Start your steps to moving to UAE by using this guide to answer all your moving questions. As one of the Top 10 ex-pat destinations in the world, there are few requirements to move to the UAE. As a true melting pot of people and cultures from all over the world, ex-pats will have no problem feeling right at home when they move to the Gulf country.
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Expats who want to know how to move to UAE will be happy to know that it is relatively easy. With an ex-pat population nearly five times the population of Emirates nationals, the UAE makes moving to their country easy and straightforward.
An important thing ex-pats should know when moving to the UAE is that the country is made up of seven separate emirate states: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm Al Quwain. Although governed by a single federal body, these states each have their local government. For some specific relocation needs, such as health insurance, school searches, and housing requirements, ex-pats must examine the laws associated with their specific emirate. While moving to the UAE has many advantages, one of the biggest is that it is common for UAE companies to handle all legal aspects of the ex-pat move process. UAE companies not only sponsor an employee’s residence visa but also process all paperwork. In some emirates, employers are also required by law to provide health care to ex-pat workers and their family members.
Whether you are moving abroad for the first time or moving several times before, the process raises many questions. Our complete relocation guide will ease your doubts along the way, from initial preparations to negotiating a moving package, we’ll help you GO! prepared with the most important answers.
Moving to the UAE is easy for many ex-pats. With the promise of tax-free salaries and warm, sunny weather all year round, the UAE is an attractive destination for many people around the world. There is a long list of what is allowed in the UAE, but ex-pats should also know what is prohibited. For example, if you’re moving to UAE with pets, keep in mind that certain dogs categorized as ‘fighting dogs’ are not allowed to enter the Gulf Country. Expats are also allowed to bring only two pets into the country. Any publications or works of art that directly question the teachings of Islam should also not be brought into the country. If you want to bring a religious text, such as a Bible, you can, but discretion is advised. Alcohol is tolerated in the UAE, but there are restrictions on the amount you can bring into the country. Medicine also has limitations and ex-pats are only allowed to bring a three-month supply with them upon arrival in the country. Even medications that are considered mild or over the counter in other countries can be monitored in the UAE and require a health permit from the Department of Health. Since the UAE is a very advanced country, not many ex-pats need to move to the country other than their goods and belongings. While house prices are high, the cost of furnishing an apartment in the UAE is relatively cheap. Unless ex-pats have a sentimental attachment to their goods, they can buy most of what they need in the UAE. No vaccinations are required to move to the UAE. Depending on each trip you want to take in the surrounding Middle East countries, ex-pats may want to consider hepatitis A and B shots and a rabies vaccine just to be on the safe side
Visa and work permits
Whether you are moving to UAE to further your career, are closer to your loved ones or just looking for a fresh start, you need to know how to get a UAE visa or work permit. If you are staying in the UAE for more than 90 days, most ex-pats require an entry visa to enter the country. Even if you don’t have a job in UAE yet, fear not. Entry visas can be sponsored by several organizations such as airlines, hotels and even a co-expat with a UAE residence visa. Once you have an entry permit, the visa application process in UAE is easy. For most ex-pats, your employer processes the visa papers and applies them on your behalf. Many companies will also do this for the dependents of employees, including covering all visa costs. Different types of visas are available for the UAE. If you are moving to the UAE as a self-employed person, you must register in one of the many ‘free zones’ of the UAE. There are nearly 40 of these zones within the seven emirates, but only a handful of sponsor self-employed visas. The requirements for the stand-alone visa vary from one emirate to another, but on average ex-pats only need to license their business in a free zone and rent an office space.
The biggest expense ex-pats in the UAE will incur is accommodation. While homes in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are easy to find and there are many types of homes to choose from, ex-pats can expect to spend at least half their salary on rent. Although rents have fallen in recent years, the average rent in Dubai can still range anywhere between 30,000 and 100,000 AED (8,100 and 27,220 USD) per year. Utilities in the UAE are also expensive as air conditioning is required all year round. It doesn’t take much to rent a house in the UAE. Residents of Dubai and Abu Dhabi require their housing contracts certified by the local government. This contract specifies the amount of the deposit and the penalties for early termination of a lease. Because the relationships between tenants and landlords used to be fraught in the UAE, today there are steep consequences for those who break a lease prematurely. Landlords in certain areas are also prohibited from increasing rents by more than a certain percentage annually. Buying a foreigner is easy. Some ex-pats may even qualify for a visa simply by owning property in the UAE. But just like renting, owning a home in the UAE is not cheap. On the downside, average house prices start around AED 500,000 (USD 136,100).
Both the UAE’s health care system and health insurance are first-class and comprehensive. Expats can receive any type of medical procedure within the Gulf country, although they will always pay a fee. Public health care is available only to residents of Emirates at little to no cost. Foreigners have to pay to use the same services, or they can only choose private health care. Health insurance in the UAE is expensive but worth it. Healthcare is world-famous. Foreigners from all over the world come to the emirates for various procedures, a trend called ‘medical tourism’. Dubai, in particular, plays hosts to thousands of medical tourists every year and is home to some of the best hospitals in the Middle East. The process of finding a doctor is largely done online. After asking fellow ex-pats and doing your research, ex-pats should narrow their search to a few doctors, as there are often long waiting lists to see a specialist. Expats eager to give birth in the UAE can rest assured that mom and baby are in good hands. Unlike some Western countries, hospitals in Emirates have newborn children sleeping in the same hospital room as their mothers, because the UAE believes this is an important part of the initial attachment process.
Banks and taxes
It is difficult to think of the UAE without thinking of banks and taxes. The UAE’s reputation as ‘tax-free’ is one of the reasons it is so popular with ex-pats. However, this does not mean that there are no taxes; it just means that there is not much tax in the UAE compared to other countries. There is no income tax in the UAE, but the tax rate on rent still affects ex-pats, as do excise duties on harmful substances such as sodas and tobacco products. It is easy to open a bank account in the UAE, although this requires ex-pats in the country. This is a requirement for many banks, as account holders must sign certain documents in person. There are four types of banks in the UAE: commercial, industrial, merchant and Islamic. Non-native residents may open accounts with any of these banks, but only upon receipt of a residence visa. Expats without a residence visa, such as during the visa processing time, are only allowed to open a savings account. Some banks offer ATMs with a savings account so that ex-pats have easy access to their money. If an ex-pat wants to, they can get around this provision by opening an account with an international bank that is available both in the UAE and in their home country. Some of the best banks and easily accessible bank accounts in the UAE are international banks.
Like much about the UAE, the education system is growing fast. Before the oil boom of the 1960s, only a handful of formal schools were spread across the emirate states. Now there are more than 500 public and private schools together. Expats interested in international schools in the UAE will also be able to choose between national organizations such as British, American, German, Indian or French, just to name a few. In recent years, the UAE school system has started taking care of ex-pats. While Arabic is still largely used in public schools, English is emphasized as a second language and more and more core subjects are offered in the universal language. While the quality of education between public and private schools in the UAE is fairly similar, most ex-pats choose to send their children to a private school. When it comes to higher education, many foreign students choose to return to their home countries, although the UAE is home to some of the best schools in the Middle East.
Most ex-pats who want to move to UAE do this for their job. Working in the UAE is not only a great career opportunity thanks to the advanced and innovative job sector, but the lack of income tax makes it an ideal location to save money. Perhaps the only drawback is that ex-pats who work in the UAE for a significant amount of time are not entitled to social benefits. Expats wondering how to get a job in the UAE would do well to find ways to differentiate themselves. As such a coveted ex-pat destination, competition for jobs in the UAE is fierce. The labor market has also started to decline in recent years, with the average salary falling and many jobs being cut. When applying for a job in UAE, you may be competing with thousands of other applicants. That’s why it’s important to have a top-notch resume and to apply for jobs that you know stand out. Self-employment in the UAE is common and the country offers freelance visas to make this a viable career option for ex-pats. Also common are Islamic principles tucked away in the UAE corporate culture, such as in the conservative attire seen all over the workplace and the expectation of Emirati men and women to forgo handshakes.
While the cost of living in the UAE is high, so is the quality. Many ex-pats receive housing and are covered by their employer. If you are one of these ex-pats consider yourself a lucky one as the rest of the cost of living in UAE is quite reasonable. Driving in the UAE is easy, but uncertain. The UAE is known for the souped-up luxury sports cars, and owners of these cars will often treat public roads as race tracks. While many traffic rules prohibit reckless driving, ex-pats can expect sudden lanes, incredibly fast cars, and vehicles that won’t slow down for pedestrians. For those who don’t want to risk their lives behind the wheel, public transport in the UAE is also an option. As the most developed city, Dubai has the most extensive public transport with buses, metro lines, and monorails. The rest of the UAE is mainly accessible via air-conditioned public buses.