Changes in UAE law and the dawn of a new era

While the electoral victory of Joe Biden in the US dominated this weekend’s headlines, there was quite a buzz in the UAE with the announcement of new laws and a repealment of several old rules. These changes reflect the continued growth and progression of the nation, which is taking bolder steps into the future with each passing year.

Here are the major new laws that UAE residents and visitors need to know about:

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Divorce & Inheritance

This is the most significant legal change, and one which will have a far-reaching impact on residents. Divorce and the subsequent division of assets were previously managed according to Islamic law, but under the new rules if a couple is married outside the UAE and then gets a divorce in the country, that falls under the jurisdiction of the country where the marriage took place. Accordingly, division of assets will no longer be handled under Sharia law either, and will be subject to the laws of the country where the marriage was formalised (for many expats, this would be their home country).

Inheritance was also previously handled in accordance with Sharia law, unless an expat had a will prepared. Under the current rules, if there is no will, then the laws of the expat’s home country will determine how their assets are divided among their next of kin. The only exception is property that was purcahsed in the UAE, which would still be divided up according to UAE and Sharia law.

Consumption of Alcohol

Anyone consuming alcoholic beverages in a licensed establishment or in a private residence needed to have an alcohol license to do so legally. This rule was not strictly enforced, but if anyone was charged with a crime while inebriated, the lack of an alcohol license would add to the severity of that crime. According to the newly announced laws, an alcohol license is no longer necessary for the purchase and consumption of alcohol - however, the activities are still restricted to licensed venues or private residences only.

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Unwed couples will now be able to live together legally, a law that will also apply to roommates/flatmates who are not related to each other. As with the alcohol law, this is one that was never strictly enforced, but for any couples who are planning to move to the UAE without getting married, this change gives them a firm legal standing.

Good Samaritan Laws

A ‘Good Samaritan’ law is coming into effect as well, which ensures that if anyone steps in to help a person in need, they will not be held accountable for any unexpected outcome. Simply put, the intention behind your actions will be taken into account rather than the result, so if you happen to cause injury to someone while performing CPR on them, you will not be liable to prosecution. Many UAE residents have been reluctant to take basic first aid training because of the legal complications of actually administering first aid, so this change in the law is a much needed breath of fresh air.

Harassment Laws

The UAE has always been committed to providing a safe and secure living experience for all residents and according to new laws, the penalties for harassing women in any way will be much harsher than before.

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Progressive Reforms for a Progressive Nation

Ultimately, a country’s judicial system plays a big part in how attractive it is to anyone living there. If you find yourself being subjected to laws and regulations that you don’t fully understand or that are in contrast to the rules you are familiar with, it can be a bit of a jarring experience. Most residents of the UAE have acclimated themselves to the country’s laws and to operating within certain boundaries. The widening of those boundaries will certainly be a welcome change for current residents, and could very well be the deciding factor for prospective residents who are planning to move to the country.

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Over the past few years, the UAE has been making major strides in cementing its position as the ultimate lifestyle destination. Long-term residence visas, ‘golden’ visas that provide the equivalent of permanent residency, retiree visas and now this latest set of legal changes only highlight the incredible levels of freedom and security (both personal and financial) that this country has to offer. Other recent changes include the introduction of a virtual company license so that global businesses can explore opportunities in the UAE without the need to set up a physical office. For investors, these initiatives are a major confidence booster. By adapting its rules and regulations to attract a broader spectrum of people from around the world, the UAE is proving to be a very safe investment choice.

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The country already boasts incredible diversity and is embracing the different experiences and lifestyle that come with that. It is one of the safest countries in the world and has done a tremendous job of navigating the coronavirus situation, maintaining a level head and a sense of control during its second wave. And as we can already see in the market, property demand is looking very strong.

We look forward to the new era that is ushered in as a result of these new regulations and to the UAE’s continued growth as a destination of choice for tourists, investors and new residents.