The Debt Panel: 'Can I repay my loan from Saudi Arabia?'

The reader is seeking advice after losing their job in the UAE in 2015 and defaulting on their $20,420 loan

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I am seeking advice regarding my debt default with a UAE bank. In 2015, I lost my job in the UAE as my company had financial problems.

At the time, I had a Dh75,000 ($20,422) personal loan and was paying monthly instalments of Dh2,000.

After losing my job, I returned home and have been working but my salary is the equivalent of only Dh1,200 a month.

As a result of my lower income, I have been unable to make any payments towards the loan since about 2015 or 2016 and have no idea how much I owe on it.

I tried to contact my bank. As I have a chronic medical condition and have spent a lot of money on my treatment, it hasn’t listened to my dilemma.

I now have an opportunity to work in Saudi Arabia, but I am worried that I may have a problem when I arrive because of my debt in the UAE.

This job is the only way I can resume making payments on the loan. Is it possible to pay off the loan from Saudi Arabia? FS, India

Debt Panellist 1: R Deepakchandran, group head of retail products at Emirates NBD

Financial planning is crucial as it provides a safety net during emergencies or unexpected financial setbacks. By setting aside a portion of your income, you can mitigate the impact and avoid falling into debt or compromising your long-term financial goals.

In your current situation, it is advisable to have open and honest communication with the bank. When discussing your financial situation with the collections team, it is essential to be transparent and provide all the necessary details.

Sharing information about your new job opportunity, including contract details, exact salary, and equated monthly instalment commitment, will give the bank a better idea of your financial circumstances. This transparency will show your commitment to resolving the situation and instil greater confidence in the bank to work with you.

Alongside sharing these details, it is crucial to present a well-thought-out financial plan to the bank. Outline your strategies for managing your finances in the future, including how you will meet your EMI commitments and the actions you will take to improve your financial situation.

This plan will provide reassurance to the bank and increase the likelihood of reaching a mutually beneficial agreement.

Considering the reference to the travel ban, it would be wise to consult with a lawyer who specialises in such matters. They can provide you with accurate information and guidance on how the travel ban may affect your situation and the steps you need to take to address it effectively.

Paying down the loan in your current situation is difficult, but with a clear plan in place, you will be able to regain your financial independence.

Debt panellist 2: Jaya Ratnani, managing partner at Freed Financial Services

Being in debt is not a pleasant situation. While your current situation may seem complicated, there are ways to deal with it.

If the bank has initiated a travel ban and legal action, this is limited to travel into and out of the UAE. However, in some high-value cases, a bank may initiate an Interpol action that will restrict your entry into other countries where the UAE has bilateral agreements.

The best option in your circumstances would be to contact your bank once you have started your job in Saudi Arabia and explain the circumstances.

You can formalise your request with a proposal and request a discount on the outstanding loan amount.

Ask the bank to provide you with a debt settlement plan that will allow you to pay back the loan in affordable monthly instalments.

Banks will usually accept a reasonable repayment tenure in line with your debt-servicing capability – provided there is willingness and co-operation from your side.

To do this, you will need to provide proof of income, such as bank statements, to show them that you have a job and can continue to make monthly payments towards your liabilities.

A good and honest approach when dealing with banks can often lead to a solution that benefits both parties.

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Every bank and financial institution has a different policy and approach to situations like these, but they will accept repayments from customers who have moved abroad, so long as there is an official agreement between the two parties.

It is possible to pay off your UAE debts from another country – your bank just has to agree to the arrangement.

Debt panellist 3: Felicity Glover, personal finance editor at The National

As my fellow panellists have mentioned, banks in the UAE have different policies that cover customers paying off loans from countries other than the UAE.

However, there is no legal requirement that a person must live in the Emirates to pay off a loan or credit card debt.

Your best course of action is to contact your bank to explain your situation and that you have a chronic medical condition.

Ask if it is possible to pay your loan from Saudi Arabia as your current salary at home is too low to cover the Dh2,000 monthly instalments, but you do have a new opportunity to start over.

Speak to a senior manager by telephone as they will have the authority to approve your request, or at least take it further with their manager, and then follow up your discussion with an email that summarises the discussion.

Banks will usually accept a reasonable repayment tenure in line with your debt-servicing capability – provided there is willingness and cooperation from your side
Jaya Ratnani, managing partner at Freed Financial Services

I would also suggest finding out exactly how much you owe as seven or eight years is a long time to not pay off a loan. What you owe now will be considerably higher than the original amount of Dh75,000 thanks to a combination of compounding interest and late penalty fees.

When you speak with your bank, you should also ask if the loan has been passed on to a debt collection agency, which has the ability to track you down regardless of where you are living.

This can be an unpleasant experience, especially if they start contacting your employer, so try your best to avoid this happening.

It is important that you are honest with your bank. If you have the means (and as a gesture of goodwill), you could also offer to pay a lump sum towards the loan and have some of the interest and fees waived to lower the total amount owing.

You will also need proof that you have the funds to restart the loan instalments from another country, such as an employment contract, letter of offer and evidence of your new salary with bank statements.

I wish you all the best for your new chapter.

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 pf@thenationalnews.com

Updated: June 29, 2023, 5:00 AM