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Property seen as pathway to residence permits for expatriates in the Gulf region

Friday, February 1, 2013

Property seen as pathway to residence permits for expatriates in the Gulf region

Sovereign Arab states have long been attractive to expatriate professionals. The relative political stability and strong economy of the Gulf region have contributed to heightened international investment in areas such as Dubai, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and many multinational organizations employ expatriates. While short term rental apartments and furnished extended stay housing are popular with expatriates upon arrival in the Gulf, many international workers have begun investing in property as a way to secure residence permits (RPs), according to Zawya.

Encouraging investment
Some states, such as Qatar, introduced legislative policies enabling expats to purchase property in exchange for RPs several years ago. While certain stipulations exist, such as the recommendation that homes bought by expats should exceed around $272,000, many international workers and immigrants have invested in property to ensure they can remain in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

Saudi Arabia has attracted significant numbers of expatriates in recent years, and international investment now represents a substantial part of the state's domestic housing market. The news source reports that the majority of immigrants in Saudi Arabia are Palestinians, Indians, Lebanese, Syrians and Egyptians.

Conversely, states such as Dubai typically attract a different demographic. Approximately 24 percent of property purchases in Dubai are made by Indian nationals, with British citizens and Pakistani residents making up 21 and 12 percent of Dubai's property market, respectively. While this has been positive for the emirate's economy, some experts have expressed concerns about potential clashes of culture.

"Gulf countries are bound to face cultural problems due to the naturalization of a large number of foreigners," Tala Samarqandi, a member of the real estate committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told the news source. "This will change their demographic map."

The good life
Many expatriates choose to live and work overseas out of a desire for a better life. Nations such as the U.K. have seen an exodus of skilled professionals and retirees in recent years, largely due to overcrowding, high taxation and climate. The UAE, France and Spain have traditionally been expatriate hotspots, but other areas that have typically been viewed as more exclusive are becoming popular with expats.

The Telegraph reports that Monaco, long considered the jewel of the French Riviera, is attracting more expats due to relaxed residency regulations and relatively affordable housing. Some furnished apartments with sea views and dedicated parking cost around $4,000 per month, which many expatriates may be surprised to learn, given the area's reputation as a playground for the rich and famous.