How the UAE’s retirement visa is boosting the charm of Dubai’s luxury residential property

The UAE administration initiated some out of the box measures in 2018, which are expected to result in a significant stimulus of the Dubai and UAE real estate sector. A slew of legislative changes and new visa rules are being seen as likely to initiate entirely new asset and investor classes. In particular, the decision to grant five-year residency visas, for expat retirees aged 55 and over, extends and deepens the relationship of these individuals with the UAE economy. One of the ways visa requirements can be met is by acquiring a local property valued at Dh 2 million or more. This clause could mobilise a sizeable redirection of the savings of a particular demographic into domestic properties, especially into Dubai’s famed luxury residential property segment, either as residences or as investments. Not only will this activate more property purchases, but the local developer community will also be able to leverage Dubai’s high living standards, world-class infrastructure, as well as other lifestyle and resident-centric positives, to create internationally prized luxury retirement communities.

Under the previous rules, expatriate residents needed to be sponsored by their employers or by an employed family member. Consequently retiring expats had no alternative but to return to their countries of origin, even if they were inclined to extend their stay given the opportunity. With the new rules likely to promote a greater sense of permanence among expat businesses and professionals, their greater integration will result in a continued impact and contribution to the economy, after retirement.

Setting aside the exception of a few nations, the proportion of retirees is assuming an ever-increasing percentile of the total global population. Gemini Property Developers CEO Sunil Gomes believes that the renewable retiree visa initiative not only acknowledges and rewards the contribution of the UAE’s large non-resident population, it is also a measure that turns a segment of the population typically seen as ‘non-productive’ by many old school economists, into a valued investor class. Sunil concludes that the win-win this creates, for the retirees as well as the UAE, is likely to drive the success of this astute initiative.

Positioning the UAE as a retirement haven with quality lifestyle choices and amenities 

Fund managers and economists point out that those currently more than 50 years of age hold a disproportionately higher quantum of wealth, compared to some other segments of the population(1). Periods of sustained economic growth and high returns within recent decades coincided with a significant portion of the professional careers of this demographic, helping them acquire and consolidate considerable wealth. UAE’s retiring expat population is sizeable, and leveraging their purchasing power to positively influence the overall economy post their retirement makes a lot of economic sense.

Sunil points out that the availability of luxury properties at a more competitive price point in the UAE – as compared, for instance, to the UK and several other European markets – represents a compelling argument for those accustomed to a certain standard of lifestyle, which they have enjoyed during their working years. This advantage would mean little if the investors were restricted in choices, or if the host economy suffered from economic weaknesses or other instabilities. Where Dubai shines most as a favourable choice is its combination of a highly developed luxury properties segment, warm weather which is preferred by an older demographic, high per capita income, low crime rates and the positive assessment of the UAE’s macroeconomic prospects by international bodies(2). In Sunil’s opinion, retirees will be further enticed by the UAE because of the presence of mature and well established businesses within sectors like insurance, healthcare, wealth management, as well as leisure and luxury goods, which are of particular interest to them.

Retaining the capital value of savings and maintaining a luxurious lifestyle

A useful way to conceptualise the purchasing power of those aged 50 and over, often dubbed the “silver economy”, is realising that it is larger than almost all national economies in the world, expect the US and China. A recent Euromonitor report projects that these holdings will be worth €15 trillion (Dh61.81tn) globally, by the year 2020(3). Proactively addressing this marketshare typically elicits appreciation from a demographic that has become accustomed several other national economies being oriented towards the needs and priorities of younger consumers. Clearly, a community of luxury properties with well-manicured outdoors, spacious accommodation, professional caregivers and the finest standards in luxury serviced properties are a far more desirable prospect than a far smaller and less well-appointed choice in one of many other cities around the world.

Perhaps one of the most valuable incentives for retiring expats when availing this visa is in being able to retain the capital value of their savings by keeping it in Dubai. Doing so avoids the levies and taxes that the transfer of funds across international borders attracts and also takes advantage of the city’s favourable taxation policies. According to Sunil, the greater sense of security that the new visa regulation ushers in for the expatriate community in Dubai, will also have a cascading effect beyond retirees, on the currently employed expat population, to consider purchasing rather than renting their homes. Facilitating the involvement of such a financially robust demographic is bound to impact property sales positively. And Sunil believes that the Dubai luxury residential property market presents some of the best opportunities for this rising upper-middle-class as well.


Dubai currently offers the astute investor the perfect combination of assured long-term value and a buyer friendly market. The Dubai government’s currently unfolding vision for the city, as the world’s most future-ready and human-centric urban center, will add another very persuasive argument for those considering it as a place to spend their retirement. The Emirati city’s rising profile as a cosmopolitan and globally integrated metropolis, and the several lifestyle and financial advantages it offers residents, should result in an enthusiastic response to the five-year renewable retiree visa. Sunil believes that properties in the Dubai luxury residential sector represent the perfect fit and great value for this demographic of buyer, and that the mutual benefits to investors, the real estate industry, as well as the larger economy, should gather a self-sustaining momentum.  


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