give up my business deals, not to mention all the money I'd saved for investment here," he says.
"Fortunately, I was able to buy enough shares in a company to be made a partner, and get a residence visa at such short notice," says Hoeller. Those shares didn't come cheap. Hoeller paid Dh100,000 plus expenses out of his savings.
"As a European, we're used to being able to trust the authorities of our country. If and when changes are made to a law, they apply from that point onwards. They don't backtrack and renege on an agreement or deal that was provided to the people in the past," he said.
Hoeller talks of friends and neighbours who are now looking to sell their properties at JBR and The Palm due to the change in law.
"The first handovers in JBR commenced in 2007. All homeowners at the time were given the investor's visa. And like me, I'm sure the majority of those visas have expired or are about to soon."