World Economy

More Expats Leaving Dubai

More Expats Leaving DubaiMore Expats Leaving Dubai

Expat visa cancellations in Dubai rose by 17% between 2015 and 2016, according to new figures, lending weight to fears that more people are leaving the country amid an uncertain job market and higher living costs.

Data compiled by immigration services firm Fragomen for Arabian Business indicate a bigger increase in cancellations of residency visas when compared with the number of new permits issued.

In July 2016, visa cancellations accounted for 48% of the firm’s total caseload, a 17% rise from 31% in July 2015, the figures show.

At the same time, new residency permits dropped from representing 69% of cases in July 2015 to 52% this year.

Figures from July were used as that is the peak month for arrivals and cancellations ahead of the academic year, Fragomen said.

It also supplied comparative figures for 2014, as July 2014 marked the start of the decline in crude oil prices from around $113 per barrel, Fragomen said, with the lowest price of $29 a barrel recorded in January 2016.

  Proportionally Higher

Visa cancellations represented 37% of Fragomen’s caseload in July 2014–a higher proportion than in 2015 by which point the oil price had declined further–while new employment permits accounted for 63% of cases, marginally less than the following year, the data show.

The cases do not include visa renewals or dependents’ cases, but they do include new permits for those already living in the country as well as those applying from overseas, Fragomen added.

Its client database comprises companies from all industry sectors, not just oil and gas. However, the firm does not offer a full range of services for all clients therefore the figures do not represent the entire database.

“The drop in oil prices may be behind the rise in visa cancellations, as this has a knock-on effect on the economy and employment market,” said Marcin Kubarek, manager, knowledge and content, at Fragomen.

  Costs, Inflation Rising

Living costs are rising and putting pressure on expats’ budgets. For example, housing and utility costs in Dubai have risen by 3.9% since last year and food and drink by 3.5%, according to the Dubai Statistics Center, while inflation rose to 1.75% in the first half of this year.

Almost 64% of respondents to a survey from investment company National Bonds Corporation last week said accommodation costs ate up most of their budget, while 46% cited rising utility costs as their biggest worry. Almost half (45%) cited rising school fees as their biggest concern.

Kubarek said the UAE was increasingly looking at investment from Asia and this is consistent with Fragomen’s observations of a rise in Chinese immigrants recently.