British Embassy in social media campaign to warn departing expatriates

Residents leaving the country risk arrest if they do not follow strict procedures to ensure all outstanding finances are settled before heading to the airport.

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DUBAI // British families preparing to leave the UAE are being given advice on how to stay within the boundaries of the law and ensure a hassle-free departure.

Unpaid debts and contracts left unfulfilled could land expatriates in prison or leave them facing questions at airport immigration.

That is according to the British embassy, which has launched an informative social media campaign this week.

As summer approaches, the embassy has released its latest advice and guidance as part of the “Checking Out” campaign to help smooth the journey for Britons leaving the UAE permanently.

They have been advised to check their financial liabilities and the status of employment visas well in advance of any plans to leave.

Outstanding loans for accommodation, cars and possessions should all be cleared before leaving the country.

A campaign on Twitter and Facebook began on Sunday and will end on Thursday.

“Remember to clear all your debts before you leave the UAE,” the embassy said.

“Non-payment of a debt is a criminal offence and could result in arrest and a possible prison sentence. If you have outstanding debts you may not be able to leave the country, or you may be stopped and arrested if you try to come back to, or even transit through the UAE.”

British expatriates are being urged to cancel any credit cards, loans or overdrafts with their banks, and leave plenty of time to do so because the process can take up to two months. Medical cards should also be returned.

All bank accounts that are no longer needed should be closed with a forwarding address given. A bank clearance letter from an employer is required to complete the process.

Passports need to be handed temporarily to employers if a contract is coming to an end so that a residence visa can be cancelled. Failure to do so could delay any departure or lead to a person being reported to immigration as an absconder.

Briton Morven Scott moved to London after six years in Dubai. Her biggest issue was regaining her passport from her employer.

“Our company took our passports to cancel our visas but wouldn’t give them back to us until a few hours before our flight back to the UK,” she said.

“Someone from HR met us at the check-in desk to hand them back. Obviously, we were pretty anxious, and didn’t feel like we could relax at all until we got our passports back at the airport.

“All in all, it took a solid six months of preparing to leave the UAE. That includes moving into a short-term furnished flat for three months, so we had plenty of time to get moved out of the flat and get our stuff shipped, and paying off credit cards.”

Rebecca Rees encountered few problems when leaving the UAE with her husband last month, but faced an anxious wait to have a deposit returned on her accommodation.

“Our final Dewa bill had to be settled before our landlord and agent would refund our rental deposit, and that took 48 hours to prepare,” she said.

“We didn’t want to risk being left in an empty apartment with no water or electricity. Other than that, everything seemed to work well for us.”

Workers will need to request a gratuity payout statement and payment from employers. Because the embassy does not get involved in employment disputes, expats are advised to contact the Ministry of Labour and refer to its list of lawyers for guidance.

Lawyers should also be used if the power of attorney is to be passed to a friend. Outstanding traffic fines should be settled and, if drivers have a Salik tag, this needs to be cancelled.

Contracts for mobile phones, internet access and utilities must be fully paid or cancelled before leaving the UAE.

Teachers and civil servants may require a police clearance certificate if returning to Britain to work.