The United Arab Emirates (the UAE), attracts thousands of foreign workers every year to its pristine beaches, tax-free living, and some of the highest standards of living anywhere in the world. Even as a tourist, it’s really worth visiting.
In cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, families love the virtually zero per cent crime rates, excellent standards in healthcare and education, and a gorgeous climate all year round.
Currently, over 50,000 American citizens are living throughout the UAE with the majority based in Dubai, so if you’re thinking about accepting a job offer in the Emirates, you won’t be too homesick, but there are a few things that you need to know first. While this post is not comprehensive, we encourage you to do as much research as you can because it’s all too easy to be seduced by a glittering skyline, and a fast past international lifestyle.
Understanding your Visa situation.
The UAE has a far simpler visa and immigration system than most countries do, and they’ve made it very easy to attract a foreign workforce – clearly. So this means that the requirement of endless paperwork and documentary evidence that most other countries, the USA included, require is far less strenuous. Now, the visa that you require will depend on a variety of factors, but for the most part, American’s tend to need work or ‘employment’ visas.
In the vast majority of cases, you will need to get a job before relocating to Dubai, although for people with highly specialized skillsets or who are intending to work in areas of high demand, you may be able to enter the Emirate and convert your visit visa to an employment visa once you’ve found work. In this case, your employer will provide you with all the paperwork you need to apply for your residency visa. This is usually issued for two years initially.
If you have a spouse and children that you intend to bring with you, you will also need dependant visas for each of them as well, and remember, as the UAE is an Islamic state, so they certainly do not recognize same-sex or gay marriage. If you intend on living in the UAE with your same-sex partner, you’ll need to think about this very carefully and each of you will need a work/residency visa applied for in your own right. If you have children – this is probably not the country for you.
Accommodation in the UAE.
For the most part, expatriates will be living in either Dubai or Abu Dhabi and it’s easy to see why. Both cities offer an abundance of gorgeous villas and apartments, overlooking cityscapes, the desert, the ocean marinas, and more. Most Americans moving to the UAE will rent properties, at least for the first year or two. Renting in the UAE works completely differently from what it does in the USA. For starters, landlords usually require that you pay your rent in advance for the whole year. Over and above that, you’ll need to set aside 5% of the total rental amount for your agent’s commission, 5% for a security deposit, a deposit for water and electricity, internet deposits, and the Ejari tenancy contract.
Some landlords will accept up to 6 post-dated checks, but the most popular version of the payment plan is with four post-dated checks. Now, many banks will provide you with loans to pay for this amount upfront depending on your salary and work contract, but you’ll need to discuss this with your banker in the UAE.
Accommodation is not cheap and if you want views of the Burj or Marina, you’ll have to be prepared for the appropriate price tag, however, villas outside of the city that offer a more peaceful and calm retreat, are much more affordable – relatively speaking. Check out a property portal before you arrive, for a general guide to renting or buying property in the UAE.
Tips for Trip Success
Consider Teaching English – There is a large demand for English teachers, due to the ever-growing importance of the UAE in the global economy. Teachers need to have a degree, a TEFL certificate and experience. There are some limited opportunities for newly qualified teachers.
For families relocating to the Emirates, you’ll be very impressed with the availability of top-quality, world-class schools available in the UAE. There are many American schools around for an education that feels more familiar, but then there is also a wide range of international schools, local schools, and private facilities that rival the best.
Education is in Arabic but there is equal importance placed on English and depending on the international school, there may be a European language like French or German taught as well.
Overall, a move to the UAE is a move to a country that is vibrant, energetic, and eager to place itself among the best and brightest in the world. You’ll no doubt be in for a brand new experience and while no amount of research can compensate for life experience, it certainly doesn’t hurt to do as much of your own research as possible.