Have a problem? Been treated unfairly? Our consumer advocate is on the case for you.
Can I open a bank account without a residency visa?
I plan to move to Dubai later this year and am keen to set up a bank account as soon as possible. I have spoken to a number of banks, but they have all told me that I have to have a resident visa to open an account. This won't be sorted for some time, so do you know of any banks that will let me open an account without the visa? AW London UK As you have discovered, most banks require a residency visa to allow you to open any accounts, but some will permit you to have a savings account on a visit visa. One of these is ME Bank (www.me.ae), which will allow you to open a savings account. Although you cannot have a chequebook or debit card, you would be able to procure an ATM card. Accounts are available in seven currencies in addition to dirhams. I understand that Emirates Bank will also open basic accounts for non-residents, as will Lloyds TSB in certain circumstances.
Having worked in the UAE for the past 18 months, I am now in a position to make overpayments on my mortgage back in the UK. However, I am wondering if it would be more beneficial to wait until I have re-mortgaged at a lower interest rate (I am currently on a fixed rate of 5.5 per cent until the end of 2010) or to pay off 10 per cent of the mortgage now. If I pay the larger amount off now, would I be paying off less capital (and more interest) than if I waited, or does it make no difference?
RB Abu Dhabi If you have the capital, I believe that it is beneficial to make a payment now, but you need to check the terms of the fixed-rate mortgage to make sure that it would be credited immediately and not subject to a penalty payment. RB's mortgage is with Bristol & West (soon to be renamed Bank of Ireland Mortgages) and the terms of the contract permit an overpayment of 10 per cent per year without penalty. In this case, the year runs from April to April, but some lenders will use a calendar year or a 12-month period from the mortgage anniversary. Many of the new-style fixed rates allow you to repay up to 10 per cent per annum without penalty, but you must check with your lender, as not all banks have the same terms. Assuming it is credited right away, the interest payment should reduce at the end of the month, and if payments continue unchanged you will reduce the outstanding capital a little quicker. With many people either in or approaching negative equity, this is a good course of action for those with the means to make additional payments.
I was working in oil and gas prior to coming to the UAE, and gave up my job so my husband could take up a position in Dubai. I thought that it would be easy to find a job here in Dubai, but so far it hasn't been. A few people I have spoken with recommended that I try to work on a freelance or consultant basis. This would be great for me, as I have a young daughter and would love the flexibility of working part time - I don't need to be an employee. I was wondering, given the housewife visa status, how do I actually do this?
AR Dubai To do any work in Dubai, you need to have the right visa. You cannot carry out freelance work without having some sort of work-related visa. You can set up as a company, which is usually cheaper in a free zone, or for certain occupations you can get sponsorship via a media free zone. Without this anyone is working illegally. If a company pays an employee, it is assumed that the individual has a proper visa. If someone is sponsored by an employer, they can also do freelance work provided they have permission from the sponsor. To be above board and legal, you would need to get a labour card, even if on the back of a housewife visa with a no-objection certificate (NOC). I am aware that many people do not have this and no action has been taken against them, but that is a risk the individual takes. There has been talk of introducing proper "freelancer visas" in several emirates, but there is still a lot of legal work to be sorted and I understand this will not happen for some time.
I am due to have a baby soon and would like to know how to go about sorting a residency visa for him or her after the birth. Can you give me some guidance please? EK Dubai Before applying for residency, you must first organise a passport for the child via your country's embassy or consulate. You must apply for a residency visa for a newborn baby within 120 days of his or her birth. If you fail to do this the child will not be allowed to leave the UAE and the legal guardian must pay a Dh100 fine for each day over the 120-day period. You need to obtain an application form from the Naturalisation & Residency Department, which must be completed at a certified typing office. You will need to provide the baby's original passport, the original and a copy of the birth certificate, three passport-sized photographs of the child, a copy of the sponsor's passport copy (usually the father) and a copy of the sponsor's contract or a salary certificate. The baby's birth certificate must be attested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Once all these documents have been assembled, they must be taken to the residency section at the Naturalisation & Residency Department. There is a fee of Dh100 for each year, plus an administration fee of Dh115. Once it has all been finalised, the passport with the residency visa is sent to you by courier.
Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org Letters can also be sent to email@example.com