ABU DHABI // "Luxury waterfront apartments ... 25 minutes from Dubai International Airport ... Dubai residence visa with ownership ..." This was an advert for a development in Dubai that could be found on the internet yesterday, leaving prospective buyers in little doubt that guaranteed residency was part of the deal.
Yet in the wake of claims by RERA, the property regulator, that some developers were not only making promises they could not keep, but also that a few were even charging buyers for the service, major developers and estate agents were yesterday unanimous: residency visas for foreign property buyers in Dubai might be granted but could not be guaranteed. Their stance clarifies a situation that, until now, has been confusing, to say the least, with some private developers clearly claiming they can guarantee buyers a visa.
Yesterday, companies took the opportunity to remove uncertainty over the issue, which has played a significant part in the housing market among those buying property specifically to gain residency. "Upon the purchase of a Nakheel property, we will provide customers the basis for sponsorship, although the grant of a residency visa is still subject to the rules, requirements and procedures of the Department of Naturalisation and Residency [DNR]," said a spokesman for one of Dubai's largest master-developers.
Dubai Properties, the developer of projects including Jumeirah Beach Residence and Culture Village, confirmed that the approval or rejection of applications for residency visas were "at the sole discretion of the DNR", which may check on factors such as the applicant's financial status. People could apply, said a spokesman, provided they did not already have a residency visa by virtue of their employment; also, they could not use the residency visa to work in Dubai.
Cem Sabri Pozam, a resident at Jumeirah Beach, said he found the policy easy to understand - but nevertheless appeared to believe he was "entitled" to a visa. "It's quite simple," he said. "I'm entitled to a residency visa, but not while I'm working here. It's nice to know that I have that option if I need it." Several estate agencies, approached anonymously, also stressed that property buyers should not expect automatic entitlement to a residency visa with a property purchase, although many had applied successfully.
"If you don't have any black points against your name and show you can support yourself, you should be fine," said one agent. "The authorities just don't want criminals buying property and living here." Billy Rautenbach, the operations manager of Better Homes, said the company was wary of taking a firm stance on the issue. She advised prospective buyers to contact property developers directly to seek clarification on the conditions for a visa.
A sales agent at Aspire, a leasing, sales and property management company, said other popular property markets, including Ajman and Ras al Khaimah, also allowed property buyers to apply for residency visas. The situation is a lot less ambiguous in Abu Dhabi, where there is not even the possibility of a residency visa for foreign buyers. Aldar, the emirate's largest developer, stated clearly that it could not act as sponsor for a foreign home buyer's application for residency.
Other developers building projects in the capital, including Sorouh and Al Qudra Real Estate, also confirmed that they did not act as visa sponsors for buyers. @Email:email@example.com