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A Comprehensive Guide on Moving to the UAE

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  • Peter B. Krehmer

    There are so many expats in the UAE, but the InterNations Dubai Ramadan dinners brought some wonderful guests together.

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.

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All You Need to Know About Relocating Your Household Goods and Pets

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.

Read our complete guide on relocating to the UAE

The Guide to Visa Types and Work Permit Requirements

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.

Read our complete guide on visas & work permits in the UAE

Everything You Need to Know about Finding a New Home

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).

Read our complete guide on housing in the UAE

Health Insurance and the Healthcare System in the UAE Explained

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.

Read our complete guide on insurance & healthcare in the UAE

A Comprehensive Guide about Opening a Bank Account and Managing Your Taxes

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.

Read our complete guide on banking & taxes in the UAE

Connect with like-minded expatriates

Discover our welcoming community of expats! You’ll find many ways to network, socialize, and make new friends. Attend online and in-person events that bring global minds together.

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Our Global Partners

  • Peter B. Krehmer

    There are so many expats in the UAE, but the InterNations Dubai Ramadan dinners brought some wonderful guests together.

  • Suzanne Payne

    Dubai is such an overwhelming mixture of tradition and modernity that I was very grateful for all the support from other expats.

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