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Relocating to Dubai? Here’s What to Expect


Moving to a new city can be stressful. Moving to an unfamiliar city with what seems to be a completely different culture only adds to the complexity and the worry. If you’re relocating to Dubai, here are a few tips on what to expect. We’ll also share advice on how you can minimise the potential hiccups and make the move to Dubai as smooth as possible.

Get Your Paperwork in Order

If you’re coming on a tourist visa, you’ll be allowed to stay for up to 30 days. You can try to extend the tourist visa, but that costs money, and you may have to leave the UAE before returning. It is better to secure an employment visa from your intended employer so that you can enter the country; after getting this, you can receive a work permit. Dependent visas are available to children and spouses of those already residing in Dubai. If you’re investing in a company in the UAE, you’re eligible for an investor visa. Determine which type of visa is right for you and your family before getting it.

In the case of an employment visa, you must have a job offer from a company in Dubai; once you accept that offer, the visa processing is usually handled by the employer. If you’re going to Dubai on a work visa, you’ll need paperwork like the signed job offer letter, a copy of your passport, educational certificates, and a new addition to the list, a good conduct certificate from a recognized body for the countries you’ve lived in.

Some people run into problems by arriving with paperwork that doesn’t meet the standards of the UAE Ministry of Labour guidelines. For example, your passport needs to be valid for more than six months. If you aren’t sure if you have the right paperwork, you could consult with a business that attests certificates before you risk getting rejected at the UAE embassy. You can simplify the paperwork process by having multiple copies of passport sized photos both before and after you move to Dubai.

Another issue is health insurance. Medical insurance is mandatory for those moving to Dubai, though it may be provided by your employer. This is on top of the required health check that’s part of the visa process. You have to pass this before you can receive a UAE ID card. When you receive that card, make sure it is completely correct because that document is used for everything from opening a bank account to renting an apartment.

Find a Place to Live in Advance

Dubai has a booming real estate market. Consider what you want out of a residence, such as whether you want to rent an apartment or lease a villa. Do you want to be inland or on the ocean? What can you afford to pay? Know that rent typically has to be paid in 2 to 4 cheques instead of on a monthly basis, and for a number of reasons, it is unwise to go into debt to start your new life in Dubai. If you’re going there for business or as a professional, it would be wise to begin a search for apartments for sale in Business Bay Dubai before you leave.

Respect the Culture

Dubai is a truly cosmopolitan city. Around 80% of the population consists of expats from around the world. However, you should take local norms into account. This doesn’t mean you can’t wear a bikini at the beach, but you’ll get along better if you dress in a way that takes local tastes into account. In general, cover up from your shoulders to your knees in public, don’t make rude hand gestures and avoid public displays of affection.

A perk of working in Dubai is that while many locals don’t drink alcohol, it is freely available in Dubai. However, that’s not necessarily true in the other emirates. Yet even Dubai has restrictions. If you want to drink alcohol, you’ll need a liquor license. Stay out of trouble related to alcohol, too, because the country has a zero-tolerance policy for such offenses.

One thing you don’t have to do is learn Arabic. While Arabic is the national language, there are many people here who speak fluent English.

Understand How Finances Are Handled Differently

We’ve already discussed the expectation that you’ll have to pay your rent up front to move into an apartment. What many don’t know is that this is not limited to rent. If you’re going to enrol children in school, you’ll be required to pay the tuition for the whole year up front. Start-up costs can thus be expensive. Credit cards and car loans are available, but they entail risks you wouldn’t face back in the UK. If you fail to repay a bank loan, you won’t just have to face angry debt collectors – you could go to jail. Dubai Police say around 40% of inmates in jail are there for failure to repay their loans.

The Red Tape Will Continue

Dubai has been streamlining government procedures, but there is still a lot you can’t do online. Frankly, you can’t do much without a residency visa. That requires visiting an approved health clinic every three years. It is therefore becoming difficult for expats over 60 to gain a residency visa.

Dubai is welcoming to foreign expats from around the world and you can make the transition there infinitely smoother by taking the right steps before you go.

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