x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Qatar relaxes residency rules for ex-pat property buyers

Qatar's new visa policy adds a new twist to the competition for international home buyers.

The Qatar government's recent move to issue residency visas to foreign property owners for up to five years is adding a new element to the regional competition for buyers.

A report released yesterday by Jones Lang LaSalle, the property consultancy, said Qatar's policy will "increase the competitiveness of Doha," and said it put the issue into focus for the UAE porety market.

Investors and second home buyers in the UAE routinely list visa policy as a key issue when considering a purchase, property executives say. In a survey last year of 500 buyers, lawyers and brokers in the UAE by the law firm Hadef and Partners, 88 per cent listed "more flexible visa options for owners-investors" as one of the issues that could boost recovery in the property sector.

During the height of the property boom some developers were promising a visa to buyers, but the UAE government put an end to that practice in 2009 with a new law that established procedures for property buyers to obtain temporary residency visas.

The law contains a variety of requirements. The value of the property must be at least Dh1 million, the owner must have at Dh10,000 in monthly income and the visa must be renewed every six months at a cost of Dh2,000.

The six-month restriction is the element often cited as a negative by potential property buyers, industry experts say.

"Property is a long term investment," said Michael Lunjevich, a partner in Hadef and Partners. "The buzzword among property investors is longer property visas."

Qatar's law offering residency visas to property buyers has been on the books since 2006, but the first visas weren't issued until last month. Only two visas have been issued--to expatriates from Egypt and Pakistan--but more are expected.

The government has reportedly received about 70 applications from non-Qataris.

"It's exactly what we needed," said Sam Youssef, managing director of Better Homes in Qatar. "It's going to open up the real estate market, big time."