I worked in the UAE for about 10 years until 2011. I then lost my job and returned to my home country in the same year.
I had a credit card from a local bank and when I left the Emirates, I owed a relatively small amount to the lender. The dues were worth about Dh12,000.
I continued to pay the bank whatever I could after returning home. However, I was unemployed for some time and the payments were irregular. The last I checked, I owed the bank less than Dh10,000 in unpaid dues.
After a few months, the bank stopped communicating with me. Meanwhile, I read media reports that the bank I dealt with had been acquired by another lender.
I would now like to visit Dubai after 12 years. However, I am worried that the bank may have launched a civil case and travel ban against me.
Before making travel plans, would you advise me to contact the bank and work out a solution to paying off the debt?
Is there a way I can find out if there is any active ban or police case against me to prevent me from entering the country? MN, India
Debt panellist 1: Jaya Ratnani, managing partner at Freed Financial Services
When leaving the UAE with uncleared debts, you must keep track of any unpaid dues and settle them as quickly as possible.
Defaulting on your loans after leaving the country is a serious and stressful affair that can lead to a legal case being lodged against you.
When a person in debt is unable to make payments due to financial instability, there are options available.
Options include one-time settlements and long-term payment plans based on the repayment capacity of the bank customer, which are subject to the rules and regulations of the lending institutions.
Regarding your current situation, you can get in touch with your bank and ask for a settlement plan.
With 12 years of non-payment, your outstanding debt would include a lot of accrued interest.
However, banks are considerate on waiving a portion of the interest subject to appropriate justification and documented evidence.
Debt settlement can turn out to be the best option in your case as this would give you a clear picture of your legal position and clearance of a possible travel ban before entering the country.
Alternately, you can also check to see if you have a travel ban by visiting the Dubai Police website. This service allows you to inquire about any financial cases registered with the police, in addition to the travel ban.
For people who reside in Abu Dhabi, they can visit an online service called Estafser, which enables residents to check whether they have any claims against them.
If necessary, you could also seek the assistance of a lawyer or contact debt rescheduling companies in the UAE to assist in negotiating the best possible solution for your debt.
Debt Panellist 2: R Deepakchandran, group head of retail products at Emirates NBD
Timely credit card and loan payments lay the foundation for a healthy financial future.
Whether you are staying in the country or relocating elsewhere, it is always prudent to clear your outstanding credit card balances.
This practice helps to maintain a favourable credit score, ensuring long-term financial stability and better prospects for obtaining credit in the future.
Therefore, it is important to make regular payments and communicate with your lender if you encounter difficulties in meeting your financial obligations.
Before you initiate your travel back to the UAE, you should get in touch with your bank’s collections team and explain your circumstances while expressing your commitment to make the pending payments.
The bank can provide you with information on your total outstanding balance, including any interest, relevant fees and charges.
Watch: Understanding your finances
In such situations, the bank may offer discounted restructuring plans that can be settled gradually over a specific period.
If there are any legal disputes associated with your name, the bank will be able to check and confirm this.
Once the bank receives your payment, your credit report should improve based on your agreed repayment plans.
To inquire about the travel ban, it is advisable to directly contact the UAE court through a lawyer or a trusted friend. This approach ensures better comprehension and clarity regarding the matter.
By meeting your legal responsibilities, you protect your financial well-being and maintain a favourable credit record. It is commendable that you are actively seeking assistance and taking charge of your situation.
Debt panellist 3: Alison Soltani, founder of Leap Savvy Savers
It is always recommended to settle your debts, especially if you wish to enter the UAE again.
Banks can file a police case against debtors for defaulting on repayments for three to six months. I would first check your legal status, then contact the bank to devise a repayment plan.
Firstly, if you have your visa or Emirates ID number from when you were a resident in the UAE, you may be able to check your travel ban status on the Dubai Police website or app, by clicking on “Services” and “Criminal Status of Financial Cases”.
You will also have access to information on any police case filed against you regarding financial issues.
However, if this is not an option for you, you can check your UAE visa status by calling the Amer Immigration Centre.
You will be required to provide your passport number and other specific details to the call centre agent, who can assist you with obtaining your legal status in the UAE.
Those overseas can call +971 4 230 0500. Alternatively, there is a form on the website to fill in for further information.
After being given access to this information, contact the bank and explain your situation.
Be aware that the amount owed will most probably have increased significantly due to late fees and added interest.
The type of interest added to credit card debt is compound interest, meaning that interest will be added to the principal and the interest charged (interest on interest). This is why credit card debt can grow so quickly.
As the bank ceased contact with you, you may be able to negotiate a deal to pay off the principal only, especially if you can pay off a lump sum immediately.
Alternatively, you might be able to work out a new repayment plan with lower monthly instalments or reduce the interest rate.
Ensure you have an updated, written and signed contract from the bank before travelling to the UAE.
Also, check your visa and travel status with immigration before entering the country.
Depending on the amount owed and your circumstances, you may wish to enlist the services of a solicitor to oversee the negotiations and new terms and conditions.
The Debt Panel is a weekly column to help readers tackle their debts more effectively. If you have a question for the panel, write to firstname.lastname@example.org