Even with the tightening lending conditions, there’s still hope for expatriate loan defaulters who have once fled the country to return to the emirates without getting arrested at the airport.
Legal experts had earlier confirmed that runaways can return to the UAE for work without landing behind bars. But first, they need to get in touch with their creditor, and, if an arrest warrant has been released or a case is still pending, they need to wipe their records clean.
Here’s a comprehensive guide on what necessary steps that former UAE expats can take, to free themselves from debt and/or any legal liability – for good:
1. Find a representative
Appoint a lawyer or authorised person in the UAE to double check if there have been cases filed against you, and to talk to the lenders on your behalf. Any representative, including legal professionals, might need to present a Special Power of Attorney, although in most cases, banks will accept a simple authorization letter mentioning the account details of the customer as well as the details of the representative.
2. Negotiate with the bank
Unpaid balances, including the terms of your credit, are not set in stone. As it is the main priority of the banks to get back their money, they are open to other payment options.
For instance, if you have a Dh200,000 unpaid debt, you may be able to convince the bank to waive the fines and penalties and bring it down to Dh140,000, or to any amount that you can realistically afford to pay. You can also agree on a new instalment plan.
There’s a caveat about appointing a non-lawyer representative, however. He may not be in the best position to convince the bank to substantially reduce the outstanding balance. “The banks will not simply waive their penalties and fines. The negotiator should be able to point out the relevant laws and defences available to be able to bargain for a lower amount of payment,” noted Barney Almazar, director at the corporate-commercial department of Gulf Law Middle East, Philippines and United Kingdom.
“It is possible to appoint a representative other than a lawyer to assist you (unless the particular case is likely to involve the courts and/or the public prosecutor, in which case it would be advisable to engage a lawyer,” said Paul Hughes, legal director of commercial litigation at Addleshaw Goddard Middle East.
3. Put down everything in writing
Once a verbal agreement has been reached, have everything written down and signed: get a settlement agreement drawn up by the bank. This must be signed/released first before handing over the payment. This document must bear the letterhead of the bank, duly signed by a bank official and stamped with the bank’s seal.
Do not, under any circumstances, hand over the money if there is no written verbal agreement. This paper is for the protection of the borrower, as it prohibits the bank from making future payment claims outside the agreed amount. There’s no need to have this signed in front of a police officer. This should be obtained whether or not there is a court case, police complaint or arrest warrant.
“Based on our experience, those who were promised discounted fees, after paying, were again being asked to make additional payments. The bank agent would claim that the discount was not approved by the management, and therefore, the customer had to add more money,” explained Almazar.
“The customer will find it difficult to prove the agreement with the bank, as it was not in writing. Usually, the demand for additional payment is made after sometime, and the agent who made the agreement has already resigned or been transferred to another department, and the customer is left problematic.”
Hughes cautioned that the settlement agreement does not automatically clear the borrower of any legal charges. “It is the creditor who will have to take steps to withdraw the police complaint at which point the arrest warrant should be cancelled,” Hughes noted.
4. Ask for a clearance letter and "release" document
Once the payment has been made, you need to secure at least two documents from the bank to clear your records. The clearance paper will serve as proof that you have settled all your dues with the creditor. This will also prove useful to those who have pending cases, as the police would require the same document to withdraw any charges filed against the borrower. The bank can issue the clearance letter on the same or following day, or this can take up to two weeks.
The “release” document will serve as proof that the bank has withdrawn its complaint against the customer. The paper can be obtained on the same day you have requested for the clearance certificate.
“If your negotiation with the bank includes the bank itself clearing your records with the police on your behalf (meaning, you don't need to go to their lawyers and the police, the process may take about two weeks as they do these in batches. If your representative will do it personally, clearance from bank may take a day or he can even wait for the bank to issue it on the same day. Release from lawyer can also be secured personally on the same day you go to the lawyer’s office,” said Almazar.
5. Submit the release paper to the authorities
Your representative must proceed to the police station where the case has been filed and hand over the release document, to confirm that your lender is no longer after you, according to Almazar.
6. Obtain a police clearance certificate
Once the case has been cleared at the police station level, your representative can move on to the police main headquarters to apply for a clearance, if necessary. “[Obtaining a police clearance] is optional only,” said Almazar. “Once the case has been cleared with the police (the police will delete it from the system and give a verbal confirmation), the person can enter UAE without any problem. However, if you prefer to have a written confirmation that you don't have any case, apply for a police clearance certificate.
For those who want to secure a police clearance certificate, they need to start the process with the nearest UAE embassy. “This will involve fingerprinting and your documents will have to be authenticated. Then you will need to provide a power of attorney to your representative in the UAE to file the application with the police,” said Almazar.
7. Travel back to UAE
Once you secure all the documents, you are now ready to restart your life in the UAE. Upon returning, make sure you have the documents on hand. By now, your police and immigration records would have been wiped clean.