Yes, expat foreigners can buy land in select freehold areas. Here's a complete list of what you need to know:
Words by Aneesha Rai in The Guides · Mar. 11th, 2019
For the longest time, Dubai expats could hold neither land nor property, but this has changed for a while ever since 2002; enabling them to purchase both land & property in freehold areas. Some specific parts of areas such as Bur Dubai and Karama are not included in the mix, however, Downtown Dubai, Business Bay, La Mer and MBR City are. Of late, the areas of Madinat Jumeirah Living in Jumeirah, Mina Rashid and Palm Deira (commercial land only) can be bought freehold.
The plots in the Downtown area, JLT, and Dubai Marina are all under ownership, however, you can buy them in the secondary market. Al Barari, Pearl Jumeira and Dubai Hills also have plots on sale for both residential and commercial interests. You can also purchase plots in Dubai South. Plot prices greatly vary from location to location.
Purchasing land in Dubai is done via the Dubai Land Department.
The current UAE tax laws fall as per the following:
1. The owners of residential buildings do not have to register for VAT if they do not have any other business activities. Where owners have other business activities, they should consider their obligations further, based on the nature of the business.
2. The owner of any building that is not residential, will have to register if the value of the supplies over the preceding 12 months exceeds Dh375,000 or it is expected that they will exceed Dh375,000 over the coming 30 days. The taxation rate is at 5%
3. In the event of a mixed-use property, the residential element of the property will be omitted from the calculation of VAT. The taxation rate is standard at 5%.
Leasehold Vs. Freehold Land
Potential real estate land owners need to check whether their properties lie within a freehold or leasehold agreement. In a leasehold capacity, you can own land up to 99 years. This is applicable in some areas of Dubai, especially the older parts such as Jumeirah. Any freezone such as Dubai Media City offers only leasehold properties, contrary to popular belief.