I have banked with Emirates NBD for some eight years and have both business and personal accounts with it. The bank is aware that I am the signatory on all four accounts (one personal and three business) and that they are linked. I tried to access my pound sterling business account, but it had been frozen by the bank because I have not been using it. This is despite the fact that my other accounts are active. No one contacted me about this and the person I spoke to on the telephone clearly couldn't care less, simply demanding that I go to a branch and pay a fee of Dh100 to access my own account. As I cannot make the bank staff see sense, can you do so?
I referred the matter to Emirates NBD and after a couple of days they advised as follows: "The concerned department has been in touch with SC to address his query. His account has been reactivated and the fees waived. The same has been communicated to SC. We would like to clarify that the account automatically moves into 'dormant' status if there is no customer-originated transaction over a period of six months as a measure of security." While it is standard practice for UAE banks to freeze dormant accounts after just six months, this is also the case where a customer has other active accounts. This makes the bank's actions seem pointless because they are aware that accounts are linked, such as in this case. SC is happy that the issue has been resolved, although less than impressed with the Emirates NBD employee who contacted him. Yet again, we see that senior employees of a bank are attempting to offer a decent service, but are let down by branch staff.
I have seen some articles in the papers over the past week that seem to say that British expats will have to pay tax on income of £30,000 (Dh174,849) or get a tax bill of £30,000. Does this mean that we will now have to pay UK tax even if we live here? Could you explain what is happening?
CE, Abu Dhabi
There have been various stories in the British press about this over the past few weeks, but it is really just a follow-up to the introduction of a flat levy of £30,000 on people living in the UK but who have non-domicile status. Previously, they had not been taxed and this has apparently led to several thousand people relocating elsewhere. The legislation in question changed in April 2008 and is relevant to people who are non-domiciled - not non-resident - in the UK. The concepts of domicile and residency are different. Nearly all British nationals are deemed to be UK domiciled even if they are non-residents for tax purposes while living overseas. This does not affect British citizens living and working in the UAE, so there is no need for concern.
I read in a recent column that expats now have to obtain an Emirates ID card when they renew their residency visa. My visa is due for renewal in April. My employer has told all employees who don't already have cards that we must sort them out as soon as we get our visas renewed and that this is our responsibility and we have to pay for them. Can our employer make us do this?
The situation appears a little vague at the moment, with some employees having to pay for their own identity card. However, for many, the cost is being covered by their employer and considered part of the whole sponsorship arrangement. There have been announcements by the Emirates Identity Authoritythat by April there will be a new integrated system and the identity cards will be directly linked to residency visas. When this is introduced, the fees will automatically be the responsibility of the sponsor, so for most people, this will be their employer. Until such time as the new system is activated, an employer is not legally required to pay for a visa, although I would really expect most companies to do so. But if your residency visa is renewed before the integrated system is active, you may have to pay for the identity card yourself at a cost of Dh200 for a two-year residence.
I have been reading your newspaper before my move to Dubai and have a question that I hope you can answer. I have a five-year contract and rather than buy a vehicle when I am there, and as I like my current car, is it possible to bring it with me from the UK? My company is offering a generous relocation allowance that should cover the shipping costs. A friend in Dubai has told me about the "blue-plate scheme" for imported cars, but are there other things that I need to do to register the car before driving it?
Your car is a fairly standard, although modified, UK model and is right-hand drive, as is usual for UK roads. Right-hand drive vehicles cannot be registered in the UAE and, therefore, cannot be driven here. In addition, a car made for the UK market will not have "Gulf specifications" and is unsuitable for the climate in the UAE. The blue-plate scheme is for vehicles for export from the UAE only, usually to other GCC countries, and not relevant in this situation. You will not be able to import and drive your current car in the UAE.
Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Write to her at email@example.com with queries for this column or for advice on any other financial planning matter.