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UAE scraps minimum payment for property golden visa

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  • Decision called ‘ace card’
  • Property must be worth AED2m
  • Dubai market ‘underpriced’

The UAE has removed the AED1 million ($272,294) minimum downpayment requirement to qualify for a golden visa through real estate investment, industry sources have told AGBI

Investors must acquire property valued at AED2 million or above to be eligible for the 10-year renewable residency scheme, introduced in 2019. 

Previously, for properties bought on mortgage or installment plans, a minimum of AED1 million – or 50 percent of the property’s value – had to be paid to the bank or developer to be able to apply for the golden visa.

Vinayak Mahtani, CEO of bnbme holiday homes, confirmed the downpayment is no longer required.

“Starting now, if the property is worth AED2 million you can get a golden visa, regardless of whether it’s off-plan, completed, mortgaged or not mortgaged,” he said. 

“If you can book an off-plan property [worth AED2 million] with an AED50,000 cheque, boom, that’s it.”

Mahtani called the move, which would allow thousands more investors access to the visa, an “ace card” the government has played to preempt potential market downturns.

“You pull out something like this and it’s just going to boost real estate again,” he said. 

“It’s going to give it the energy and oxygen it needs long term.”

Joanna Matthews-Taylor, Dubai-based partner and head of employment at law firm Baker McKenzie, confirmed her team was aware of the policy change. However, she pointed out that the property value must still be in excess of AED2 million for the individual to be eligible to apply for golden visa status.

Jess Stephenson, head of sales progression at real estate agency Allsopp & Allsopp, confirmed her company had also been informed about the change and said it would have “mass appeal” to potential real estate buyers.

Dubai’s real estate market – an important driver of the emirate’s economy – was predicted to experience a price drop of five to 10 percent over the next 12 to 18 months.

Tatjana Lescova, associate director and primary credit analyst at S&P Global Ratings, voiced concerns in November about the increasing risks of a cyclical slowdown and a potential mild price reversal. 

She pointed out that property prices were nearing their previous peak levels, which could dampen buyer interest and push down demand.

Lescova also raised alarms about oversupply, noting an expected annual new unit supply of around 40,000 for the next year, which might surpass market demand unless offset by population growth.

However, Mahtani believes Dubai’s real estate market “is still underpriced” when compared with cities such as London, Miami, Singapore, Hong Kong and New York.

“There’s still room for huge upward movement,” he said, forecasting double-digit growth. 

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Hussain Sajwani, founder of Damac Properties, one of Dubai’s largest private developers, predicted that prices will increase by five to 10 percent this year and would not see a correction for at least two years.

“The market is still strong. I think it’s going to continue to remain strong,” Sajwani told Reuters.

Mohit Bhojwani, sales consultant at Property Zone Real Estate, said eliminating the AED1 million barrier to qualify for the golden visa will spur off-plan investment.

“Investors will be more attracted to buy off-plan properties because they can begin the golden visa process after paying only the booking amount,” he said. 

Louis Harding, managing director at Betterhomes, views the policy change as a sign of the UAE, and especially Dubai, “maturing” into a genuine destination of choice for expatriates, moving beyond its traditional appeal of tax-free living.

Sidharth Kumar, sales manager at Forest Hills Real Estate, anticipates the initiative will also drive up demand for properties valued below AED2 million.

“Owners expect their property to reach a valuation of more than AED2 million by the time of handover,” he said, thereby qualifying them for golden residency.

Historically, the UAE issued employment-tied visas to foreigners, valid for a limited number of years, making it challenging for many to commit to long-term investments in the country.

The government has made its visa policy more flexible over the past couple of years as part of economic reforms to diversify away from oil, offering longer residencies for certain categories of investors, students and professionals.

The widening of the programme comes at a time of intensifying economic competition with neighbouring Saudi Arabia, which has also unveiled new residency incentives this month to draw skilled workers and investors.

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