An expats guide to retirement options in the UAE

An expats guide to retirement options in the UAE

- Jonathan Kelly

The United Arab Emirates has a long history of attracting top global talent to work in its thriving business community. According to UAE law, anyone who lives in the UAE must hold a residence permit or visa at all times. For expats considering retirement and wanting to stay in the UAE, this has always presented a challenge. To remedy this problem, the UAE cabinet introduced a new retirement visa in 2018 to create a pathway to allow workers to remain in the country into retirement age.

As a result, more and more workers are electing to stay in the UAE beyond their working years looking to take advantage of warm, year-round temperatures, modern infrastructure, and a great healthcare system.

The UAE’s Retirement Visa Scheme

Under the new law, individuals looking to retire in the UAE can do so easily as long as they meet certain criteria. First, the applicant must be 55 years of age or older to apply. They must also show proof of financial stability through one of the following circumstances – stable monthly income, savings, property investment or ownership, or a combination of income and savings.

  • Stable Monthly Income - Individuals who earn a stable income of at least AED15,000 monthly or more than AED180,000 annually qualify. This income can come from multiple sources including pensions, investment plans, annuities, and rental property income.
  • Savings - Individuals who hold up to AED 1 million will meet the savings criteria for the retirement visa.
  • Property Investment or Ownership - Individuals qualify if they have a minimum of AED 1 million in property investments or ownership in Dubai. The property may be under mortgage as long as the retiree holds AED 1 million in equity.
  • Combination of Income and Savings - If the retiree does not have enough income or savings to meet the requirement alone, they may combine the two. To qualify, their income and savings must equal a minimum of AED 1 million.

It’s important to note that while the retirement visa was originally designed to encourage expat workers in the UAE to remain in the country, people who have never lived in the UAE may also apply for this visa.

Applying for the UAE Retirement Visa

Which financial option you choose will impact how you apply for the retirement visa. If you are applying based on income or savings amounts, you will apply through the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA). Applications based on property and real estate holdings will need to be submitted through the Dubai Land Department (DLD).

Required Documents

All applicants will be required to submit the following documents:

  • Current visa copy (if applicable)
  • Passport copy (including any sponsored dependents)
  • Marriage certificate (if sponsoring a spouse)
  • Emirates ID (if applicable)

Depending on the financial option chosen, applicants may need to provide:

  • Bank statements
  • Letters proving income sources
  • End of service letters from the last employer
  • Property deeds or mortgage agreements.

Cost and Process

Once you have submitted your application and documents, the retirement visa may be approved in as little as 15 working days. Once approved, the cost of the visa will be AED3,714 per applicant and dependent. The retirement visa will last a total of 5 years and can be renewed multiple times as long as you continue to meet the eligibility requirements.

Other UAE Retirement Pathways

In addition to making it easier to obtain a retirement visa, the Emirati government introduced other schemes and pathways to make long-term and retirement residency more desirable and easy for expat workers to achieve.

Golden Visa

Launched in 2019, the Golden Visa (officially known as the Dubai Partner visa) provides a pathway for investors and business owners to obtain residency in the UAE. Because you don’t have to be at the retirement age to qualify for the Golden Visa, this is often where younger individuals start their journey toward UAE retirement. Since its inception, more than 150,000 people have applied for this visa. There are two main qualifications for the Golden Visa – real estate holdings and business investment.

  • Real Estate - Individuals who invest in residential real estate that is valued at AED 1 million qualify. Less than 50% of the property may be under mortgage. For joint-owned properties, an investor’s share must be a minimum of AED 1 million.
  • Business Investment - Investors will qualify for the Golden Visa if they own shares in a Dubai-based company that is equal to or greater than AED72,000.

The validity of the Golden Visa is 5 or 10 years depending on the size of the investment in the UAE. The 5-year option requires a minimum investment of AED 5 million while the 10-year option requires a minimum investment of AED 10 million.

Golden Pension

The UAE also provides existing expat workers the opportunity to contribute to their retirement savings through the Golden Pension Plan. Under this scheme, expat workers in the UAE can invest all or a portion of their end-of-service benefits (often referred to as gratuity) into the plan. In addition, workers can elect to make additional contributions directly from their basic salary.

The goal of this program is to encourage workers to keep their money in the UAE economy and also provide the vehicle necessary to build their savings and investments to ultimately reach the requirements of the retirement visa.

This scheme is only available to employees of private companies that elect to participate in the programme. Workers who decide to withdraw their contributions may do so at any time as long as there aren’t any special restrictions in place by their employer.

How can PRO Partner Group help?

Whether you are currently living and working in the UAE or considering the UAE as a possible retirement destination, it is important to make sure you plan ahead. Hiring a professional to review your financial situation and walk you through the process will ensure that you don’t encounter any unnecessary difficulties or delays.

PRO partner Group has close ties with key government departments as well as an expert legal team, who can advise you on the requirements and process of planning for retirement in the UAE.

If you need guidance on retirement in the UAE or any other related company setup, restructuring, local partner or PRO support matter in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, the wider UAE, Oman or Qatar, then please do get in touch with us on +971 (0)4 456 1761 for Dubai or +971 (0)2 448 5120 for Abu Dhabi, email us at or complete the contact form below and we will be delighted to assist you.

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