Stranded family struggles with unhelpful bank

I have been an HSBC UAE Status customer for six years, but I am in Bahrain at the moment. Today, an HSBC Bahrain cash-point machine swallowed my card.

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I have been an HSBC UAE Status customer for six years, but I am in Bahrain at the moment. Today, an HSBC Bahrain cash-point machine swallowed my card. I called the UAE call centre and explained the situation, telling them that I have a young family with me and only Dh70 in cash. Their response was that they would send me a new card, but I would have to pay international courier charges and it would take approximately four working days. I said that I was not happy about paying the charges and asked to be put though to a supervisor, who said that unless I agreed to pay the courier charge they would not send the card. When I asked how much the fee would be they said they didn't know. I am pretty disgusted with the whole way this was handled. A young family stranded in a foreign country with no cash and HSBC's attitude couldn't have been less helpful. JC Dubai

This query was passed quickly to senior staff at HSBC and I am delighted that they appreciated the seriousness of the situation and acted promptly. Mr JC contacted me to advise that HSBC called him the same morning to rectify the situation. The bank's regional communications department said: "We have reviewed the issues raised and would like to advise you the following: our fraud team tried contacting Mr JC on July 21, 2010, with regards to certain suspicious international transactions conducted on his account and it was necessary for our fraud team to confirm if these had been performed by him. As the customer could not be reached, the card was blocked. We have now issued a new debit card and PIN for Mr JC and this has been couriered to Bahrain free of charge. Feedback has been provided to our regional call centre staff to ensure optimum service is provided in the future. We have contacted Mr JC, apologised for the inconvenience caused and informed him of the above. He has confirmed he is satisfied with the resolution. We take customer feedback seriously and investigate all issues thoroughly to ensure a fair outcome to all our customers."

My husband and I purchased property in Arabian Ranches some years ago and when he retired we decided to remain here, taking advantage of Emaar sponsorship for residence visas. We also purchased an off-plan apartment in Ajman, which is in my name because it came with sponsorship for a residence visa. Should my husband predecease me while living here, I would then have security to remain independently without being compelled to leave. However, the laws pertaining to residency visas have changed. Our visas expire in mid-September and cannot be renewed. All that is being offered are permits for multiple entry, which seem to fall far short of being visas and could cause us serious administrative problems, such as relicensing of vehicles, maintaining post boxes, insurance and bank accounts. We now have a property that we currently inhabit as our only residence, but will in the future only be able to visit as long as we meet the criteria of the immigration department. In addition, we have a much-delayed property under construction, its value being less than the Dh1 million minimum value. We had not intended to reside in it, only to rent it out. Can we still do this if we do not have residence visas? What are the courses of action open to us when/if we are issued multiple-entry permits? WS, Dubai

The change in the law has caused difficulty and confusion for many. Emaar states on its website that it "does not sponsor residence visas to homeowners; however, they are eligible to obtain a six-month multiple-entry visit visa subject to the property being registered at the Land Department with a property value of a minimum of Dh1 million". The company goes on to say that customers can then approach Emaar's property transfer department requesting a No Objection Certificate for Dubai's Department of Naturalisation and Residency to obtain the multiple entry visit visa. The sum of Dh1m relates to either purchase price or current value, if higher. I understand that there is no current plan to change the situation and this means that as you will not be resident your driving licences become invalid and you cannot own a vehicle here. You should not have a problem maintaining bank accounts. If you are the legal owner of a property, you do not have to be a UAE resident to rent it out. The situation with visas for people who have bought property in the UAE is certainly a muddle, especially when a number of people thought that property ownership would secure them residency for life and they now find themselves in an awkward position.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Write to her at Letters can also be sent to