Expats have been drawn to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for decades for its alluring combination of thriving economy, high standard of living, and diverse culture. Expats typically hope to one day own property, but may not always understand the ins and outs of doing so legally. Can Foreigners Buy Property in UAE? Where should foreigners look for Abu Dhabi real estate? If you’re an expat, are you able to purchase property in Dubai? Learn more about the UAE’s property laws with this in-depth tutorial.

Understanding Property Ownership in the UAE

The UAE’s property ownership rules for expatriates are distinct in different emirates, with Dubai and Abu Dhabi being the most popular destinations for property investment. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Can Foreigners Buy Land in Dubai?

Yes, foreigners can buy land in Dubai, but there are limitations. Dubai offers two primary options for expatriates:

  • Freehold Property: In designated freehold areas, expats can acquire land with full ownership rights, allowing them to buy, sell, and lease properties without restrictions. Some renowned freehold areas include the Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina, and Downtown Dubai.
  • Leasehold Property: In areas not classified as freehold, expats can own property on a leasehold basis, typically for 99 years. This option is prevalent in areas like Jumeirah Lake Towers and Dubai Silicon Oasis.

2. Where Can Expats Buy Property in Abu Dhabi?

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, has its unique property ownership rules. Expats can purchase property in Abu Dhabi through the following avenues:

  • Investment Zones: Abu Dhabi introduced investment zones, such as Al Reem Island and Yas Island, where expats can own property on a freehold basis. These zones provide long-term investment opportunities and personal use.
  • Leasehold Options: In areas outside the investment zones, expats can buy property on a leasehold basis, typically for 99 years, with the option to renew the lease.

3. Can Expats Buy Land in Dubai?

While land ownership in Dubai is primarily reserved for UAE nationals, expatriates can acquire land on a long-term leasehold basis. These leaseholds can extend for up to 99 years, allowing individuals and businesses to develop properties on the land. Although expats won’t own the land itself, they have significant control over its use during the lease period.

4. Navigating Legal Requirements

Buying property in the UAE involves adhering to various legal requirements:

  • Property Registration: Ensure the property you intend to purchase is properly registered, and all legal documentation is in order.
  • Local Partners: In certain cases, setting up a company with a local partner may be necessary to acquire property, especially in Dubai’s leasehold areas.
  • Financing: Expats can access mortgages in the UAE, but eligibility criteria and interest rates may vary. It’s essential to understand the financing options available.


Navigating the property ownership rules for expatriates in the UAE can be complex, but with the right information and guidance, it becomes more manageable. Dubai and Abu Dhabi offer attractive opportunities for expats to invest in real estate, whether through freehold or leasehold properties. Understanding the distinctions between these options and complying with legal requirements is key to a successful property acquisition.

If you’re considering buying property in the UAE as an expatriate, it’s advisable to consult with experienced real estate agents and legal advisors who can provide tailored guidance based on your specific needs and objectives. With the right support, you can make a well-informed investment decision that aligns with your goals in this dynamic and diverse country.

Do you have questions or experiences related to property ownership as an expat in the UAE? We’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below or visit Law Firms to share your insights and engage in a discussion on this topic.