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Moving to Dubai

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When making an international move to Dubai across the world, can be a little overwhelming. Choosing the right international mover with years of experience in moving people like you with all their belongings from one country to another will probably be the wisest investment you will make.

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What you need to keep in mind when relocating to Dubai…


Expat kids in Dubai have no access to free or government-sponsored schools. There are more than 130 private schools in Dubai, many of which specifically cater to the large English-speaking expat community that has moved to the emirates.

A lot of schools follow the British education system and teach the National Curriculum of England in primary school, At the senior level schools offer IGCSE and A Level qualifications. Even for international schools in the UAE, expat kids will be required to study Arabic and follow Islamic studies or UAE social studies. In some cases only a basic level in Arabic is required, while at others an A Level is required.

Almost all the schools in Dubai adhere to high standards, but there approach can be very different Expats must consider what kind of learning environment will best suit their child and what their priorities are in choosing a school. That said, many private schools in Dubai offer a level of education to prepare students for any university in the world. The Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau publishes annual reviews of all private schools in Dubai, and reports published on its website are a good place to start when choosing a school.

Popular choices for expat primary education are;

Top choices for expat secondary school in Dubai are;

For those expats with kids intending to study at tertiary level, there are several international universities in Dubai offering degree-level studies.

School admission requirements in Dubai:

  • Eight recent passport-sized photographs
  • Copy of your child’s passport and UAE visa
  • Copy of both their parents' passports and there UAE visas (if you still have to receive you visas you need to send a letter from your employer stating that they are being processed)
  • Original and copy of your child’s birth certificate
  • Originals and copies of your child’s report cards from their current school for their current school year and originals and copies of your child’s report cards from the previous two years.


Finding houses or rental accommodation in Dubai can be quite a challenge because of the ever increasing demand for good properties. The best approach to finding a house or an apartment to rent in Dubai is to visit a serious real estate agency. Here are a few real estate agencies you could visit:

Most leases and rental agreements are for one year in length renewable each year, or if you prefer, you can opt for a shorter lease resulting in a more expensive monthly rent. Water and electricity are usually paid separately from the rent. A deposit between 5,000 to 10,000 DHS is compulsory. This must be paid either by the tenant or his sponsor to cover any potential damages. Note that you will have to pay a finder's fee to the real estate agency. Finally, whilst 5% local tax is applied to the annual rent a facilities maintenance fee (service charge) is usually included in the rent.


    Dubai has a very competitive open labour market. Workers are always in demand in the high-tech sector, computer science, tourism, luxury industry or catering. Being fluent in English is essential.
    The labour market in Dubai is very flexible with a high turnover in staff. You can find or change jobs easily, but you can lose your job just as easily too.
    Things to know:

    To get a work visa in Dubai, you have to get a work contract or a valid job offer from a local employer before you apply for your visa. If you are looking for a job in Dubai, please note that there are no national employment agencies in the country. but, you can find job ads in the newspapers (The Gulf News for instance).Adapting your CV and covering letter to local standards will help. You can find out how to write a CV and a cover letter in Dubai at Jobera.To start with, send prospective applications to foreign companies based in Dubai. There are lots of websites offering job listings throughout the UAE. Browse the web, select your recruiting agencies online and send your CV. If a recruiter is interested in you, an telephone interview (in English) will follow, with a potential physical interview in Dubai.
    For the interview, make sure you know something about the company, dress conservatively and smartly. In Dubai, presentation plays a very important role in a lot of job positions. And finaly, make sure you have researched the salaries available for the job you are interested in so that you can negotiate a competitive salary package. Priority is given to applicants with UAE nationality in these sectors; travel agencies, temporary staffing agencies, real estate agencies, in the public sector, in banking or insurance.The legal working week is 48 hours, but workers are entitled up to 30 days of vacation a year.Be aware that if you are in breach of your work contract it may lead to an employment ban in the UAE.

    To set up a business in Dubai City, you have to be endorsed by a local sponsor (either an individual or a corporation) and the sponsor must hold at least 51% of the equity of your company.

    Bank Accounts

    Opening and operating a bank account in Dubai is not really all that different from opening a bank account in any other country. In addition to the standard documentation relating to you and your occupation there are a few extra documents that you will need for the UAE. So to open a bank account in Dubai, you need to provide a photocopy of your passport, a copy of your lease or rental agreement, your residence visa two photographs and a letter from your employer stating the amount of money that will be paid into your account on a monthly basis. When you have arranged an account you will get a debit card and (or) a credit card. Major international credit cards are widely accepted in Dubai but payment but cash is the most common form of payment. Please note that if you bounce a check in the Emirates you will be severely punished.

    The world’s largest and best-known banks are well represented in the UAE; Citybank, HSBC, Standard Chartered, Barclays – are all present and all have websites (in English).


    If you intend to live and work in Dubai, a work visa is essential. You must get a work contract or a valid job offer before applying for your residence visa

    The work visa is a multiple-entry visa: you can always leave and re-enter the country without extra formalities. You must get a work contract or a job offer from a local company or a foreign company based in Dubai to qualify. Your employer in Dubai (the sponsor) has to start the procedure by requesting a work visa for you at the department of immigration.

    When you have your labour card, you have to apply for a residence visa which is valid for 3 years and it is renewable. A residence visa is essential for foreigners settling in Dubai. The residence visa is issued by the immigration office in Dubai and it is not related to consular services of your country. To get a residence visa, you must prove that you live in Dubai (lease or rental agreement). Note that your residence visa will allow you to sponsor your dependants.

    Business Travel (mission entry) visa:

    With the mission entry visa you can stay in Dubai for up to 14 days. The visa is often used by businessmen, company representatives, engineers or doctors sent on an urgent mission to the UAE, and may be delivered to a local sponsor at the immigration services at the airport. Fees apply.

    Visitors that are asked to proceed for eye screening are required to present a hard copy of their visa or a printed version of the visa number confirmation page at the screening counter. If you don’t have a copy with you, you will get a charge of AED 30 and you can only pay it in AED.

    Please note that visa, transit and entry requirements vary from country to country, and can change in a short amount of time. The resources listed on this page are intended as a guide, but please refer to the relevant embassy or consulate for the most recent information.

    Cost of Living

    The cost of living in Dubai depends on your individual circumstances. The prices between different brands of food or different transport for example are very different. They range from very expensive to very cheap so you decide on what de cost of living in Dubai is for you.


    If you live or have lived in a major European or North American city, then Dubai won’t have too many nasty surprises in store for you. And the surprises are likely to be of the pleasant kind, both culinary and financial.

    Dubai has a number of big supermarket chains that you will quickly become familiar with. There are names like Carrefour, Spinneys, Waitrose, Choithrams and Géant wich will soon become second nature to many and feel like home. You’ll quickly establish your own particular favourite and the merits of who does what best are standard topics of conversation amongst expats.

    Eating Out            

    The range of possibilities and costs can differ a lot. For example when you go to a high-end restaurant, and then drink a bottle or two of wine with the food that you have ordered, and then do the responsible and sensible thing and take a taxi home after your dinner and the bill for your night out could easily be AED 2000+. A number like that can be very expensive for some people, but for others it can be surprisingly cheap.


    When it comes to gasoline prices, then get ready for a nice surprise. Normal petrol only costs AED 1.72 a liter.That is really cheap compared to major European countries. But now the car how much does that cost. Well many of you will be pleasantly surprised again about the prices.

    Medical Insurance

    You must have insurance. Some companies will allow you to choose your own medical insurer and they also will offer a set amount as a contribution. Others insist on employees using their group scheme.

    There probably will be a company policy that you will have to follow. There may be different ranges of policy with the same insurer that you can choose from, and of course, these different policies range in there prices.

    Medical Care

    According to labour laws, you are entitled to a health card that gives you access to a limited range of hospitals and clinics that together make the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) facilities. This provides healthcare for the worker on lower salaries. Those who earn more can join a health insurance scheme offered by their employers.

    Dubai has set up a health insurance requirement for all residents that will provide basic insurance for everyone. The new system will include current DHA facilities.

    This new system will replace the health card system, and it will approximately cost AED 500-700 per year and it is estimated that it will provide health cover to a maximum of AED 150,000. This will be a benefit for lower paid workers, but for many people, this does not represent sufficient cover. Whether or not the cost of this health insurance is the responsibility of the employer or the employee is not yet entirely clear.

    No Health card?

    At the moment, if you do not have a health card, you will still have your health insurance provided by your employer. Companies provide this health insurance as part of your salary package, but not all companies do that. In some cases you will find that your employer will pay a contribution but the remainder is taken out of your salary, even though this is happens less often. Your best option is to check what any prospective employer is offering you and who funds the health insurance costs.

    Driving Licence

    There are two ways to get a driving licence in Dubai.

    Converting to a Dubai driver’s license

    If you already have a driver’s license. You can directly convert your license to a UAE driver’s license without having to take a road test. The approved list of countries can be found here.

    Canadians require a letter from their Consulate in Dubai authenticating the driver’s license before it can be transferred.

    People that hold a driver’s license from Greece, Canada, Turkey, Cyprus, Poland, Japan or South Korea have to have their licenses translated from their own consulates. All applicants will have to take an eye test.

    You will need the following documents for conversion of the driver’s license:

    •  Emirates ID copy
    •  Copy of passport and copy of your residency visa along with original passport
    •  Eye Test certificate for the required category
    •  A copy of your driving license and original license (plus translation if form one of the countries above)
    •  Letter from sponsor
    •  Passport photos x 2

    Applicants have to make sure that there driving license from their home nation is valid and that the sponsor is a company based in Dubai. You can find transfer services at the Traffic Department driving license section in Al Qusais, which is only open from 7:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Then you will have to fill in the application form, then get the relevant documents signed and make the payments after that, all approved paperwork will be sent to the Data Entry Counter. You will be called for your photo and after a short wait, will receive your new UAE and Dubai driver’s license.

    Applying for a new driver’s license

    If you don’t have a license from one of the countries that are approved, or you don’t have a drivers licence at all, you will need to take a driving course from one of the accredited driving schools in Dubai and take a test before you can get your driver’s licence.


    Income Tax

    Dubai will never resort to taxation to relieve debt, so in the years to come it is unlikely that we will see any income tax levied. But, if you are a tax resident of another country and you live in Dubai, you may be accountable to declare your income and pay taxation on it. For example, if you own a property in Dubai and you are a tax resident of the UK that you earn a rental income from, you will need to declare this income on your British tax returns and then you may have to pay tax on it. Also if you move to the UAE for 6 months to live and work here but you are still a tax resident of the UK; in this case you probably will have to pay UK taxes. Alternatively, if you move permanently to the UAE and are out of the UK for a full tax year, you may be able to earn a 100% tax-free salary in Dubai

    Corporate tax

    Foreign gas or oil producing companies dealing in oil or hydrocarbon production within the UAE. The tax rates are generally 55% of the company’s operating profits, but they can vary based on individual agreements between the company and the emirate in which it is located. These agreements are usually secret and the rates can range from between 55% to 85%.

    Offices of foreign banks operating in each emirate have to pay corporate tax, despite the fact this law is not enforced in all emirates. In Sharjah, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Fujairah, foreign banks have to pay tax rates of 20% on their taxable income. From emirate to emirate there may be slight variations in the rate.

    Additionally, there are no withholding taxes charged on companies who remit income outwards whether it is dividends, royalties or interest.

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