Moving to Dubai: Your 5 Step Process
Dubai is without a doubt Planet Earth’s most colourful cultural melting pot. Wherever you’re flying in from, you’re sure to experience all the thrill of a new environment (Those skyscrapers! That sun! Friday brunch! The Mall of the Emirates!) along with many of the reassuring comforts of home.
Over 80% of Dubai’s residents are actually expats from all over the world, with Westerners making up a tenth of those inhabitants. So whatever brings you here, the majority of the people you meet are in pretty much the same boat: meeting new people is super easy because practically everyone is there for the same reasons as you!
We have already helped many job seekers to relocate there, so you might want to pay attention :)
If you’re planning on moving to Dubai, make sure that you have all of your document ducks in a row. For example, your passport needs to be valid at least six months out to even enter the country.
They will not let you in if your passport expires within that time. Also - and many people do not even think about this - if you have recently been married and changed your name, you will have to update your passport with the same name.
Otherwise, you might run into some trouble. This means bringing your marriage certificate with you, as well as any pertinent name change documents. (If you are entering the country as a married couple you need to bring your marriage certificate regardless.)
Dubai is what some would claim much more bureaucratic compared to the rest of the world. For instance, if you are a woman and married, and happen to be entering the country on your husband’s visa (meaning he is sponsoring you), his income is required to be above AED 4,000 per month. It is a common practice for one spouse to enter on a work visa and the other to accompany them on a spousal visa. This means your marriage certificate must be attested.
Getting a document attested is a long and involved ordeal, including having it previously certified by the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) or other local authorities, as well as notarized. Actually, it’s a good practice to get every necessary document attested, because, once in the country, it’ll be a royal pain if they happen to not be. For more information on this process, please check with the UAE Embassy here.
If you’re moving to Dubai for a job offer, your future employer will help you in taking on most of the heavy lifting when it comes to applying for a residency visa. Your job is to have all the necessary documents (and they’ll tell you which ones you need.) To apply for almost anything in the country, be prepared to submit passport-standard photos.
In fact, it’s a good idea to have at least 24 passport photos with you upon entry. This sounds daunting, but do not let it deter you from the exciting experience of relocating to a new country. It’s just a matter of knowing how to navigate the red tape.
Lack of taxation in Dubai means that residency costs can become a little wonky.
You’ll most certainly want to have a pile of money saved upon your arrival, as there are certain expenses that cannot be avoided.
For example, six months out of the year the heat is so dangerous that it is not realistic to wait outside for public transit, so you almost certainly need a car. Just as well, children go to private schooling in Dubai, so if you have little ones, you must take the necessary steps to enroll them in school and provide them transportation to and from.
It is generally recognized that Dubai prices for food are slightly above average as far as comparable European food prices. A visit to the market for a fresh loaf of bread, quart of milk, dozen eggs, 16 ounces of cheese, and a pound each of chicken, tomatoes, apples, potatoes, and two liters of soda plus a bottle of wine will run you around $40.
Monthly rent for a 900 square foot apartment in a mid-range priced area comes out to around $1,800 per month.
Household utilities such as water, gas, electricity, and garbage are partly government subsidized, so they’re expected to be priced at a lower rate than most European countries at around $180. But watch out for the summertime, as your air conditioning costs will skyrocket.
The Internet runs about $80 per month for 8MB. A liter of gas is at this point $.52, while a 5-mile taxi trip comes out to around $10. A monthly public transport pass averages $70, but like we said earlier, don’t even bother for half the year.
If you fancy a night out, expect a basic dinner for two to run you around $45, two top-notch theater tickets at $100, or two movie tickets for $20 (pretty much comparable to most westernized places.) According to Expatisan, a mixed drink at a downtown club is a whopping $16, while a pack of cigarettes is just shy of $3. In order to buy or drink in Dubai, no matter what age, you must have a special license. Alcohol in Dubai is merely “tolerated,” meaning that any sort of public drunkenness can cause many unnecessary headaches. Dubai has a zero tolerance policy.
Dubai requires you to have adequate health insurance before even entering the country. In fact, they require a medical examination for residency. This means receiving a blood test, and possibly a chest x-ray and urine test. When opening up a bank account you need the standard documents such as ID card, passport, letter from employer, etc. You can even apply for a credit card once you open a bank account, but don’t be surprised if you’re required to wait six months after getting a job. Most jobs in Dubai have a six-month probationary period until they will allow you to be issued a credit card. Basically, Dubai is similar to the rest of the developed world; in order to move there, they first want to make sure that you are able to take care of yourself financially, medically, and educationally. It’s just a matter of following their specific rules to residency. Once you’ve become accustomed, you’ll find that Dubai can be a great place to live for the right person.
But before you start updating your CV and practising your inshallah’s, have a read of our quick guide to the pros and cons of living in Dubai.
Yes, you read that correctly. What you earn is tax-free. You pay no tax on your income. This is undoubtedly the most common, overarching reason that people move to Dubai and the rest of the UAE. Save up a nest egg before returning home with a big fat deposit you’d never have managed to save otherwise. Put the money into the trust for the children. Or simply use what you save to bankroll your next adventure…
All Faiths Welcome
Although a Muslim city officially, Dubai has churches, mosques and temples aplenty – and you’ll find yourself living and working with people from different cultures and walks of life. Beware, however, that Islamic traditions must be observed in public during the month of Ramadan. So regardless of your faith, eating and drinking in public are forbidden during daylight hours.
Renting is Easy
If you’re not migrating for good and want to avoid the tricky, lengthy and pricey procedures of the Middle East real estate, renting is relatively cheap and easy. Dubai is totally geared towards professional tourists and expats with European standards of living, so serviced apartments are available all over the city, offering a fun and the sociable as well as luxurious way to live. Most come furnished, and there’s almost always a swimming pool nearby.
Location, Location, Location
Dubai airport is a medium-haul flight from London: the time difference is negligible and flights are relatively cheap – even with premier airlines like BA and Emirates. This means you won’t be short of friends and family asking to visit… if that’s what you want. Most expat employment packages also include a round trip home per annum as a minimum. Being positioned in the heart of the Middle East also means that you’re a stone’s throw from all manner of exotic destinations. Long weekend in the Maldives? Sure!
Liberal… But Still Strict
Party destination Dubai is significantly more permissive of smoking and drinking than its neighbouring Emirates and cities. You can drink alcohol here legally in restaurants belonging to hotels – and most malls and bars live within large hotel complexes. Many an amorous expat has fallen foul of Dubai’s liberal appearance, however. Topless sunbathing is against the law, couples must refrain from amorous behaviour in public, and drunken behaviour is as much a criminal offence as it is everywhere else. You have been warned.
Safe and Stable
This is a city that’s constantly improving and regenerating itself to meet its own stratospheric growth, so infrastructures are good and crime is very low. Both politically and economically, Dubai is steady and prosperous. Makes a nice change, hey?
Hot Hot Hot
Its heat and sunshine is also a significant pro, of course, but the temperature here is relentless and can be debilitating. Humidity reaches 90% in the eight months of summer when walking even a short distance to work can be totally out of the question. Having said this, you will acclimatize and everywhere is air conditioned.
In a cultural melting pot like no other, you’ll meet over 200 different nationalities on Dubai’s highways – all with their own interpretation of what ‘safe driving’ and ‘courtesy on the roads’ means. Westerners often find driving in the UAE an eye-watering experience, and taxis – the typical mode of transport – can be the worst of the lot. Dubai is also home to a higher than average proportion of high-octane supercars, with flashy owners keen to be seen and heard (at great speed).
Dubai, however, polished and luxurious, is still very much under construction. So expect noise pollution pretty much everywhere, and do your research as to what’s being built nearby before signing a lease on an apartment. Also, understand that mosques broadcast the call to prayer five times a day, around the clock. Whilst this is a noise you will swiftly become used to if you’re not used to it already, bear in mind where the nearest mosque is when looking at where to live.
All that Glitters Isn’t Gold
Living here might feel like being on an all-expenses, seven-star holiday at first, but many expats complain that it can feel soulless here after a while. It’s a city driven tirelessly by the tastes of the world’s most affluent, and at the end of the day, this can all feel a little empty. Especially when a lot of Dubai’s working class are living in slums with marginal workers’ rights.
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Moving to Dubai and making a success of it simply takes a little foreknowledge and good planning. Make the very most of its endless, luxury trappings by getting out there, working hard, meeting new people and seizing opportunities for work, travel, and play. Embrace Dubai for the beautiful, moneyed and egotistical creature she truly is – and be prepared for the ride of your life in more ways than one. All those expats can’t be wrong!