Austrian feels cheated by change in UAE visa law

Property owner feels cheated by change in residence visa law for investors

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Image Credit: xpress /virendra saklani
Dr Horst Hoeller was issued an investor’s visa when he bought his JBR home in 2007. However, he was informed this year that investor’s visa no longer exists
09 XPRESS

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.

Pointless exercise

"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."

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  • Francois

    13-Nov-2010 09:35

    I am one of the many investors who bought property in Dubai for the sole reason that I shall get a residence visa. A few months back, I contacted Emaar and just as in the case of Dr Horst Hoeller, I was told: “No residence visa”! But what about re-registering my car? My bank account? A new phone connection? “Not our problem,” was all that I got as an answer! I have spent 35 years in this country as a company owner. I have now sold my business thinking that I could now retire and spend my savings on my own property in Dubai. As a European, I get a tourist visa when I enter the country, but I have to leave every month and cannot re-register my car. Unlike Dr Horst, having just sold a long established and very profitable business, I really do not wish to re-start a new business from the scratch just for the purpose of residing here. With the free fall in property prices and the difficulty that realtors are facing in selling empty villas and apartments, authorities must offer some facilities to property owners and new buyers. This may help the economy of the nation and by way of consequence, all other sectors may benefit too! Who can we now trust?

  • Richard

    12-Nov-2010 08:55

    This is very shocking, especially when so much has been invested! I also have invested in the UAE and will have to think twice about continuing investing here. A word to the wise is enough.

  • S.R.

    11-Nov-2010 23:29

    This is a true fact... people feel cheated due to this in the UAE. This is very negative marketing for a nation that invested millions….

  • Ziad

    11-Nov-2010 21:10

    Why is this a surprise? I have lived there for 10 years and just until the end of 2009 rules were changed almost every quarter. I am not surprised at all...

  • Abdul

    11-Nov-2010 20:01

    It’s my story too. I bought a property in Jumeirah Beach Residence and was issued an investor visa which Tecom didn’t renew and I was informed that the best they could do was issue a six-month multiple-entry visit visa. This is pointless, especially when residents of Saudi Arabia get a visa on arrival and don't even need visit visa to enter Dubai. They should not have at least backtracked on those who have already been issued resident visas. Everyone can’t afford to pay Dh100,000 like Dr Horst to get an investor visa.

  • Sam

    11-Nov-2010 18:58

    If a major new bylaw is to be introduced, especially one where people will lose their livelihood it has to go through a careful review by experts before it is introduced. This will make people (citizens and foreigners alike) trust their government more and give foreign investors the confidence to keep and spend their money here so as to contribute to the nation’s economy.

  • Michael

    11-Nov-2010 18:46

    The cancellation of investor visas has a negative effect on the credibility of the government by any international standards and damages UAE’s image. It is also detrimental to the nation’s property market. It just makes no sense and creates an impression that investors are unwanted and have no rights whatsoever in the UAE. People come here because they enjoy living here and it’s sad if they are then treated like this.

  • Baiju Murathankal Joseph

    11-Nov-2010 17:32

    Revision of rules and regulations every now and then in every industry for reason or no reason has become a stalemate as far as Dubai’s ongoing businesses are concerned. Once people are offered privileges, the lookout should not be on their money alone but also on what they are offered or else people will stop coming to this place.

  • Tom cruise

    11-Nov-2010 16:39

    Is this how Dubai’s infrastructure has been created… by cheating investors? No one wants to invest further in this nation… why? It is quite possible to see more changes in laws in near future and face bitter experiences. So good luck… I am leaving this country!

Latest Comment

I am one of the many investors who bought property in Dubai for the sole reason that I shall get a residence visa. A few months back, I contacted Emaar and just as in the case of Dr Horst Hoeller, I was told: “No residence visa”! But what about re-registering my car? My bank account? A new phone connection? “Not our problem,” was all that I got as an answer! I have spent 35 years in this country as a company owner. I have now sold my business thinking that I could now retire and spend my savings on my own property in Dubai. As a European, I get a tourist visa when I enter the country, but I have to leave every month and cannot re-register my car. Unlike Dr Horst, having just sold a long established and very profitable business, I really do not wish to re-start a new business from the scratch just for the purpose of residing here. With the free fall in property prices and the difficulty that realtors are facing in selling empty villas and apartments, authorities must offer some facilities to property owners and new buyers. This may help the economy of the nation and by way of consequence, all other sectors may benefit too! Who can we now trust?

Francois

13 November 2010 14:38 jump to comments