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On Your Side: Pension schemes for expats

Pension schemes for expats, will translation and getting an international driver's licence.

A colleague was telling me the other day that all companies in the UAe will soon have to offer pension plans for all their employees and that they will have to pay in to them. I haven't seen any articles about this and would be grateful if you could shed some light on the matter. Will there be a pension plan for expats and if so, will we be forced to join it?

Towards the end of last year, the Department of Economic Development announced that it was working on a project to introduce a pension scheme for expatriates in all seven emirates. There are few details currently available and no one knows if it will be compulsory or if both employers or employees will be legally obliged to contribute. The concept of introducing a similar savings scheme was first introduced in 2008, when the General Authority for Pensions and Social Insurance proposed a pension savings draft. After its initial announcement, the draft law did not materialise.

I have been away from the UK for more than 10 years, but have been paying voluntary National Insurance contributions because I was told this would mean I could collect a state pension when I retired. I have been paying into the system since I was 20 and am now 55, so I would like to find out if I have to keep paying into it. How do I find out what I am entitled to from the UK government? MS Abu Dhabi

General UK government guidance states that an individual needs to make at least 30 full years of National Insurance contributions to qualify for a full state pension. This includes voluntary contributions if you are a non-resident for tax purposes. Because you are now 55, you are eligible to claim a state pension from the age of 65. However, this may be different for anyone younger than you. The best thing to do is to apply for a state pension forecast using the UK government form BR19. For this, you need to be more than 30 days away from retirement, have your National Insurance number, details of marriages (whether current or dissolved) and dates of overseas employment. The form can be obtained from the website, www.directgov.uk. The form must be sent to the offices of the pension service, whose address is on the form. You should receive a response within a few weeks. The forecast provides an indication of basic and additional pension entitlement using today's prices, which is based on contributions paid to date and expected in the future. If you are underfunded, you will be advised how much extra you are able to contribute to top up your entitlement, should you wish to do so. There is also an international case worker team to assist with enquiries from non-residents.

I plan to update my will because I now own a house in the UAE and have young children. But I am receiving conflicting advice about whether the documents also need to be translated into Arabic. Is this just a way for someone to make more money out of me? The cost for the translation is almost as much as I am being quoted for writing the will itself. I am Australian and intend to return to my home country eventually. SB Dubai

For a will to be accepted in the UAE courts, it must be translated into Arabic and attested, but there is really no need to do this at the outset, especially if you are not intending to remain in the UAE for the rest of your days. The translation can be done if and when required (that is, after death) because it can be a costly process. I would suggest that you ensure that your main beneficiaries and the executors are aware of this requirement.

I have been a resident of Dubai for several years and have a UAE driving licence. But it appears that I have lost my original UK licence. I am planning to travel overseas later this year and want to organise an international driving permit. I have previously done this in the UK, but obviously cannot do so now. Is there is any place I can do this in Dubai to save the hassle of having to sort this out in the UK? Do you also know if I can get a replacement for my UK licence? JB Dubai

You can obtain an international driving permit at any Emirates Post office. The permit is accepted in numerous countries and is printed in 10 languages. You simply complete an application form and submit this with your valid UAE driving licence, two passport-size photos, as well as a copy of your passport and residence visa. There is a charge of Dh140 per application. Further details can be found on Emirates Post's website, www.emiratespost.ae. It is worth noting that an international driving permit is valid for just one year and anyone with a UAE driving licence may apply for one. Information regarding replacing a UK driving licence, for both the photo card, which is valid for 10 years, and the paper licence, can be found at www.direct.gov.uk. Although the process itself is quite simple, only residents of the UK are eligible to renew or replace their lost licences. You have to provide a UK address for the past three years and this might be checked. If you have registered as a UK non-resident for tax purposes with Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, you cannot apply for a replacement licence. You should find, however, that a UAE licence, together with an international driving permit, is acceptable for driving in many countries.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com

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