Moving to the United Arab Emirates | I Love Moving

8 Things to Know Before Moving to the United Arab Emirates

Posted Country Guides / November 14, 2021
Hannah Michaelson

Hannah is a freelance relocation writer from NYC that has become an expert on packing and unpacking.

If you’re planning on moving to the United Arab Emirates, you’d be happy to know that expats make almost 40% of the population. That also implies that moving to the UAE isn’t hard, and you won’t have much trouble with your plans. However, before you move, there are some things you should know. We listed them for you in our comprehensive guide.

According to the latest data, Emiratis make up only 11% of the population, while all other nationalities make the remaining percentage. If you’re interested in becoming one of the expats living in the UAE, learning more about the life you can expect after relocating overseas is crucial. Scroll down to see what essential things you should know before you arrive in this Middle Eastern country while we break all the common misconceptions and stereotypes – residing here is much more than just shopping malls and police driving Lamborghinis.

#1 Thing About Moving to the United Arab Emirates Is Getting a Visa

If you’re thinking Can I move to the United Arab Emirates or How can I relocate to UAE, the first thing you should do is inform yourself of the residency permits and types of visas. The requirements here aren’t as intensive as in other Middle Eastern countries  – the process of acquiring a visa is pretty straightforward. If you wish to apply for a UAE visa, you’ll need an entry permit (pink card). That can be sponsored by your work, resident family member, UAE-based airline, government entity, or a hotel. After that, you can apply for a work permit or a residence visa with the rest of the documents needed to travel abroad. Keep in mind that the regulations are prone to new changes and that you should refer to the specific website of the emirate you plan to live in.

Moving to UAE from the USA Is Easiest If You’re Coming for Work

Are you reading this because you’ve learned all the relocation questions to ask your employer, and you’re coming here for work? Then you should know that most of the employers here complete the visa requirements for their employees, including paying for all the fees. That usually applies to the family members of the employee as well. Work permits can last anywhere from one to ten years, but if you’re coming as an exceptional professional, you can get permanent residency right away.

Before you get a work permit, you should obtain an entry visa, residence visa, and Emirate ID card. You’ll also need proof of a work contract or the job offer you have. If you’re applying for a self-employment visa, you’ll need sponsorship. Remember that all the documents you submit must be written in Arabic.

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Get Temporary Residence Permit by Moving to the United Arab Emirates and Buying a Property or Registering a Company

Other than employment, you can qualify for temporary residence by purchasing real estate for at least $275,000. That is quite a common option for expat entrepreneurs. The permit lasts for two years, and it doesn’t grant you the right to work. Another option is to register a company in the free zone or within an emirate state. This permit lasts for three years.

#2 Thing to Know Before Becoming a UAE Expat Is the Cost of Living

Before you start living overseas anywhere in the world, you must learn your future costs, regardless of whether you’re relocating on a low budget or you just want to see how to balance your finances abroad. According to Numbeo, a family of four needs around $2,850 for their monthly costs, not counting the rent for their home. If you’re relocating abroad alone, you can expect to spend approximately $800 per month, also without the rent. If you plan on renting in the city center, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,150 to $2,150, depending on the size of the apartment. A home outside of the center costs less, from $750 to $1,500.

It’s Always Helpful to Know What Is a Good Salary in United Arab Emirates

When you add up the monthly costs with the average prices of the rent, you can see that an individual should have around $2,000 of income per month to be able to pay for all the expenses. Luckily, the salaries in the UAE are very good – an average paycheck after taxes is $2,800. Depending on what you plan to do here for a living, you can get a good salary to pay for all of the monthly costs, even though they’re on the high end.

#3 Is Learning About the Best Places to Live In

UAE consists of seven very different emirates – Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Sharjah, Fujairah, Umm Al-Quwain, and Ras Al Khaimah. At first, there were six of them until the last one joined the federation in 1972. The capital is Abu Dhabi, and it’s located in the wealthiest and largest of the seven emirates. It’s also a more conservative place than Dubai, for example, but it’s still a hot spot for expats. Residing here is expensive, but if you move to Sharjah or Ajman, you can expect to pay less for your monthly expenses. Fujairah will offer you beautiful beaches and diving, while Ras al Khaymah is great for hiking.

Dubai, UAE, Is One of the Most Recommended Places for Living and Working

The most liberal and well-known emirate is Dubai, without a doubt. It has everything an expat can ask for – it’s one of the best places to live abroad with family while being perfect for nightlife, shopping, and beautiful artificial islands. Relocating to Dubai has many pros, and it can easily compete with some of the best places to retire in Europe.

#4 Is Knowing What the Health and Education Systems Are Like

Are you still wondering, is the United Arab Emirates a good place to live? The health system and education system in this country are just some of the reasons why the answer is an absolute yes. Hospitals and schools here are on a very high level, which will make your adjusting to a new country a smooth experience and might even be among your reasons to move here. There’s established medical tourism here, and the standards for the health system are very high. Both public and private hospitals have the best equipment, and expats can use both. While Emirati nationals use public healthcare for free, an expat has to pay a fee for any kind of medical service.

The same applies to the schools. There are public and private educational institutions, and expat kids can attend both, but there are fees. If there’s a need to break the language barrier, keep in mind that your kid can go to international schools where they can study in English. There are also Japanese, Indian, French, German, and Pakistani schools. If you’re interested in higher education, you can find many excellent universities, business schools, engineering and MBA programs like Zayed University and London Business School.

#5 Prepare for a Culture Shock

Even though the country is diverse, multicultural, and very welcoming to every expat, there are still significant differences between what you’re used to in the US and how it is here. Some things are considered inappropriate, and some can even get you in prison. Laws and regulations vary from emirate to emirate, but here’s what you can’t and shouldn’t do once you’re here:

  • Consuming any kind of drugs is strictly forbidden.
  • Drinking alcohol is allowed only in licensed venues, bars, and clubs, and you must have a license to purchase it. Drinking on the streets is strictly prohibited, and there’s zero tolerance for drinking and driving.
  • You’re required to have permission to take photos and videos of any kind of property. The same applies to taking pictures of people.
  • Swearing or showing a middle finger (even as an emoji) can get you in a lot of trouble.
  • Don’t talk down on the Government and avoid talking about politics. Protesting is also forbidden.
  • Being topless on the beach is forbidden for women.
  • It’s illegal to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.
  • Be very careful when showing physical affection in public. Kissing people on the cheek or holding hands might be okay, but kissing on the lips is forbidden.
  • Sex without marriage can get you in prison.
  • During Ramadan, Muslim people don’t eat from sunrise to sunset, so it can be considered rude if you eat or drink in public.
  • Any type of bribe is forbidden.

Even with all of these differences, the lifestyle here and in North America has some similarities, so the culture shock can be bearable. Watch the video below to see the comparison between life here and in the US.

#6 It Is the Desert, but It’s Not Always Hot

You’ve probably heard that the weather here is hot all the time and that you won’t have to think about what to pack when relocating abroad – just throw some swimming suits in your suitcase. This isn’t entirely true – the intense heat and humidity are present during five months of the year, from May to September. The weather during the other months is pleasant, while the nights in December can even be cold. The heat here can be unbearable, but the good thing is that you don’t have to spend time outside at all. Air conditioning is the best way to survive the summer here after relocating across the world.

#7 Some of the Things to Do Here Are on Many People’s Bucket Lists

If you’re relocating to another country for a love of adventure, then you’ve chosen the right place. Seeing the view from the tallest building in the world, going to Formula 1 races, eating at fancy restaurants, shopping at the most exclusive boutiques, jumping off a plane with a parachute, and even skiing, even though you’re in a desert – this place has it all.

You will find endless theme parks, beautiful beaches, amazing hotels, old markets, and brand-new shopping malls. There are many museums for art lovers, such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and beautiful mosques such as the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest one in the country. All in all, you will never be bored after relocating internationally to this amazing place.

#8 Hiring an International Moving Company Will Make Your Relocation Seamless

Figuring out how to move to another country isn’t exactly simple, and international moving takes up a lot of time and nerves. It can take you weeks to figure out how to move efficiently, and you’ll still experience a lot of relocation stress. However, if you decide to hire an overseas shipping company, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble.

A professional overseas moving company will offer you all of their services, including international moving by air, efficient and reliable overseas vehicle shipping, as well as their packing services. If you wish, you can also use their storage unit and get custom crating for delicate home items. Be one step ahead of any potential problem and get the best relocation experience with a professional company.

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