Is reality dawning about the UAE expat retirement visa?

Published:  26 Sep at 6 PM
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Is the new UAE retirement visa really an opportunity for older expats, or is it simply smoke and mirrors?

In the weeks since the surprise announcement that the UAE is to offer 5-year retirement visas to qualifying expats, reactions from within the expatriate community have veered from positive through maybe to uncertainty about what happens after the five years are up. A new take on the offer asks whether the new law really does breach the gap between reality and fantasy, taking into account the fact that many expats spend almost all they earn.

The advantages to both sides of long-term expats finally putting down roots and using the money they were able to put by in order to fund their retirement are obvious. Savings stay in the region, are used to purchase expensive homes and there’s an advantage in having a greater age range in the country as it allows perspectives in the community to broaden. It’s been said the new visa will benefit the UAE economy via house purchase, but exactly how many expat professionals will have saved enough to comply with the requirements is an unanswered question.

A recent survey by HSBC revealed just under half of the respondents felt they would be able to fund a comfortable retirement with their savings, with 63 per cent planning to work part time as long as their health held out and opportunities presented themselves. Pension providers sell their products using the retirement dream as an incentive, persuading clients they’ll love their fun-filled, adventurous ‘second youth’, but the reality is that nothing in the financial world is guaranteed, any more than is good health in the so-called ‘golden years’. What happens when your private health insurance is cancelled due to your advancing age, and your self-funded private hospital bill wrecks your plans for the future? This and other questions aren’t answered by the UAE retirement visa, however tempting it seems as regards its suggested lifestyle.

One retirement dream, currently unfulfilled anywhere expats find themselves, includes workplace savings plans replacing end-of-service benefits, allowing the building of a larger nest-egg, and also includes the evolution of affordable private healthcare insurance lasting as long as is necessary. In this dream, property developers would build expat retirement communities offering social care and nursing, resulting in the arrival of overseas retirees as well as serving the needs of retired local long-stay expats. Attracting and welcoming older residents as well as providing for those already in the country could reap a huge financial stimulus, bearing in mind that, in Britain, 50 per cent of all spending is by those over 50 years of age. However, in today’s real world, retirees need to put life’s practicalities first when deciding where to retire, and the UAE’s new visa leaves a number of boxes as yet unticked.
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