Oman is now granting 5 and 10 year investor visas to expats who invest upwards of OMR 250,000 in real estate, among other investment routes. This is the first time Oman grants a long term visa to expats that is not linked to employment sponsorship, according to a report by PwC. The 10 year investor visa, which requires a real estate investment over OMR 500,000, is particularly attractive as holders can invest in industrial, commercial and residential properties, unlike the 5 year visa which is limited to residential properties. The 10 year visa allows one property investment to be outside the Integrated Tourism Complexes, areas in which non-Omanis have historically not been permitted to own freehold property. The visas also allow the investors to sponsor their immediate dependents. There are conditions though – it is expected the visas will be subject to review every three years to ensure that the investment criteria continue to be met.
Oman has also recently loosened its foreign ownership restrictions for businesses and dramatically reduced the fees associated with the employment of expats. Both indirectly impact the real estate sector, as an influx of expats is expected to drive up demand for residential units, and foreign ownership changes and the 10 year investor visa to increase foreign investment, according to local news reports. Over 200 long term visas have already been issued since the program was introduced in the last quarter of 2021.
UAE GOLDEN VISA SYSTEM
The Golden Visa System has been around in the UAE since 2019, but recent changes to the eligibility criteria have made it more accessible. A Golden Visa used to require an AED 10 million investment (with a maximum of 40% investment in real estate) for a 10 year residence visa. From September 2022, it will be possible to get a Golden Visa for a minimum real estate investment of AED 2 million. This is even if the property is off plan or mortgaged (subject to certain conditions, such as the loan being provided by approved local banks and at least AED 2 million of the property price being paid), which is a significant departure from the previous Golden Visa criteria. Before Golden Visas, it was possible in Dubai to obtain a property investor visa that was valid for four years for a fully paid up property with a minimum purchase price of AED 1 million. Dubai now offers a three year property investor visa for a fully paid up property with a minimum purchase price of AED 750,000.
The new AED 2 million threshold is expected to increase investment demand for two bedroom apartments and townhouses, which usually sell at or above that price point. Some reports indicate that real estate interest has tripled since the announcement of the new rules. Until now, demand has typically been higher for one bedroom apartments, which are generally around AED 1 million to AED 1.5 million. But that trend may now change thanks to the added incentive of a Golden Visa for a slightly higher investment. It remains to be seen if this increased demand will have an effect on property prices. Average prices have in any event been on the rise since last year. According to CBRE, average prices in Dubai increased by 10.9% in the year to May 2022, of which average apartment prices increased by 9.6% and average villa prices by 19.8%, which is consistent with the trend in the first quarter of 2022.
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