On Your Side: UAE licence is valid for a year in France

Plus questions about changes to UK tax law for expatriates, a housewife on her husband's visa who wants to work and managing a car loan while switching jobs, answered by The National's consumer advocate.

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My daughter is taking driving lessons, but is planning to study in France next year. I am hoping that you can tell me if her UAE licence will be valid there, or will she have to take another test when she gets to France? FM, Abu Dhabi

Personal Finance On Your Side

The National's consumer advocate, Keren Bobker, answers your questions on legal and financial matters in the UAE and beyond.

If your daughter is only planning to stay in France for a limited amount of time, she will not need to get a French licence because she will be able to drive on her UAE licence for up to a year. If, however, she becomes a resident of France, then she will be able to simply convert her UAE licence to a French one without having to take another test. Licences can be converted/exchanged at local town halls.

I read a question in your column from a person who would be working in the UK for a couple of weeks and who wanted to know if they would be taxed. You said they wouldn't be, but I have heard there will be changes to the UK's tax laws, which mean that anyone working there would be taxed. I travel to London every few months for business and am concerned it could affect my tax status. SM, Dubai

Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has issued a consultation document (Statutory Definition of Tax Residence: a Consultation), which invited responses from interested parties and is now under review. Currently, if you spend less than 90 days in a tax year in the UK, overseas income is exempt from income tax. But one of the many proposed changes is that anyone who spends more than 20 days working in the UK during a tax year could be taxed on overseas earnings and may even be treated as resident. HMRC has stated that "a working day is any day on which three hours or more of work is carried out". I would stress that these changes are still at the consultation stage and the outcome will not be known until early next year, with the changes likely to be put into practice for the 2012-2013 tax year, which begins on April 6, 2013. This particular proposal could be detrimental to international business, so it is hoped that it will be altered.

I moved to Sharjah three months ago, under the sponsorship of my husband, who is employed here. We hold Indian passports. The initial residence visa granted was for a month and the category on it was "housewife". After getting my medical done, we applied for the residence visa to be stamped on my passport and it has come back stating: "residence visa, housewife - not allowed to work". I am devastated because I had not anticipated this and had already started contacting people about job vacancies. What can we do to change this status? I have friends whose residence visas just say "housewife", unlike mine. Can you throw some light on this because I really need to work? PK, Sharjah

Despite the wording on your visa, you may legally take up employment provided your husband provides you with a No Objection Certificate; essentially a letter addressed to your future employer that permits you to work. This must simply say that he has no objection to you taking up employment and then you are on equal footing with anyone who does not have the same restriction written in their passport. In some circumstances, this may even give you an advantage because your prospective employer will not have to provide you with a residence visa and will only need to organise and pay for your labour card.

I have been in my current job for six years, but I have been offered a job with another company that is more interesting and has a higher salary. Before I give my resignation, I would like confirmation of a few points. First, will I lose any of my gratuity by leaving? Second, I have a car loan; will my bank cause a problem when it finds out I am changing jobs? PG Dubai

Because you have been employed continuously by the same company for more than five years, your end-of-service gratuity will not be reduced even though you will be resigning. Your bank should not have a problem provided you have virtually continuous employment and can demonstrate that you have a new job with evidence of the salary. To avoid having issues with your account being frozen, my advice would be to obtain a letter from your new employer that confirms your new job and salary and that your salary will be paid into your account with your current bank. This is likely to be a condition of your loan. Make sure the company stamp is on the letter. If you do this prior to your final salary payment being made, which should include your gratuity payment, the bank should not freeze your account - something that is often done as a matter of routine if a final salary payment is made. The bank should be amenable because it will be able to see that you will continue to transfer your salary and service your debt.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Write to her at keren@holbornassets.com with queries for this column or for advice on any other financial planning matter.