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The UAE has cancelled the Dh1 million ($272,294) minimum down payment required for people to qualify for a golden visa through real estate investment, as it seeks to encourage more residents and investors to establish deeper roots in the country, according to sources.
Previously, to qualify for the 10-year renewable residency programme, which was introduced in 2019, investors were required to acquire property valued at Dh2 million or above.
But for properties bought on mortgage or instalment plans, homebuyers had to make a minimum down payment of Dh1 million, or 50 per cent of the property's value, to the bank or developer to be eligible for the golden visa.
The recent change eliminates the need for a minimum down payment altogether, according to Maroun Abou Harb, an associate at law firm BSA Ahmad bin Hezeem & Associates.
Now, investors can qualify for the golden visa if the property's value is Dh2 million or more, regardless of whether it's off-plan, completed, mortgaged or not mortgaged, he said.
However, the change has not yet been reflected on the Dubai Land Department’s Cube website, a customer service initiative to support investor and golden visa services for property buyers.
Dubai’s General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs website has not yet been updated to reflect the change.
The eligibility criteria for obtaining the golden residency for real estate investors stays unchanged, with the property value requirement set at a minimum of Dh2 million, the DLD told The National.
BSA Ahmad bin Hezeem & Associates was informed about the change on January 22, Mr Abou Harb said.
“No circular has been sent out yet, although when we visited the DLD at The Cube, where they handle the golden visa applications, that’s where we were made aware of this change,” said Jess Stephenson, head of sales progression at Dubai property broker Allsopp & Allsopp.
In recent years, the UAE, the Arab world’s second-largest economy, has undertaken several economic, legal and social reforms to boost foreign direct investment and attract skilled workers.
The Emirates introduced the golden visa programme in 2019. The visas are valid for 10 years and aim to encourage exceptional workers and foreign investors to establish deeper ties to the country.
In 2022, amendments were introduced to the golden residency initiative to simplify the eligibility criteria and expand the categories of beneficiaries.
The 10-year visa is granted to investors, entrepreneurs, skilled professionals who earn a monthly salary of more than Dh30,000 ($8,167), exceptional talents, scientists and professionals, outstanding students and graduates, property investors, humanitarian pioneers and frontline heroes.
“This policy change would benefit many buyers and end users as this will open up the golden visa option to pretty much everybody who's bought a property, because most properties are valued at more than Dh2 million,” Ms Stephenson said.
“That way, all mortgage buyers would be able to apply for the golden visa, and then they can also sponsor their family and domestic staff. This means there would be more buyer confidence in the city, too.”
Another property agent said he would test the policy change first hand when one of his customers visits the DLD this week to register a transaction for a property worth more than Dh2 million.
Meanwhile, the “excellent government initiative” would help boost the property market, said Matthew Gregory, branch director at real estate agency Betterhomes.
“This enables us to have positive conversations with potential clients, especially from overseas, and help them get on the property ladder and obtain a visa even quicker with a minimal investment,” he said.
“You only have to buy a property worth Dh2 million, but you don’t have to hold equity of the same value.
“If you buy an off-plan unit, you just need to pay the down payment, which for some is only Dh50,000, and be eligible for a golden visa.”
Before this, investors needed to have equity in the property over a certain value to be eligible for a golden visa, he said.
“This meant you couldn’t do it for off-plan properties because you didn’t have equity until you fulfilled a large percentage of the payment plan.”
Ben Crompton, managing partner of Abu Dhabi real estate agency Crompton Partners Estate Agents, said his company had not been informed of any changes to the golden visa application criteria.
“If the value is scrapped, it will mean a lot more golden visas will be issued. It might stimulate domestic purchases, but is much more likely to attract foreign investors,” he said.
The recent rule change regarding the golden visa through real estate investment is applicable not only to specific emirates but across the UAE, according to Mr Abou Harb.
“This change is expected to stimulate increased investment in the real estate sector. By eliminating the financial barrier associated with the down payment, more investors may be enticed to participate in property acquisitions, fostering a surge in real estate transactions,” he said.
“This inflow of investment could lead to heightened construction activities, job creation and overall economic growth associated with the real estate industry.”
The broader eligibility criteria for the golden visa may attract a more diverse pool of investors, he added.
With the focus shifting from a specific down payment requirement to the property's overall value, individuals with varying financial capacities may find the golden visa programme more accessible.
“The rule change may serve as a strategic response to market dynamics, aiming to bolster Dubai's real estate sector amid predictions of a potential price drop,” Mr Abou Harb said.
“By facilitating easier access to the golden visa, the government could be proactively counteracting market downturns, ensuring sustained growth and resilience. This move may not only attract new investors but also instil confidence in existing stakeholders, fostering a positive sentiment that could contribute to the stability and long-term vitality of the UAE's real estate market.”