Relocating to the UAE
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All you need to know about relocating your household goods and pets
If you’re planning to relocate to the United Arab Emirates, you need to make sure that you are fully up to speed on what you can and cannot bring into the country. See our full list, as well as information on the documentation and permits you need.
What does it take to relocate to the United Arab Emirates? Our relocation guide will guide you through the process. Find out everything you need to know about how to relocate to the UAE, including what paperwork you need, what you can bring with you, and what you need to be careful about. There are some tricky import restrictions to navigate when bringing your possessions to the UAE.
While you can bring in personal possessions duty-free, there is a long list of things that you cannot bring, as well as a list of things you need specific permission to bring. This includes some surprising items, such as e-cigarettes. Keep reading the article to see the full list.
Moving and shipping household goods
How to Ship & Import Your Household Goods
Your personal effects and household goods are eligible for duty-free customs clearance if they are in used condition and if the quantity of goods to be imported reasonably corresponds to the size of your household. There is, however, no set limit to the volume of household goods you may bring with you.
You must submit the following items to the Federal Customs Authority in the UAE for your goods to clear customs:
- two copies of your passport
- a copy of your residence visa*
- proof of employment in the UAE
- a complete inventory of all the items in your shipment, written in English, with two additional copies
- two original authorization letters — one addressed to the shipping line and one to the customs authorities
- an insurance certificate
*If you don’t have your residence visa yet, you can submit a letter from the company sponsoring you in the UAE. You will then need to make a deposit of 5% of the assessed value of your goods to the customs office, which will be refunded as soon as you can show them your residence visa. If you don’t submit your residence visa within 59 days of the arrival of your household goods, the money will no longer be refunded.
In addition to the restricted and prohibited items mentioned earlier in this article, you must not include any of the following items in your shipment without prior approval:
- more than two liters of alcohol
- more tobacco than required for personal use
- communication equipment and wireless transmitters
- stuffed taxidermic animals
- live plants
- food items
If any prohibited items are found in your shipment, they may be destroyed without your consent. You may also face a hefty fine and/or imprisonment.
To speed up the inspection process, it’s a good idea to pack all your printed and multimedia items separately, and to clearly label them. These items include books, CDs, movies, software, pictures, etc.
Your household goods must arrive in the UAE within six months of when you receive your residence visa, else you must pay a duty fee of 5% of the estimated value of the goods. If you ship new items to the UAE when you move there, they will also be taxed at a rate of 5% of their estimated value.
When your shipment arrives in the UAE, you must be present for the customs clearance. If you fail to pay any duty that is owed, your items will be impounded for 30 days, with a possible extension of up to 90 days. After this time your goods will be auctioned off.
If you would like to bring your car with you, please see our article on importing your car to the UAE.
Moving with pets
- Every pet imported into the UAE must be microchipped.
- Pets must get vaccinated against rabies between 12 months and 21 days before the move.
- There are only few dog-walking places in the UAE and some residential areas ban pets altogether.
- Despite high fines, exotic animals are often kept as pets by wealthy Emiratis.
Many expats who move to the UAE cannot imagine leaving their pets behind. Despite the many bureaucratic hurdles that make taking your dog or cat along anything but easy, more and more foreigners would never make the move to the country at the Gulf without their furry friend. That being said, conditions are not always ideal for pets in the UAE (especially for dogs).
If you still can’t live without your pet, you should make sure to adhere to all the legal requirements for taking your pet to the UAE.
Taking Your Furry Friend Along
The regulations for shipping your pets (especially your cats and dogs) are rather strict, but you’d do well to follow them. Otherwise you can run into a lot of problems upon arrival. In fact, incomplete documentation can result in a 5,000 AED fine and the re-export of your beloved pet to your country of origin at your own expense.
The information below only applies to dogs and cats in the first place. If you’re the proud owner of a ferret, rabbit, or guinea pig, for instance, you should get in touch with the Ministry of Environment & Water to find out which regulations apply.
Import Papers and Vaccination Cards — All the Documents You Need
Before you can board a plane with your puppy or kitten, you need to make sure that all of the paperwork is in order. Otherwise you could run into serious trouble throughout your move. These are the documents you need for your cat or dog:
- an import paper from the Ministry of Environment & Water in the UAE which isvalid for 30 days and applies to not more than two pets;
- a veterinary certificate for the United Arab Emirates which must be stamped by the governing authority in your country responsible for the import and export of animals;
- a vaccination card or certificate for each pet, clearly displaying the current rabies vaccination and other required immunizations;
- a copy of the blood titer test results, if requested from your country (more on that below);
- proof that your pet has undergone an internal and external parasite treatment, within 10 days of arrival.
Moreover, your pet is required to have an ISO standard chip. Keep in mind that some types of animals require their own import permits. This includes birds, tropical fish, reptiles, amphibia, and mammals such as rodents and rabbits. They usually don’t need a rabies vaccination but might be subject to other requirements.
The same applies to animals which are protected under CITIES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). So if you own a parrot or a turtle you want to bring along, you will have to apply for additional permits.
Rabies Free or Not? Necessary Immunizations
There are various blood tests and vaccinations that your cat or dog has to undergo before they are allowed to enter the UAE. Rabies is a big one, of course. The vaccination card has to show not only the date of your pet’s current rabies vaccination, but also the manufacturer of the vaccine, the batch number, and the expiration date. The vaccination has to take place between 12 months and 21 days before your arrival in the Emirates.
In addition, you have to have your dog vaccinated against distemper, leptospirosis, canine hepatitis, and parvovirus. Your cat needs to get vaccinated against panleukopnia, calicivirus, and feline rhinotracheitis.
If you come from a country that is not considered rabies free, you need to have a blood titer test taken. This test has to take place at least 21 days after the last rabies vaccination and less than 90 days before you take your pet to the UAE.
Location is Everything — Approved Entry Points
Your pets have to enter the UAE as manifested cargo through approved entry points. Make sure to get in touch with your airline early on to talk to them about their cargo crates and pet policies. Approved entry points in the UAE include:
- Abu Dhabi Airport
- El Bateen
- Ras Al-Kaimah Airport
- Dubai Airport
- Al Ain Airport
- Sharjah International Airport
- Fujairah International Airport
- Ajman International Airport
No Way In — Prohibited Breeds
When you get in touch with an airline about taking your dog abroad, make sure to inquire about restrictions on specific breeds. In fact, breeds with flat faces and those thought to be aggressive are often declined.
Moreover, the UAE itself has a list of dog breeds which are banned from entering the country altogether. This includes all kinds of pit bulls, Argentinian and Brazilian mastiffs, wolf dog hybrids, American Staffordshire terriers, and cross breeds thereof.
Daily Life with the Furball — Getting and Keeping a Pet in the UAE
As mentioned before, keeping a pet, especially one which needs to get some fresh air every now and then, can be a bit of a challenge in the UAE. Many residential areas have banned pets altogether or don’t allow anything furry or bigger than a goldfish. In Dubai, for instance, you need to get a written permission from your landlord before moving into an apartment with your pet.
However, even if your landlord is very “pet-friendly”, you should keep in mind that there are not many areas in the UAE where dog owners can take their furry friend for a walk. Dogs are banned from most beaches and parks, and only few gated communities have proper walking paths.
At least, the newly opened Dubai Birds and Pet Market has included a dog-walking area in their expansion plans, reacting to the needs of many pet owners.
However, even designated outdoor areas will not make life easier for you and your dog during the unforgiving summer heat. When it gets too hot to spend much time outside, many people flee the country for a few weeks at a time. As some pet owners do not want to go through the hassle of taking their pet with them, they leave them behind — at local animal shelters, if the pets are lucky, or on the streets if they’re not.
In recent years, shelters have become increasingly crowded during peak travel periods. Many of them cannot take another animal in before some of their dogs and cats have been adopted. Thus, if you think about getting a new pet while living in the UAE, why not adopt one from a local shelter like K9 Friends, Animal Action UAE, Abu Dhabi Animal Shelter, or the Ras Al Khaimah Animal Welfare Center?
Exotic Animals as Status Symbols in the UAE
Traditionally, Emiratis like to keep animals for sports: falconry and camel races are just as popular as exploring the desert on horseback. (You can find out more in our article on sports in the UAE.)
However, wild or exotic animals are also considered a status symbol in countries around the Gulf, and it is not uncommon for live animals, including endangered species, to be sold in online classifieds. Although the import of a lot of endangered species has been banned and keeping wild animals as pets is technically prohibited, the UAE struggles to enforce these bans.
The smuggling of lion cubs, for instance, remains rather common on the Arabian Peninsula. Often, the animals are imported from East Africa when they are still very young. Owners keep them in their home and expect them to grow up tame, but this is usually not the case. Don’t even think about following this horrible trend, as the punishment for keeping an exotic animal as a pet can be a six-month prison sentence and a 50,000 AED fine