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How to move to Dubai: Step-by-step guide
6 minute read
Whether you’re starting a new job or setting off on an exciting adventure, Dubai is like no other place in the world.
In this complete relocation guide you’ll learn all of the ins and outs of what it’s like to live in Dubai. Below you’ll find tips on landing new accommodations and employment, steps to set up bank accounts and health insurance, and the typical cost of living.
Living in Dubai - quick stats:
Before moving to Dubai, here’s a snapshot of some basic statistics you should know:
Total population: 2.8 million
Total size: 1,500 square miles
Currency: Dirhams, also symbolised as ‘Dhs’ or ‘AED’
Total number of expats: 7.8 million
Expats from the US: 50,000
Expats from Australia: 16,000
Expats from the UK: 240,000
Official languages: Arabic, but English is widely spoken
Weather: Dubai gets very hot in the summer months and drastically cool at night. From May to September, temperatures can touch 54°C (129°F) and in winter the temperature at night is usually from 10 to 16°C (50 to 61°F).
Biggest cities: The city of Dubai can be distinguished from Dubai the Emirate; Dubai is the largest city within the Emirate of Dubai
Customs: Dubai is a Muslim city and the customs and etiquette might be slightly different than what you’re used to at home. While in public you should dress modestly, refrain from being drunk or disorderly, and keep displays of affection such as hugging or kissing to minimum so that you keep out of trouble with the local law enforcement.
Average salary: Dhs 15,000 a month for a teacher, Dhs 25,000 a month for an architect, Dhs 35,000 a month for a project manager, Dhs 25,000 for an engineer
Step 1: Figure out the legal requirements to move to Dubai
Before moving to Dubai, it’s important to make sure your paperwork is in order. If you're a UK citizen, you’ll need to have a passport that’s valid for at least six months from the date of entry. If you already hold a residence permit, your passport must be valid for at least 3 months in order to travel into the country. If you’re coming from the US, UK, Canada or most of Europe you can obtain a visa on arrival. You’ll also want to make sure any additional documents, like marriage licenses, bank statements or diplomas, are certified prior to entering the country.
There are a few types of visas that will allow you to enter the country for an extended or permanent stay. If you don’t have a job prior to entering, the long-term multiple visit visas will allow you to stay in the country for 90 days with the possibility of reapplying after the time has expired. If you do have an employer set up, they'll typically handle all of the paperwork for your work permit and visa. This can be done either before you enter the country, or you can change your visa status from visiting to work once you’ve crossed the border. It’s smart to check with the official General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs office of Dubai if your situation is a bit more detailed.
You’ll need to have an updated passport photo of yourself for a work visa and will likely have to pay a fee to change your visa status. If you plan on moving your family with you, Dubai also requires proof that you have a salary of at least Dhs 10,000 per month before you can obtain an entry permit for your loved ones.
And remember, you'll need a sponsor to enter Dubai regardless if it’s for a quick visit or for a permanent relocation. This could simply be your hotel or tourist company, your future place of employment, or a friend or family member who’s a permanent UAE resident.
Requirements for Australian, American, EU, and UK citizens
Citizens from Australia, the EU, UK, or US can visit Dubai for 30 days without making advance arrangements. After disembarking from a flight, your passport will be stamped with a 30-day visit visa. To stay beyond this visa, a residency visa is required. This can either be taken care of through an employer, a family member who already lives in Dubai, or by meeting certain other criteria. There's also an investor residence visa, which means that if you invest Dhs 70,000 (£14,500) in a UAE company and pays a Dhs 300 fee, you’re eligible to receive a three-year visa.
Requirements for students
Students in the UAE must carry a student visa, which is generally granted for one year. It can be renewed annually through their program of study. To receive the visa, students need to provide a passport, photos, a letter of acceptance to a UAE educational institution, and a tenancy agreement, if they have one. Applicants for this visa may also be required to undergo a security check and take a medical test for tuberculosis, HIV and hepatitis B or C.
Step 2: Make sure you can afford the cost of living in Dubai
For most things, the cost of living in Dubai is much lower than cities like London or New York. Here are a few basic costs for typical living in Dubai: