Immigrating to Dubai is a major upheaval and not for people who are not prepared to embrace an entirely different culture. There are many differences to overcome; customs, language, climate and religion for a start. But, visitors will find Dubai very welcoming and friendly. It’s also much more diverse that you might expect and very affordable.
The economy is nowadays based not so much on traditional trading or natural resources (such as oil) as it used to be in the past, but rather on financial services, logistics, real estate, construction, hospitality, and tourism. This diversification, along with its strategic location, top-notch infrastructure and ease of business philosophy, makes it a prime destination for many multinational corporations and an optimal choice for workers willing to move to improve their career.
Permanent Residency Requirements
It’s important to secure a job before you relocate to Dubai because the first step for living in Dubai involves obtaining a residence permit, which then allows you to get a work permit. As an expat, you will need to present your residence permit when opening a bank account, renting a property, registering a car, etc. Residence relies on sponsorship by the company employing the expat. There are several types of residence visas in the UAE.
In general, the employer undertakes the responsibility for submitting all the relevant documents, which mainly include the application form, the original and a copy of the sponsored person’s passport, passport-sized photos, the employment permit issued by the Ministry of Labour, etc.
Essential steps you need to make the move are:
- Undergo a health check
- Apply for a work permit
- Obtain a residency visa
- Acquire a qualification that is required in the UAE
- Have a valid passport that is valid for at least 6 months
It is important to note that the working week may differ from business to business. The custom working week is generally Sunday to Thursday, with some retail and other businesses opening six days a week and closing on Fridays.
Typical business hours are 08:00 to 13:00, resuming from 16:00 until 19:00 (when temperatures cool down). During Ramadan, working days may be shorter, and Free Zones may also have different working hours.
Working Conditions and Benefits
The working week in Dubai tends to vary between 40 and 48 hours, depending on the employer’s policy. Expat workers are generally very well paid, the majority of employers pay cash packages which can cover the basic salary, medical cover, air tickets for home visits, housing provision or allowance, etc. In some cases, there are performance reviews or other bonuses. Contract workers also benefit from an ‘indemnity’ which is an end-of-contract bonus paid to expatriate workers as a form of gratitude for their service to the state.
In general, working flex-time or part-time is not the norm in Dubai. Most employees are offered full-time work contracts.
Property Rental Prices
If you plan to search for your own accommodation, bear in mind that rentals are based on a one-year contract, and the amount of the deposit to be paid upfront depends on your negotiation skills, the area of the property, and the competition there is for the property. Sometimes, you might be asked to pay the annual rent upfront.
Cost of Living
Dubai’s rental costs have dropped significantly since the recession in 2008. But, renting is still a significant expense in Dubai. To be able to live comfortably in Dubai, your accommodation should not amount to more than 20% of your annual salary.
You can get an idea of asking prices, locations and housing types by checking out Dubizzle’s classified ads.
Rental costs rarely include utility bills. Electricity and water consumption costs could be up to AED 1,200 (£262) for a small two-bedroom apartment per month. During hot summer months though, costs are likely to be much higher, as you will be using the air conditioning more often.
When it comes to food and groceries, the costs depend on your shopping preferences. Buying local products is a better idea for saving money than opting for international brands. As a single expat, you should expect to pay anything between AED 250 (£54) and AED 1,000 (£219) on groceries per week.
But, renting a car in Dubai from a rental agency is not too expensive. A Toyota Yaris, for example, will cost you roughly AED 1,500 (£329) per month with an additional AED 400 (£87) for fuel.
Dubai boasts an excellent public transport system which includes the Dubai Metro, buses, taxis, water taxis, and so on. But, if you want to travel to some of the further expanses of the city or neighbouring emirates, such as Abu Dhabi or Sharjah, a car is highly recommended.
Dubai offers a variety of schooling options: daycare services, nurseries, primary schools, and private schools that cater to the large international population. Primary education costs range between AED 20,000 (£4,387) to 28,000 (£6,141) in schools with a Western curriculum. Costs at international high schools, though, are even higher, ranging from AED 40,000 (£8,774) to AED 90,000 (£19,744).
Dubai boasts a highly developed health infrastructure with first-class healthcare standards. UAE residents are allowed to use public hospitals and clinics for free or for a small fee. Expats can use public hospitals after applying for a health card from the Department of Health and Medical Services (DOHMS).
The major religion in Dubai is Islam; however, the government is a lot more liberal than other nearby emirates. Non-Muslim celebrations such as Christmas and Easter are marketed by several retail stores offering special offers, and selling decorations and foods for these occasions.
During the holy month of Ramadan, both Muslims and non-Muslims should abide by the religious traditions and avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public during the fasting hours.
Although Arabic is the official language of the UAE, English is the most widely spoken language in Dubai, as 75% of the population in the city are expatriates. You can get by speaking English in Dubai, and you can find most of the road signs, boards, etc. in both Arabic and English.
Immigrating to Dubai is a dream for many expats wishing to live a high life and make good money. Make the most of the information outlined above to make living and working in this wealthy region as enjoyable as possible. Have you ever lived or worked in Dubai? Share your experiences with us please!
This article was originally published in April 2015