UAE Among Top Three Destinations for Expats


UAE among top three destinations for expats

UAE - JUL 28: The UAE is among the top three most-desirable destinations for expatriates, thanks to high salaries and its ease of access to “luxuries”, a survey released yesterday said.

The survey, which was sponsored by the British bank HSBC, brought together responses from 2,155 expatriates. Respondents were mainly white-collar workers and not the labourers who comprise the lion’s share of expatriates in the UAE.

Singapore took top honours in the survey, which ranked popular expatriate destinations by salaries, longevity of stay, luxuries and accommodation. The UAE came in a close second, followed by the US, Belgium and Hong Kong.

The UAE’s best score came in the luxury category, where it topped the 15 countries measured. Expatriates reported having better access to 10 out of 11 selected luxuries in the UAE, compared with their home countries. The luxuries ranged from a swimming pool to private health care and a club membership.

The UAE also scored well in the “earn and save” category, coming in behind only India, Singapore and Hong Kong. Expatriates in the UAE were spending more money but also managed to save more than they had in their country of origin, thanks largely to higher salaries, the survey found.

Overall, the survey found that while 52 per cent of expatriates spent more on food than in their home countries, and 45 per cent spent more on social activities, 58 per cent reported saving and investing more.

“The survey simply asks people who have moved, say, from the UK to the UAE, how this has had an impact on their lives,” said Paul Say, a spokesman for HSBC International, the bank’s offshore wing.

“The survey is finding that people have more disposable income and that quality of life is much better.”

Yet the positive results for the UAE come in the wake of an accelerating inflation rate that is eating away at the buying power of GCC salaries.

Overall inflation in the UAE stood at 11.4 per cent last year and is expected to rise to 11.8 per cent this year, according to a Reuters poll.

Surging housing costs coupled with a worldwide rise in food costs have driven the broad increase in prices. Rents in Abu Dhabi rose by an average of 49 per cent in the twelvemonth period ending in June, a recent survey said.

The emirate’s Department of Planning and Economy recently estimated that rents had risen by 18 per cent in the first quarter of this year alone.

“Expats tend to have more financial freedom, and our survey says they are able to save and spend more despite the economic conditions,” Mr Say said.

He added that the survey was conducted in February and April and did not reflect changes in global conditions since that period.

While the UAE’s expatriates are finding their high quality of life a little more pricey these days, the HSBC survey found respondents to be mostly happy with their existence here.

The country ranked seventh in terms of duration of stay, with a high proportion of respondents saying they had lived in the country for three years or more.
Europe fared less well in the survey. The UK and France were “among the lowest-rated destinations”, the report said.

The richest expatriates came from Brazil, Ireland and Australia, the survey reported.

The report was the first of three that HSBC plans to release this year. The second report will focus on expatriate children, while the third will plumb the cultural integration of expatriates.


Ministry vows no illegals by year’s end

Officials say the new regulations, which come into force tomorrow, will make it easier to monitor people entering the country through airports, ports and border crossings. Those without valid visas would be arrested and deported by the start of 2009. iStockphoto

ABU DHABI - JUL 28:The Ministry of Interior said yesterday that the country could be free of illegal immigrants by the end of the year.

“We hope with the [new] visa types the Emirates will be free of violators by December,” said Brig Gen Nasser Al Menhali, the acting head of the ministry’s Naturalisation and Residency Administration, speaking on the eve of new visa regulations.

Officials say the new regulations, which come into force tomorrow, will make it easier to monitor people entering the country through airports, ports and border crossings. Those without valid visas would be arrested and deported by the start of 2009.

The Ministry of Interior, said officials, would continue its campaigns to arrest and deport those who violated immigration laws.

Yesterday, it also emerged that Sharjah’s Naturalisation and Residency Department had deported 581 illegal immigrants in two dozen raids between June 1 and July 23.

No official estimates are available for the number of illegal immigrants in the country, but in March Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Interior Minister, told the Federal National Council that in recent years the ministry had prevented at least 200,000 deportees from re-entering the country.

The amendments to the visa system, which were announced last month, have received mixed reactions, with the levying of a Dh500 fee on a visit visa proving to be the most controversial reform.

Brig Gen Menhali said: “The employees are ready, the software is in place and the visas have been printed.” The new system would be subject to evaluation as it was implemented, he said.

New categories include visas for study and visits for medical treatment and exhibitions and conferences. Another visa is for guests of the Government.

Other reforms include creating two types of non-renewable visit visas – short-term and long-term – that will allow holders to stay for 30 days and 90 days.

Although some educational institutions would be given the power to grant visas, this status would not be conferred across the board, for fear of creating visa “traders”.

“We will evaluate every institute individually,” said Brig Gen Menhali. Small centres offering language courses, for example, would not be able to bring in students.

Similar concerns have been raised repeatedly about travel agencies. According to Ajman legislator Ali Majed al Matroushi, about 1,800 travel agents in the UAE have licences to grant visas.

Under the new rules, travel agencies and hotels can issue only visit visas and each agency must first deposit Dh75,000, refundable when the company ceases issuing visas, and a further deposit of Dh1,000 for each tourist. The same deposit is required for all types of visas.

Brig Gen Menhali said the reform was intended to reduce the number of illegal workers by making it harder and more expensive to obtain a visit visa.

However, the nationals of 34 countries, mostly European and North American, will not be asked for such deposits. Instead, they will be issued a one-month visa free of charge at the border. However, renewing the visa for another month will cost them Dh500.

Brig Gen Menhali said that re-evaluation of the scheme could possibly include exempting residents of some countries from paying the Dh1,000 deposit.

The visas issued before July 29 will be subject to the old bylaw, while the new visas starting from July 30 will be subject to the new law.

Health insurance is now obligatory but an official from the Interior Ministry said no specific companies had been assigned to offer the service.


Developers may forfeit residency sales incentive

One of the key concerns behind the review is the need to better control who is issued with a residency visa. Courtesy Nakheel

DUBAI - JUL 28:Property developers would no longer be able to lure foreign buyers by guaranteeing the right to long-term residency, under proposed reforms of the way visas are issued.

Under the current system, prospective homeowners seeking residency rely on the property developer to act as the sponsor for a visa. The visa, which allows the holder to live in the emirate, but not to work, is a significant incentive for many buyers.

Now, a committee formed to review the way visas are granted has proposed that the title deed for a freehold or long-term leasehold property would itself qualify a buyer to apply for a residency visa, cutting the developer out of the process.

One of the key concerns behind the review is the need to better control who is issued with a residency visa.

According to a member of the committee, the new scheme would stop developers being able to say they can “guarantee” buyers a visa – a claim that helps companies to sell properties but is by no means guaranteed and gives prospective investors false hope.

RERA, the regulator of Dubai’s property market, recently criticised developers that promoted housing projects in this way, pointing out that all visa applications were subject to approval from the Department of Naturalisation and Residency (DNR).

Under the recommendations, which are now being considered by Dubai’s highest authorities, the current three-year renewable residency visa for property buyers would be replaced with a multiple-entry visa, valid for five years.

Mohammed Sultan Thani, the director of development and marketing administration at the Dubai Land Department, which formed part of the committee with representatives of Dubai police and the DNR, said authorities had been compelled to review the visa situation by the impending formation of homeowners’ associations, which would manage the common areas of buildings.

“At the moment, property owners can be sponsored by the developer, as if you were working for them, and your visa belongs to them,” he said.

“But how can you have owners’ associations comprised of people sponsored by the developer? If there are any clashes between the members of an association and the developer, the developer has the power to cancel their visas.”

Now, he said, “the idea is for people to apply directly to the Department of Naturalisation and Residency using their property title deed as the ‘sponsor’, with the condition that you give up your status if you sell the property”.

Mr Thani said the committee had also proposed making available multiple-entry visas valid for five years. However, no firm recommendations had been made about the maximum length of each visit.

Despite media reports suggesting that doubts over the entitlement to residency visas would cool interest in the property market, Mr Thani believed that few investors would be concerned. “Many people are buying property as an investment or to let, not for a visa to settle here.” The majority of buyers, he said, lived in Dubai on employment visas.

However, Billy Rautenbach, the operations manager at Better Homes, disagreed. She said the possibility of a residency visa was one of the main attractions of the Dubai housing market for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Russia, Slovakia, India and Pakistan.

“We definitely have people that come here and say, ‘I want to buy a property so I can get a residency visa’,” she said.

“We tell everybody that a residency visa is not guaranteed and that you have to make an application.”

As Dubai’s property market matured and investors eyed the emirate as a tax-free retirement destination, the provision of residency status was expected to become increasingly significant, she said.

According to the estate agents Colliers International, almost 160,000 residential units will be launched on the local market by the end of 2010, with the majority of occupants expected to originate from outside the UAE.

RERA says some developers use the offer of a “guaranteed” residency visa with a freehold property purchase as a tool to attract overseas investment. Some companies even charge “processing fees” of more than Dh1,500. Both practices, it says, are frowned upon. Although a project’s master-developer can act as the sponsor for buyers seeking residency, they cannot guarantee applications will be successful.

The decision lies with the DNR, which takes factors such as the applicant’s finances into account.


AIE to fly daily to Kerala capital

DUBAI - JUL 28: Air India Express (AIE), the low-cost airline of Air India, will start daily flights from Dubai to Thiruvananthpuram from mid-August.

Making the announcement, COO of Air India Express Capt. PP Singh said that the airline will take over the Dubai-Thiruvananthpuram flights of Air India. Dubai will then have a daily flight to Thiruvananthpuram.

"This will improve the connectivity between Dubai and Kerala with a total of 28 flights a week to various points in Kerala. This will be in addition to the daily flight between Dubai and Mangalore," he said.

At present, there are 17 flights a week between Sharjah and Kerala, 19 from Abu Dhabi to Kerala and Mangalore and two from Al Ain to Kerala.

"Additionally, seats are also offered to Sharjah passengers on the daily Kuwait flights which fly via Sharjah. This has resulted in introduction of two flights a week between Sharjah and Mangalore. Thus there are a total of 89 dedicated and seven shared flights a week operating between UAE and India," he said.

Singh pointed out that the UAE has been the most important destination for Air India Express since inception. Almost all cities in India are connected to the UAE with good frequencies and very competitive fares.

"As these flights continue to do uniformly well, and new aircraft arrive at regular intervals, Air India Express is looking at further expansion of its network - in terms of more frequencies as well as new stations," he said.

He also announced that Air India Express will shortly begin operations from Dubai to Goa as well as Ahmedabad and Pune, each with a frequency of three flights per week.

"We will restart Dubai-Pune flight from mid-September. The flight was running well, but stopped due to runway problem," he said, adding that flights from other two destinations are also expected to begin in mid-September.

Singh denied that the airline misses its schedule frequently. He said that the airline operates all new aircraft, which ensures that it does not face technical problems.

"We have the resources within India to replace the aircraft if it faces technical problems, but we can't help if the weather affects the schedule," he said.

"We are getting one more aircraft later this year, while four more aircrafts will be added to the fleet next year," he added.


Residents anxious to drive after years of traffic

Dubai’s most ambitious road network project, which is set for completion for early 2009, cannot be completed soon enough, commuters and business owners say.

DUBAI - JUL 28:The new interchange on Sheikh Zayed Road, the final plans for which were released today, will include a section of double-decker motorway and a new flyover at Doha Road. The interchange is expected to be capable of handling more than 16,000 vehicles an hour.

According to the Road and Transport Authority (RTA), some of the work could be completed as early as next month.

Hoteliers, restaurant owners and commuters on the busy stretch of road said they were optimistic that customers who were avoiding the area because of traffic jams would return once the construction was completed.

“This is the best news I have heard in a long time,” said Neal Rumbaoa, the director of communications at the Shangri La Hotel.

“A lot of people have stayed away. And those who usually visit the hotel have turned away because they do not want to get stuck in traffic.

“If traffic is free-flowing then more people would get to see where we are and come in. Not having traffic on the service road would be also convenient to us because people can see they won’t spend an eternity getting here.”

Mard Hejazi, the owner of the French Connection chain of restaurants, had feared traffic problems in that area would never be resolved.

“I think it is great that the RTA have come out and said this at this time because we were fearing that it was going to get much worse for a long time before it got better,” said Mr Hejazi.

“The area from the start was badly designed and other places like the Shangri La suffered greatly because of the service road.

“I know a lot more people would come to the restaurant if they wouldn’t get stuck in traffic. But if this is true then it is great news, but let’s see if it is finished on time.”

“For motorists, it will mean that the traffic will be free-flowing,” said Nabeel Mohammed Saleh, the acting chief executive of the Traffic and Roads Agency. “There will be no traffic signals or roundabouts, which will see less traffic congestion in that part of the city.”

Today, Ronald Morillo, 31, from the Philippines, was stuck in traffic near Al Murooj Rotana, on what will eventually become Financial Centre Road.

“I make this journey every day from my office to my home in Satwa. I think I must spend a couple of hours each day caught up in the traffic, so it really pleases me to learn that this might change soon, and if there are no traffic lights anymore then it means no more stopping and starting, which definitely causes a lot of traffic back up,” said Mr Morillo, who has lived in Dubai for five years.

Julie Wall, 29, from the UK, who has lived in Dubai for two years, also welcomed the development.

“I live near Safa Park and for various work meetings, I do have to get onto the Al Khail Road, which can be a nightmare at most times of the day, even moreso during the morning and evening office rush hours. It can’t come soon enough.”

Hardeep Bhako, 32, from India, who has been in the UAE for a decade, said: “Hopefully the traffic will be more like how it used to be. It has got progressively worse over the past three or four years, and with Dubai Mall opening soon something needed to be done quickly to alleviate the problem.”

Graham Cartwright, 40, is regularly delayed on his way to work from Al Safa to Bur Dubai. “It really gets beyond a joke at times, and it’s incredibly frustrating when you’ve got an important meeting to get to, and your car’s barely moving,” he said.

“I definitely welcome this interchange – it sounds like they’ve planned it well and spent a lot of money on it, so let’s hope it does the trick. It would mean a lot of much happier motorists on that road, that’s for sure.”

The latest improvement to Dubai’s overcrowded roads comes two weeks after the RTA announced that a giant new interchange with 11 flyover bridges and an underpass at Arabian Ranches would be partially opened from next month.

Believed to be the biggest interchange in the country, it will replace the Dubailand roundabout, which for years has caused huge traffic jams on Emirates, Umm Suqeim and Al Qudrah roads. The RTA said earlier this month that construction work on the Dh400m interchange linking the three roads was about 95 per cent complete.



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