Visa issue key to boosting UAE market - experts

Real estate officials say clear long-term plan needed to help drive demand in downturn.
Visa issue key to boosting UAE market - experts
By Alex Delmar-Morgan
Tue 02 Jun 2009 01:13 PM

Property industry experts on Tuesday said the UAE’s visa plan for expatriate homeowners was key to kick-starting the real estate market.

At the start of last month, the UAE government issued a decree granting foreigners the right to a six-month renewable residency visa if they owned properties worth at least AED1m ($272,300m).

At the time analysts said the move was unlikely to stimulate the market and called for greater clarity on visa and ownership rights.

Speaking at a Cityscape Connect breakfast event on Tuesday attended by members of the property industry, experts said the visa plan was crucial for driving demand in the market.

“The visa issue surrounds so many other things - you can’t live here, you can’t get a driving licence, you can’t open a bank account [unless you have a visa],” said Elaine Jones, CEO of Dubai-based property consultant Asteco.

“If the visa regulation is not palatable, if there are difficulties, there have to be other regulations in place to allow people to live here. There is no point selling a property to somebody who can’t live in it and use it,” she added.

Others said the six month visa plan was too short.

“Six months is quite a short period of time for property ownership, particularly in the current market. I would have liked to have seen a longer period to give people more stability and confidence,” said Steven Henderson, partner at law firm Clifford Chance.

He urged a more collective approach to real estate legislation across the UAE, stressing that the emirates currently dealt with foreign ownership laws differently.

Many of the seven emirates in the UAE have allowed foreign investment in property in recent years.

In 2002 Dubai introduced freehold laws which sparked the emirate’s now collapsed six year real estate boom.

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