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Moving to United Arab Emirates

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United Arab Emirates


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What you need to keep in mind when relocating to United Arab Emirates…


The UAE offers a comprehensive education to all from kindergarten to university, with education for the country’s citizens being provided free of charge at all levels. Next to that there is a flourishing private education sector, many with international accreditation, spearheaded by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC).
In 2006 the Federal Government’s announced the introduction of weekend schedule which made Friday and Saturday the official weekend for all public sector schools and universities.

The United Arab emirates has a four-tier education system covering 14 years;

  • Kindergarten - age level from: 4 to: 5 years old
  • Primary - age level from: 6 to: 12 (6 years duration)
  • Preparatory - age level from: 12 to: 15 (3 years duration)
  • Secondary - age level from: 15 to: 18 (3 years in duration)
  • Technical Secondary School – age level 12 to 18 (6 years in duration)

There are many further education opportunities in the UAE.
The United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) based in Al Ain-continues to be the country’s leading national institution of higher education, but this is ably supported by the government backed universities such as Zayed University (ZU), which has campuses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and private universities like the American Universities of Sharjah and Dubai, Sharjah University and the Ajman University of Science and Technology, and new universities like the Abu Dhabi University, Al Hosn University in Abu Dhabi and an Abu Dhabi chapter of the Sorbonne.
In addition the UAE also has several well equipped higher colleges of technology (HCTs) offering a vocational or technical education.
Dubai Knowledge Village
Dubai in particular is home to the multi-university complex known as the ‘Dubai Knowledge Universities’ (DKU), in the heart of its ‘Academic City’


Homes in the UAE tend to be very classy and spacious. The majority are new or very recent, in fact you will not find properties older than 20 years. The city centres are dominated by apartment complexes whilst villas are found in the outskirts. Commonplace are the compounds of houses or villas often complete with their own pool and sports facilities. And you’ll be glad to know that with soaring temperatures and humid air, air conditioning is available in every apartment or house .
Renting an Apartment
If you want to rent an apartment then it is usual in the UAE to pay the full annual fee upfront. Some landlords will accept a series of pre- dated checks which you must make sure that they do not bounce, as allowing a check to bounce in the UAE is illegal.
Many employers understand that finding a full year’s rent upon arrival in the United Arab Emirates is difficult, which is why accommodation is often offered as part of the terms of employment. Additional benefits often found in employment packages include allowances for utilities and furniture allowances for when apartments aren’t furnished (IKEA can be found throughout the country).
Take note
Finally, you should note that some common practices from Europe or the US are frowned upon in the UAE. For UAE nationals house sharing for instance is theoretically banned, (it is strictly forbidden for an unmarried couple to live together under the same roof), but more generally, it is forbidden to share accommodation with someone who is not of the same family. Having said that, this is relatively well tolerated for non-Muslim expatriates, but it can possibly cause problems with the authorities.


The UAE welcomes immigrants from all over the world. The country's liberal and open-minded society, when compared to its neighbours, has resulted in a considerable number of expats in the country primarily attracted by the employment and investment opportunities of the United Arab Emirates. The total population of the United Arab Emirates was 9.2 million in 2013. This was made up of some 1.4 million Emirati citizens and 7.8 million expatriates.
There are great employment opportunities in the United Arab Emirates. The government is committed towards reasonable and fair rights for both employers and employees and salaries are tax-free. Expats working in the UAE must have valid work or residency visa. Whilst each emirate has its own rules, generally speaking, you will need a work permit, residence visa and an Emirates ID card to work and settle in the United Arab Emirates. Your employer should apply for the visas for you. Visas are then valid for up to two years.
A residence visa for your family will require you to show that you earn at least AED4,000 (£288) a month. In addition you will also need to get your birth and marriage certificates legalised by the UK Foreign Office.

Under UAE labour laws if you are moving to the United Arab Emirates to work then you must have your educational qualifications verified before you can get a work permit and a labour card.
A useful resource here is the Ministry of Labour’s website, where you can verify your contract or labour card. The ministry of labour also offers the employee protection in the form of a complaint section. Here it is possible to register a complaint against your employer for such things as late or non-payment of monthly salaries.

Long term emigration
It is difficult to obtain UAE citizenship. Usually it is only granted if you have been married to a UAE citizen for at least 10 years or if your father had citizenship. There is no pensioner visa, but you could retire there if you have a child working in the UAE who earns enough to act as your sponsor.
Bank Accounts

The procedure starts with selecting the bank where you want to open your account. The good news is that there are hundreds of banks to choose from, the bad news is as a response to many laundering there has been a recent crackdown on regulations meaning that it is slightly trickier than before to open an account.

You must have a residence visa to be able to open a bank account in the UAE. This is considered as a proof of legal residence in the country. You will also need a letter from your employer stating your monthly income. Commonly you will also be required to provide a copy of your passport, your lease documents, as well as passport-sized pictures of you and your partner if he or she wishes to open an account too.
You may need to deposit a certain amount of money to open the account. A substantial deposit may mean that you can open a free account, but it is possible to open an account without a deposit, just be prepared to pay around 500 dirhams per month if fees.
Accounts can be held in dirhams or foreign currencies, (Euro, U.S. dollar or sterling) but please note each bank has its own regulations and conditions. Tip - opening an account at the same bank as your employer should help facilitate the timely transfer of your salary and ease numerous other banking transactions.

Upon opening your bank account, you will obtain a debit card and a credit card allowing you to conduct draw cash on ATMs. However, there may be some restrictions on the amounts.
You may request a check book if you want, in Arabic and English, although these are not always available for current account as most transactions in the country are made in cash.


The type of visa will be based on the length of your stay in the country. Contact the nearest United Arab Emirates Embassy to help you choose the right one.
Visitor visa:
If you come from a European country, you will get a visitor visa valid for a period of up to 30 days. This visa is free of charge. It can be extended but fees will apply making it possible to stay in the country for up to 90 days on this sort of visa. However, you are not allowed to work in the country with a visitor's visa.
Transit visa:
A transit visa is only valid for a maximum of 96 hours. Used for when you are making a short transit through the country. This type of visa is granted at the airport when you have landed. Costs vary according to your specific requirements and duration of your stay.
Visa for business travel:
If you are travelling to the UAE for business then you need to apply for a mission entry visa. This visa is valid for up to 14 days. You can obtain it at the immigration department of the airport on arrival. Be aware that fees do apply.

Expats who have a valid residency can apply for a visit visa for both relatives and friends, but certain requirements must be meet. Age and gender of the visitor, reasons for visit, your salary, and the relevant paperwork to substantiate your applications need to be presented to the Naturalisation and Residency Department (NRD). You will be asked in some case for a deposit and of course fees apply.

Cost of Living

In the 2012 Mercer cost of living survey no cities in the UAE featured in the top ten most expensive cities in which to live. For the first time Abu Dhabi (#76) overtook Dubai (#94) in the rankings to become the most expensive city to live in the United Arab Emirates.

One of the biggest benefits for expats in living in Dubai is the extremely low taxation. This has a fantastic impact on the cost of a number of items, including vehicles, electronic goods and local produce. However, expats looking for bargains on luxury goods or international brand names will be disappointed as these usually attract higher prices.
Utilities bills are also slightly cheaper in the UAE than they are in many western countries as a result of substantial government subsidies on electricity, water and gas.
In common with many other cities, accommodation is often the biggest cost that expats face but, again according to Mercer, accommodation costs in the region are falling.
Dubai in particular has witnessed a dramatic reduction in accommodation costs as the supply of property available keeps flooding the rental market.

Medical Care

The standard of health care in the United Arab Emirates is considered to be generally high, (number 27 in world health systems ranking of the World Health Organization, as a result of increased government spending during strong economic years. For example the UAE now has 40 public hospitals, in comparison with only seven in 1970.

The health care system is based on a network of public hospitals where free treatments are granted to holders of the "health card". This card is available at the nearest health centre once you have presented the necessary documentation, your passport, your certificate of employment, two passport photos and a signed application form. Most Hospitals operate an outpatients department, which will accept walk-in patients, but usually it is better to book an appointment before calling in to your local hospital.

Whilst the “Health Card” will get your treated, you would be well advised to subscribe to health insurance before you depart for the UAE. If you employer is not offering a comprehensive scheme (including repatriation) then contact a local or an international insurer. Under Emirati labour laws employers do not have to contribute to an insurance plan for their employees.

Whilst the standard of health care is very good some medicines are prohibited in UAE Check with the Ministry of Health of the United Arab Emirates if you have any particular requirements.

Driving Licence

To drive in the United Arab Emirates, you must be in possession of either an international driving license or an Emirati driver's license, and be at least 18 years old (although car rental under 21 can be a problem).

If you hold a driving licence from one of the following countries, you must obtain a translation of your license from your consulate before you can convert for licence into an international driving licence: Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States of America.

Converting your driver's license
It only takes minutes to convert your driver's license in the United Arab Emirates. You will need your passport, a copy of your residence permit, your original driver's license, a translation of your existing license, two passport-sized pictures and an eye test report. Fees must be paid upon application.

Traffic regulations
There are a number of heavy fixed penalties against certain road offences, especially for driving under the influence of alcohol. In addition to a heavy fine you can even be jailed if you are test positive on a breathalyser. And your licence may even be suspended if you accumulate too many offences in a given period.

If you are involved in an accident in which someone is injured, you will be automatically arrested. Also note that your driver's license may be suspended if you accumulate a number of offenses.

All road accidents, even a minor scratch, must be reported to the police. If someone is injured you will automatically be arrested. If you are involved in an accident do not move your car. If you have a camera with you, take some pictures of the situation and immediately call the police. Inform them about the accident, give them your location and ask them for further instructions. To get your car repaired and deal with the insurance company, you will need the police accident report. Even though this procedure can be a pain it is there to protect you from hit-and-runs.


The United Arab Emirates is in fact a federation of seven emirates. There are no federal income tax legislation for general business. Each Emirate has enacted an income tax decree but in practice, the enforcement of these decrees is limited to foreign banks and oil companies. Making the United Arab Emirates a tax paradise for people from all over the world. Tax is almost non-existent in the country. There is no income tax, or value added tax. So do residents pay any tax?

Municipal taxes
City taxes are levied in most of the Emirates on annual rental paid at 5 % for residential premises and 10% for commercial premises, whilst other local taxes include a 5% tax on hotel services and entertainment.
Other personal taxes
Don’t forget that taxes of 50% and 90% are applied to tobacco and alcohol respectively.


Useful links