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Retirement for Expats in the United Arab Emirates

Author: Jason Zhou
Submitted: June 2014

The UAE is a country composed of seven political entities in the Middle East, which means it will be very hot in the summer time. There are many reasons why you would want to live in the UAE after retirement but bear in mind you may need a visa to stay there. There is no retirement visa in the UAE. People may get a business visa for six months but cannot live in UAE for more than 30 days for each visit. Citizens of certain countries, such as many countries in the European Union, United States, Canada and Japan, can get a 30 day visa on arrival. This visa can be extended for another 30 days which must be applied for through the immigration office in the UAE and a fee applies. Visitors from other countries can get an initial tourist visa for 30 days and then this can be extended for another two months, providing they leave the UAE to apply for the extension.  Another route is to seek a working visa through employment if you think semi-retirement would be a good option.    

Generally expatriates can get healthcare services provided by the government. This may be free of charge or at a lower cost. The quality of such services  is considered to be good and there are no problems with overcrowding or long waiting lists. You may bring certain medicines to the UAE; however, you will need to apply for permission from the UAE Ministry of Health as they may be restricted or prohibited in the UAE. Ignoring this rule can lead to fines or prosecution.

Expatriates are not entitled to social welfare benefits. Foreign workers do not need to pay pension contributions as they will receive a service gratuity payment at the end of their employment. Therefore, if you retire in the UAE you  need to ensure your pension payments can be transferred freely into your UAE account.

As it is an oil-rich country, there is no personal income tax in the UAE. Unfortunately as it is difficult to get a permanent residence permit, you may be living in both the UAE and your home country for some time. Therefore, it is highly likely you will be a tax resident in your home country, resulting in your world income being subject to tax.

The UAE has a large number of expatriates with most living in the larger cities. Dubai’s population, for example, consists of 75% foreign workers. Often if there is a high concentration of expatriates, groups and social clubs to meet others with similar interests are popular. This is a great way to meet new people but living in a larger city tends to be more expensive.

Most people would like to keep their living standard similar to what they experienced before retirement. However, savings may disappear sooner than expected. As stated in research by HSBC in 2013, UK retirement lasts about 19 years on average and financial problems are likely to emerge after just seven years. It is recommended to have a detailed financial plan for retirement as early as possible.



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