Moving to the UAE
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A Comprehensive Guide on Relocating to the UAE
Begin your steps of moving to the UAE by using this guide to answer all of your relocation questions. As one of the Top 10 expat destinations in the world, the requirements for moving to the UAE are few. As a true melting pot of people and cultures from around the globe, expats will have no problem immediately feeling at home when relocating to the Gulf nation.
Expats wanting to know how to move to the UAE will be pleased to know that it is relatively easy. With an expat population that is almost five times larger than the population of Emirati nationals, the UAE makes relocating to their country easy and straightforward.
An important thing expats should know when moving to the UAE is that the country is made up for seven separate emirate states: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm Al Quwain. Although these states are governed by one federal body, they each have their own local government, too. For some specific relocation needs such as health insurance, school search, and housing requirements, expats should look into the laws associated with their specific emirate.
While there are many benefits to moving to the UAE, one of the greatest is that it is common for UAE companies to handle all legal aspects of the relocation process for expats. UAE companies will not only sponsor an employee’s residence visa, but they will also process all of the paperwork as well. In some emirate states, employers are also legally required to provide healthcare for expat employees and their dependents.
The process of moving to the UAE is easy for many expats. With the promise of tax-free salaries and year-round warm, sunny weather, the UAE is an alluring destination for many people across the globe.
There is a long list of what is permitted in the UAE, but expats should also be aware of what is prohibited. For example, if moving to the UAE with pets, be aware that certain dogs categorized as “fighting dogs” may not be brought into the Gulf country. Expats are also only allowed to bring two pets into the country. Any publications or artwork that directly challenge the teachings of Islam may also not be brought into the country. If you want to bring a religious text with you, such as a Bible, you may do so, but discretion is advised.
Alcohol is tolerated in the UAE, but there are restrictions on the amount of you can bring into the country. Medicine also faces restrictions and expats are only permitted to bring a three-months supply upon arrival in the country. Even medicine that is considered mild or over-the-counter in other countries may be controlled in the UAE and require a health permit from the Ministry of Health.
As the UAE is a hyper-advanced country, there is not much expats will need to move to the country other than their own personal goods and belongings. Although housing prices are high, the cost to furnish an apartment in the UAE is relatively cheap. Unless expats have sentimental attachment to their goods, they can purchase most of what they need in the UAE.
There are no required vaccinations to move to the UAE. Depending on any travel you may want to do around the surrounding Middle Eastern countries, expats may want to consider hepatitis A and B shots as well as a rabies vaccine just to be on the safe side.
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Whether you are relocating to the UAE to advance your career, be closer to loved ones, or are simply looking for a fresh start, you will need to know how to get a UAE visa or work permit. If staying in the UAE for more than 90 days, most expats will need an entry visa in order to enter the country. Even if you do not yet have employment within the UAE, fear not. Entry visas can be sponsored by a number of organizations such as airlines, hotels, and even a fellow expat with a UAE residence visa.
Once you have an entry permit, the UAE visa application process is easy. For most expats, your employer will process the visa paperwork and apply on your behalf. Many companies will do this for the dependents of employees as well, including covering all visa costs.
There are several visa types available for the UAE. If moving to the UAE as a self-employed worker, you will need to register yourself in one of the UAE’s many “free zones.” There are nearly 40 of these zones within the seven emirates, but only a handful sponsor self-employed visas. The requirements for the self-employed visa fluctuate from emirate to emirate, but on average expats will only need to license their business within a free zone and rent an office space.
The biggest expense expats will face in the UAE is accommodation. Although housing in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are easy to come by and there are many types of houses to choose from, expats can expect to spend at least half of their paycheck on rent. Although rental prices have dipped in recent years, the average rent in Dubai can still be 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 needed year-round.
There is not much needed to rent a house in the UAE. Residents in Dubai and Abu Dhabi will need their housing contracts certified by the local governing body. This contract will list the amount of the deposit as well as the penalties for breaking a lease early. As relations between tenants and landlords used to be fraught in the UAE, nowadays there are steep consequences for whoever breaks a lease early. Landlords in certain areas are also forbidden from raising rent prices more than a certain percentage every year.
Buying a house as a foreigner is easy. Some expats can even qualify for a visa simply by owning property in the UAE. However, just like renting, owning a house in the UAE is not cheap. At the lowest end, average house prices start around 500,000 AED (136,100 USD).
Both the UAE’s healthcare system and health insurance are top-notch and comprehensive. Expats can receive any type of medical procedure within the Gulf country, although they will always pay a fee. Public healthcare is only available to Emirati nationals at little to no cost. Foreign residents must pay in order to use the same services, or they can opt for private healthcare only.
Health insurance in the UAE is costly but worth it. The healthcare system is world-renowned. Foreigners from across the globe flock to the emirates for various procedures, a trend termed “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 to find a doctor is largely done online. After asking fellow expats and doing your own research, expats should narrow their search to a few doctors as there can often be long waitlists to see a specialist.
Expats keen on giving birth in the UAE can rest assured that mother and baby are in good hands. Unlike some western countries, Emirati hospitals permit newborn children to sleep in the same hospital room as their mothers because the UAE believes this is an important part of the initial bonding process.
It is hard to think about the UAE without thinking of banks and taxes. The UAE’s reputation as “tax free” is part of what makes it so popular among expats. However, this does not mean there are no taxes; it just means there is not much tax in the UAE when compared to other countries. There is no income tax in the UAE, but the tax rate on rent still affects expats as do excise taxes on harmful substances such as sodas and tobacco products.
It is easy to open a bank account in the UAE, although expats will need to be in the country in order to do so. This is a requirement by many banks because account holders will be required to 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 in each of these banks, but only after receiving a residence visa. Expats without a residence visa, such as during the visa processing time, may only open a savings account. Some banks will offer ATM cards with a savings account so that expats have easy access to their money. If an expat wants to, they can get around this stipulation by opening an account with an international bank that is available both in the UAE and 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 rapidly. Before the oil boom of the 1960s, there were only a handful of formal schools spread throughout the emirate states. Now, there are over 500 combined public and private schools. Expats interested in international schools in the UAE will also have their pick between such nation-specific organizations as British, American, German, Indian, or French, just to name a few.
In recent years, the school system in the UAE has started to cater to expats. Even though Arabic is still largely used in public schools, English is emphasized as a second language and more and more core subjects are being offered in the universal tongue.
While the education quality between public and private schools is pretty similar in the UAE, most expats opt to send their kids to private school. When it comes to higher education, many foreign students choose to return to their home country, although the UAE is home to some of the best schools in the Middle East.
The majority of expats looking to relocate to the UAE do so for work. Working in the UAE is not only a tremendous career opportunity thanks to its advanced and innovative job sector, but the absence of income tax also makes it an ideal location to save money. Perhaps the one downside is that expats working in the UAE for a substantial amount of time are not privy to social security benefits.
Expats wondering how to get a job in the UAE would do well to find ways to make themselves standout. As such a coveted expat relocation destination, competition for jobs in the UAE is stiff. The job market has also started to decline in recent years, with the average salary rate dropping and many jobs being made redundant. When you apply for a job in the UAE, you may be competing against thousands of other applicants. Because of this, it is important to have a top-notch resume and apply for jobs where you know you can truly standout.
Self-employment in the UAE is common and the country offers freelance visas to make this a viable career option for expats. Also common are Islamic principles tucked away in the UAE business culture, such as in the conservative dress seen throughout workplaces and the expectation of Emirati men and women to forgo handshakes.
Although the cost of living in the UAE is high, so is the quality. Many expats will have their housing provided and covered by their employer. If you are one of these expats, consider yourself lucky as the rest of the living expenses in the UAE are fairly reasonable.
Driving in the UAE is simple, but precarious. The UAE is known for supped-up luxury sports cars, and owners of these cars will often treat public roadways like race tracks. While there are many road rules prohibiting reckless driving, expats can expect sudden lane cuts, incredibly fast cars, and vehicles that will not slowdown for pedestrians.
For those that do not want to risk their lives behind the wheel, public transportation in the UAE is also an option. As the most developed city, Dubai has the most expansive public transport with buses, metro lines, and monorails. The rest of the UAE can be accessed primarily through public, air-conditioned buses.