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Moving to the UAE for work can be an exciting prospect for many young professionals looking to work abroad. A cultural melting pot in which up to 50 per cent of the population are expats. In 2013 Dubai was named by Forbes Magazine as a “new hot spot for young professionals” and it has continued to build on that reputation ever since.

The standard of living for those on international wages is high – often significantly higher than in the UK – and many are attracted by the glamorous lifestyle, private education and mind-boggling shopping opportunities.

Here is a quick guide to moving to the UAE for work, where business continues to boom:

Where to go

The UAE is made up of seven Emirates but most expats head for Dubai or Abu Dhabi while Sharjah is joining the fray.

Who can work there

Most expats arrive in the UAE on international contracts which were already secured before they left. It is not easy or advisable to just arrive and look for work. Travellers who hold an Israeli passport may be refused entry, while British citizens with Israeli entry/exit stamps in their passport could also face problems. The Foreign Office says it could be a bar to working in the country.


A visitors’ visa can be obtained on arrival in the UAE for British citizens but a work permit is required to work there – and a residence visa to live there. A probationary work permit, valid for three months, can be applied for on arrival for those who have not made arrangements in advance. Anyone applying for a residence visa will need to take a blood test – those testing positive for HIV or hepatitis will not be granted a visa and deported. It is also important to cancel a work permit before leaving the country permanently. Failing to do so may make it impossible to return in future.

The benefits

  • The nightlife is famous – don’t think that because the UAE is a Muslim society that alcohol and clubs are banned. In Dubai, in particular, the array of nightlife for expats is a major draw.
  • The expat society is vibrant – networking in Dubai and Abu Dhabi provides a myriad of ways to meet other people and making friends is easy. Many people join expat forums and online groups even before they travel.
  • Entrepreneurs are welcomed – there are several zones in Dubai alone which promote start-ups across almost every sector.

The challenges

  • Summers are extremely hot – in June, July and August temperatures can reach 48 degrees Celsius.
  • Ramadan – Dubai may seem like a western city but the UAE has Muslim laws which need to be respected and understood. The whole country observes the month-long ritual of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan – and expats moving to the UAE for work should do likewise.
  • Be sensible on social media – there are many freedoms in the UAE which make westerners feel at home but it is important to respect the local culture. This includes avoiding negative comments about the country and its ruling families on social media.
  • Road safety – the cars may be glamorous but the driving in the UAE can be hair-raising.

The differences to home

  • Weekends are Friday and Saturday, not Saturday and Sunday
  • There is no post – in fact many people don’t have an ‘address’. Organising deliveries can be complicated.
  • Rent is not paid monthly – unlike in the UK, rent payments for apartments are made quarterly or even annually.
  • Don’t expect to live in a house – houses or villas are rare for expats, most accommodation is in the form of serviced apartments.

To get your move started click here to get your moving quote.

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