The United Arab Emirates is a modern state in the Middle East comprising seven states (or emirates) that used to be independent sheikdoms before their integration in 1971. Although Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah and Umm Al-Qaiwain are governed by one federal body, each of them has its own local government as well as its own unique character.
Nowadays the UAE is considered one of the richest and most stable countries in the world with excellent living and working conditions. The country is known for its high level of security, high salaries and absence of corruption and taxes. As a result, lots of expats are drawn to the Emirates and many of them choose to stay to work and live there. That is the reason why 85 percent of UAE population is made up of foreign nationals.
The Arab Emirates is one of the Top 10 expat destinations in the world. The state does not prevent the influx of new population, so the requirements for moving to the UAE are few. And as true melting pot of people and cultures from around the globe, expats usually have no problem immediately feeling at home when relocating to the country.
Moving to the UAE one should bear in mind that rules and regulations in different emirates are slightly different, so it is important to look into the laws associated with the specific emirate beforehand. Housing prices and rental costs differ too. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are deemed to be the most expensive emirates, while Sharjah, Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah are more affordable.
People move to the UAE for various reasons. Some people come to set up a business as the state provides great conditions for doing it. Some people come in search of employment. People also come to study or join their loved ones who already live and work in the UAE. Whatever is the reason, if you plan to stay in the country for more than 90 days, you will need a long-term visa. This kind of visa is called a resident visa. It can be valid for 2-3 or even 10 years and can be renewed as many times as it is required.
There are several types of resident visa and several ways to get it. If you open a company in the UAE, you are eligible for a business residence visa. If you enrol at a university or college in the UAE, you will get a student residence visa. A resident visa is issued to investors owing property worth over USD 272 thousand in the Emirates. In addition to that, you can obtain a resident visa by opening a freelance permit in one of the UAE's freehold areas or by getting employed by a local company. In case if you have already been offered a job in a company in the UAE, it is most likely that your employer will process all the visa paperwork and cover all visa costs for you. And in some emirates, employers are also legally required to provide healthcare for expat employees and their dependents.
Both the UAE’s healthcare system and health insurance are top-notch and comprehensive. Public healthcare is only available to Emirati nationals at little or no cost. Foreign residents must pay in order to use the same services or they can opt for private healthcare only. So you should definitely consider buying health insurance. Although it is costly, it's worth it because the healthcare system in the Emirates is world-renowned. Foreigners from across the globe flock to the country for various medical procedures, this new trend is termed "medical tourism".
It may surprise you to know that no special vaccinations are required to move to the UAE. However, like in all other countries there are recommended vaccines and vaccinations that all UAE residents have. Depending on any travel you may want to do around the surrounding Middle Eastern countries, you may want to consider hepatitis A and B shots as well as a rabies vaccine just to be on the safe side.
The biggest expense expats will face in the UAE is accommodation. Housing there is easy to come by and there are many types of houses to choose from: apartments, villas, townhouses, etc. Dubai and Abu Dhabi have the highest supply and the highest prices too. But you can find more reasonably priced options in other emirates. For example, the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah is now becoming more and more popular among expats as the quality of housing there is just as good as in Dubai and Abu Dhabi while housing prices are much lower.
If you plan to rent a home in the UAE, you can expect to spend at least half of your paycheck on rent. Though rental prices have dipped in recent years, the average rent, for instance in Dubai, can still be anywhere between USD 8,100 and 27,220 per year. Utilities in the UAE are also expensive as air conditioning is needed all year-round.
You can search for an apartment for rent in the Emirates on real estate web sites or with a real estate agency. Housing contracts in the UAE need to be certified by the local governing body. In Dubai all contracts are registered in the Dubai Land Department via EJARI, an online registration system. A contract will list the amount of the deposit as well as the penalties for breaking a lease early. Landlords in some areas of the UAE are forbidden to raise rents more than a certain percentage every year.
Buying a home as a foreigner in the Emirates is easy and the local government encourages international investment in real estate. Foreigners can buy property in the UAE in designated freehold areas that are found in all the emirates and are home to the most state-of-the-art and convenient neighbourhoods. Housing options and prices are available on real estate portals like Property Finder and others.
People wishing to relocate to the UAE should be aware of what is allowed and what is prohibited to bring into the country. For example, if moving to the Emirates with pets, keep in mind that certain breeds of dogs categorized as “fighting dogs” may not be brought into the Gulf country. Moreover, expats are only allowed to bring two pets with them.
Remember that the Arab Emirates is a Muslim country so any publications or artwork that directly challenge the teachings and values of Islam are strictly prohibited there. If you want to bring your own holy books with you, such as a Bible, you may do so but discretion is advised.
You may also want to check the regulations concerning alcohol and medicine import. Alcohol is tolerated in the UAE but there are restrictions on the amount of you can bring into the country. As for medicine, it faces more restrictions. The UAE has very strict drug policies. Certain drugs that are deemed "mild" or "over-the-counter" in other countries are controlled in the UAE. This can include drugs found in cough syrups and pain killers.
As the UAE is a hyper-advanced country, not much is needed to move there. You can only take your own personal goods and belongings and buy everything else upon arrival. Fitting up an apartment in the UAE is relatively cheap so there's no need to bring furniture and household items with you.
When importing used items into the UAE, to qualify them for duty free, you may need to provide a residence permit first. If a customs inspector believes something is being imported commercially, they will impose a 5 percent tax on the item (customs tax may vary slightly from emirate to emirate).
If you ship your items separately from you, then they must arrive within one month of your arrival. You must be present in order for the goods to clear customs. It's better to keep an itemized list of what you have shipped as well as any relevant receipts, invoices, and insurance papers. These may be needed in the event that you have to prove ownership of certain items.
If you do not have a residence visa yet, you can submit a letter from your UAE entry visa sponsor. You will need to make a deposit valuing 5 percent of your goods that will be refunded to you once you have your residence visa. In order to receive the refund, you must submit your residence visa within 59 days of your goods arrival in the UAE.
If you want to bring your car to the UAE you will have to pay an import tax (about 5 percent of the cost of the vehicle). In addition to that, a number of documents is required: copy of passport, registration documents, title or deed, copy of purchase invoice, certificate of origin, insurance policy, UAE residence permit. It also should be mentioned, that cars with tinted windows are not allowed into the UAE.
The UAE has a worldwide reputation as a "tax free" country. However, this does not mean there are no taxes. It just means there is not much tax in the UAE compared to other countries. There is no income tax in the country but there are tax rates on rent that affect expats as well as excise taxes on harmful substances such as sodas and tobacco products.
Foreign citizens living in the UAE can open a bank account in a local bank. To do so they need a residence visa and need to be present in the country as many banks require future account holders to sign certain documents in person. Expats without a residence visa, such as during the visa processing time, may open an account with an international bank that is available both in the UAE and their home country. International banks are some of the best banks and easily accessible bank accounts in the UAE.
Those who relocate with children will certainly want to know more about education system and international schools in the UAE. Expats can enrol their children at public as well private schools but must pay fees for both as government schools are only free for Emirati nationals. Expats interested in international schools in the UAE can choose from a whole range of nation-specific organizations: British, American, German, Indian or French, to name just a few.
Arabic is still largely used in public schools, though English is emphasized as a second language and more and more core subjects are being taught in the universal tongue. In general, the education quality of public and private education is pretty similar but most expats still opt to send their kids to private schools.
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 universities and colleges in the Middle East.
The majority of people relocate to the UAE because of work. Working in the UAE is not only a tremendous career opportunity. The absence of income tax makes it an ideal location to save money. Plus, salaries there are sometimes several times higher than in the European labour market. There is always enough work in hospitality sector, bank and finance sector and healthcare. Competition for jobs in the UAE is stiff, yet, highly skilled specialists with good knowledge of English and top-notch CVs can always find a well-paid job.
Summing up, the cost of living in the UAE is high but so is the quality. Advanced public transportation system, education and healthcare system as well as a wealth of most incredible entertainment options make the Arab Emirates an ideal country to live in. The state takes care of its residents, for example, all bus stops in the country are equipped with air conditioning, the roads are perfect, the streets are clean.
In addition to that, the UAE is one of the safest countries in the world. The country has an extremely low crime rate, the police and special services monitor all violations very strictly. People in the Emirates do not steal. You can leave your car, apartment or office open without worrying that something might be stolen from there.
The pace of the UAE's development is overwhelming. The country strives to be the best at everything utilizing the most exciting innovations and cutting-edge technologies. For instance, Dubai has the world's largest driverless metro, UAE property market offers apartments with integrated smart home systems and so on. It is hard to imagine that just a half of a century ago this hyper-advanced, innovative country was just a desert.
Realizing that the country benefits greatly from foreign specialists' experience and foreign investment, the UAE government creates excellent conditions for expats and supports them in every way. Surely, like any relocation moving to the Arab Emirates requires some effort but it is possible.