Debt in Dubai: What to Know

It is nearly impossible to manage life in this world and never have any form of debt such as mortgage, car loan or credit cards. People around the world spend time each week balancing their budget and managing debt, but sometimes the balance is tipped and it becomes very difficult to fulfill your obligations. If you live and work in Dubai or another emirate of the UAE, you could go to jail for an inability to pay your debts.

Bad Checks

Doing business, obtaining loans and renting a home in Dubai is most often done through the use of checks. For example, a landlord may require one or more postdated checks for deposits or first and last months rent, and the bank may require the same for a personal loan.

This is all well and good if you are able to fulfill your obligations, but if illness or other calamity occurs, you could find yourself on the wrong side of the bad check laws. Three things you should know:

  • Generally, you will have two options for a bad check, pay it in full or go to jail.
  • Once released from jail, the original debtor can file on the same check again, where once again you must pay or go to jail.
  • When it comes to company checks, if you are the manager who signed the check and there is no fraud detected, you are the one personally responsible for an organization’s bad check.

Losing or Quitting Your Job

There have been cases where individuals knew they could not meet their debt requirements and decided to quit their job in order to leave the country. Keep in mind that if you do so, your job is legally required to notify your bank that you are no longer employed and if you have loans at said bank, they will freeze your assets. There are a few protections if you lose your job involuntarily, but make sure you are up to speed on all your options when it comes to financial obligations.

Returning to UAE

During the financial crisis, there were multiple expats who left the country because they knew they could not pay their debts. If you find yourself in this category, you may have options for returning if you have or can pay your debts in full.

Before your return:

  • Clear all debts before you return
  • Written proof the debt is settled
  • Written validation that any and all arrest orders have been released. (should be on official bank letterhead)
  • Ensure all correspondence is signed and stamped by bank officer with proper authority.
  • Do not assume that you are free to return to the country just because you can obtain a visa. UAE will grant an incoming visa even if you are facing charges for bad debt.


In recent years, Sheikh Kahlifa has made strides in decriminalizing bad checks. Many people have been released from prison and creditors can no longer present a bad check as evidence of a crime. However, if you have old charges, you should make sure they are all cleared before returning to the country or you could still be arrested at the airport.