Moving to Dubai from the UK: All you need to know

English people account for a big majority of expats in the UAE

English people make up a large number of expats in the UAE and are the largest Western community in Dubai.
English people make up a large number of expats in the UAE and are the largest Western community in Dubai.

So you’re a Brit who has decided to move to Dubai. Perhaps you reckon this move will bring you good fortune career-wise, or maybe there’s a university in Dubai that you really want to join. Whichever it is, one day you said to yourself, “I want to move to Dubai from the UK.” Despite your decision, perhaps you’re feeling a bit of unease, but fear not, English people make up a large number of expats in the UAE and are the largest Western community in Dubai with an estimated population of 240,000 expats in 2012.

You’ve probably grown accustomed to life in England and moving to such a sunny place in the Middle East seems like a hassle. But trust us, once you’re done with this article, you’ll have no problem in moving to Dubai from the UK and will start reaping maximum benefits from the MENA’s business hub. In this article, we’ll answer all your  questions about how to move to Dubai from the UK.

Visa Requirements

UK passport holders get a 30-day entry to Dubai once you arrive at the airport.
UK passport holders get a 30-day entry to Dubai once you arrive at the airport.

First thing on your moving to Dubai from the UK checklist is the type of visa you’ll need. UK passport holders get a 30-day entry to Dubai once you arrive at the airport. Just make sure your passport is valid for 6 months. This can be quite beneficial if you want to visit the city before you relocate there. If you’re looking for a longer stay, you can pay a fee to extend your stay twice, for 30 days each. Now, if you’ve decided to go on with relocating to Dubai from the UK, you can start figuring out the type of visa you need.

  • Employment Visa: This allows you to stay as long as you wish in the UAE as long as you get a UAE organisation or company to send you a job offer. With that offer in hand, your employer can start working on the process of getting your working visa, which should take a fortnight or a bit more. The documents you need may change, so it is better if you consult with the official office. However, you’ll most likely need the following documents:

·       Education certificate

·       The contract of employment or a copy

·       The two-month work permit you will get from your employer

You can also apply for a probationary work permit, valid for up to 3 months, from the Ministry of Labour while you get your affairs in order. Bear in mind that you will need to cancel your employment visa before permanently leaving the country.

  • Student Visa: To get this, you must receive an acceptance letter from a UAE educational institute. This visa will allow you to stay in the country during the course of your studies only.
  • Investor Visa: For business owners in the UAE, or those looking to start their business there. This visa will be valid for only three years, and you can get it from a free trade zone in Dubai.
  • Property Owner Visa: This is a type of a renewable residence visa which is valid if you have current ownership of a property in Dubai. However, visa requirements and benefits may vary, and the best way to know exactly what you need and what you’ll get is by checking with the developer.
  • Dependant Visa: If you want to bring your parents to the UAE, apply for a dependent visa. But you must be over 18 years old and earn a basic salary of AED 20,000 per month.

Otherwise, if you want to bring in your spouse or children (under 18 years of age), you can sponsor their visa if your basic salary is at least AED 4,000, or AED 3,000 plus accommodation.

Each visa type may have specific requirements, but there are general papers which apply to all types. These include:

  • Education certificate
  • Passport (with at least 6-month validity)
  • Passport-size photos
  • Health certificate from a local hospital

Make sure you start authenticating your documents early since this process can take some time. All your certificates must have the Apostille Stamp which you can get at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO). Afterward, you attest them at the UAE Embassy in London. Finally, once you arrive in Dubai, you can attest them by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). The most common documents include:

  • Birth, Marriage and Death certificates
  • Educational qualifications
  • Company registration documents

Life in Dubai

The majority of Dubai’s population comprises expats, and with this diversity, you won’t feel any sort of discrimination or bias.
The majority of Dubai’s population comprises expats, and with this diversity, you won’t feel any sort of discrimination or bias.

When moving to the UAE from the UK, expect a lot of change. Dubai’s weather and lifestyle will seem so far removed from anything you’re used to in the UK. But no worries, just because the UAE is an Islamic country doesn’t mean you’ll have trouble living in Dubai. As we’ve said, the majority of Dubai’s population comprises expats, and with this diversity, you won’t feel any sort of discrimination or bias.

Dubai Lifestyle

You’ll surely be impressed by the attractions and the glamour of this city.
You’ll surely be impressed by the attractions and the glamour of this city.

Life in Dubai vs the UK may be different in several areas, but once you adapt to those differences, you’ll start enjoying your life there. You’ll surely be impressed by the attractions and the glamour of this city. To quickly adapt to life in Dubai, make sure you take note of the following. In this section, we’ll tell you about all the moving to Dubai from the UK advice with regards to lifestyle, weather and getting around the city.

Weekends and Language

Weekends are still two days, but in the Arab world, you’ll get Fridays and Saturdays off, instead of Saturdays and Sundays. You’ll quickly adjust to that and soon start dreading Sunday as much as you did Monday, with Friday taking the prime spot of Saturday in your weekend.

As for the language, while Arabic remains the official language of the UAE, most residents speak English quite well. Not to mention that there is a large number of expats from different countries, so you won’t have a problem with language in Dubai.

Getting Around

While getting around by car is usually an excellent option, there are also public transportation methods that can prove just as effective, or even better.
While getting around by car is usually an excellent option, there are also public transportation methods that can prove just as effective, or even better.

There are tons of places that you will want to visit in Dubai, and while getting around by car is usually an excellent option, there are also public transportation methods that can prove just as effective, or even better.

If you opt to drive, you’ll first, and most importantly, need to adjust to everything being on the left side, or the wrong one as you may feel inclined to call it. As for traffic, it’s usually around the same level you’d expect in rush hour London.

Food

You can find a number of British restaurants serving your favourite dishes in Dubai.
You can find a number of British restaurants serving your favourite dishes in Dubai.

While it’s unlikely you’ll have worries about food, let us reassure you anyway. Dubai is filled with tons of restaurants from every cuisine imaginable, so no matter your preferences, food is no problem in Dubai. You can also find a number of British restaurants serving your favourite dishes such as:

  • Copper Dog Dubai
  • Rhodes W1
  • The Croft
  • Dhow & Anchor
  • The Queens Grill

Dress

As long as you don’t wear anything too short or too revealing, people will usually mind their own business.
As long as you don’t wear anything too short or too revealing, people will usually mind their own business.

Being an international city with a huge number of expats, Dubai is quite relaxed when it comes to clothing choices. As long as you don’t wear anything too short or too revealing, people will usually mind their own business.

Women can wear sleeveless tops and shorts or skirts, but hot shorts and short tops might earn a few stares in the city setting, however, they’re quite common at beaches and nightclubs. If you decide to visit a mosque or a religious place, it is advised that you wear long pants and try to avoid very short sleeves.

Weather

It’s mostly sunny and hot throughout the year, with peaks in August that reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s mostly sunny and hot throughout the year, with peaks in August that reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

You can probably forget about your winter clothes in Dubai. The lowest it gets is about 60 degrees Fahrenheit in January, while it’s mostly sunny and hot throughout the year, with peaks in August that reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

Marriage

Marriage is the only legal bond that would allow a man and woman to have a family in Dubai.
Marriage is the only legal bond that would allow a man and woman to have a family in Dubai.

Since the UAE follows the Sharia Law, marriage is the only legal bond that would allow a man and woman to have a family in Dubai. For non-Muslims, you will follow the same marriage laws in your home country. One party must, however, possess a valid Dubai residence visa, and both parties must undergo a pre-marital medical examination. Afterward, you must attest your marriage certificate at the British Embassy in Dubai.

Birth and Death

To give birth at an Emirati hospital, you should open a maternity file at that hospital by the seventh month of your pregnancy. Public hospitals will automatically issue a birth certificate, while you’ll need to apply for one at the Ministry of Health if you give birth in a private hospital. You can then check with the British Embassy for issuing your child’s passport.

In case of death, you would first get your death certificate, and you must also inform the UK via the UK Embassy in Dubai.

Work Environment

The work environment in Dubai is highly professional, and you will find that your coworkers are well-educated and competent individuals.
The work environment in Dubai is highly professional, and you will find that your coworkers are well-educated and competent individuals.

Working in Dubai from a UK citizen’s perspective will be quite satisfactory. The work environment in Dubai is highly professional, and you will find that your coworkers are well-educated and competent individuals, especially at big name companies. You might also find yourself getting a better salary and more benefits. Usually, working hours are nine hours a day, or 47 per week, and you’ll be entitled to 22 days of annual leave. However, you’ll also need to adjust to public holidays in Dubai, which account for about 14 days per year.

Safety in Dubai

This is something you will have no trouble with when emigrating to Dubai from the UK. Dubai is one of the safest cities in the MENA region, and perhaps around the world, so your personal safety is not at risk. You should, however, know their laws since some things that are legal in the UK might be illegal in Dubai. E-cigarettes, for example, are banned in Dubai, and drinking in public is prohibited. Relationships outside of marriage are also illegal.

Cost of Living In Dubai

You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that Dubai is cheaper in basic living expenses compared to London.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that Dubai is cheaper in basic living expenses compared to London.

The big question for any British expat is, “is Dubai expensive compared to the UK?”. And while the answer might be yes in some occasions, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that it is cheaper in basic living expenses.

According to the UK Government, the average price of properties in London is £478,853, while prices in one of the prime locations in Dubai, Jumeirah Beach Residence, for example, starts at around AED 1,400,000 or £295,368. You’ll also find other expenses to be cheaper than in London.

Transportation

A major concern for living in Dubai or any foreign city is how to move around. But this should be no concern in Dubai since you actually have a number of transportation methods in the city.

Bus

You can find bus stations in almost any central area in Dubai which can help you move around different places in town. Bus tickets start from AED 2, which is almost £0.41.

Areas such as Deira and Bur Dubai, have their own special bus, which is a water bus that moves along the Dubai Creek, which engulfs both these areas. Tickets generally cost between AED 1 (£0.21) and AED 4 (£0.83).

Dubai Metro

You can reach different places in town with the Metro since its two lines, the Green Line and the Red Line, branch out to most of Dubai.

  • The Red Line starts near Al Rashidiya and goes all the way to Sheikh Zayed Road.
  • The Green Line moves through Deira and Bur Dubai and runs parallel to the Dubai Creek.

As for ticket prices, they vary according to the trip length and the number of zones you pass through. There are two options, buying a Red Ticket, which starts from AED 2 (£0.41) or apply to get a Nol Card, with prices starting at AED 25 (£5.17), and providing you with 19 trip credits or more as you go up to higher class cards.

Taxi

Taxis in Dubai cost a minimum of AED 12 (£2.48).
Taxis in Dubai cost a minimum of AED 12 (£2.48).

This is the hassle-free option which requires no effort at all, and they’re actually not that expensive. Taxis cost a minimum of AED 12 (£2.48), fares start at AED 5 (£1.03), and AED 1.60 (£0.33) is added for each kilometre.

Car Rentals

If you want to be in control but haven’t yet gotten around to buying your own car, you can opt for car rentals. It may not be the cheapest mode of transportation, but sometimes it’s the ideal one according to your situation.

Car rentals cost an average of $24.96 per day, with prices increasing or decreasing with car models, types of insurance, and the options or facilities of each individual car. This is Dubai, so you’ll have your diverse selection of luxury cars, but you also have economic options for more frugal drivers. Don’t forget the courtesy fill-up, you’ll receive the car with a full tank, and they expect it back with a full tank as well.

Buying and Renting Homes in Dubai

You can go for lavish living in some of the coolest places in Dubai without having to go above your budget.
You can go for lavish living in some of the coolest places in Dubai without having to go above your budget.

As we’ve said, real estate in the UAE is actually more affordable than that in the UK. You can go for lavish living in some of the coolest places in Dubai without having to go above your budget. Some areas in Dubai are freehold zones, meaning that non-citizens are able to purchase units here. General procedures start with a formal offer, followed by a deposit (5%-15%). For a comprehensive idea of other requirements, you should consult with the Real Estate Regulatory Agency in Dubai. There are a number of places that UK expats in Dubai prefer to live in, and here we’re bringing you a list of the best.

Arabian Ranches

Arabian Ranches is one of the most popular areas for British families thanks to their ability to own a villa in the area.
Arabian Ranches is one of the most popular areas for British families thanks to their ability to own a villa in the area.

This gated community is one of the first suburban freehold neighbourhoods in Dubai. It is one of the most popular areas for British families thanks to their ability to own a villa in the area, enjoy community living and ensure their children’s security and ability to play around in the parks, pools, and sports courts. It also hosts the Jumeirah English Speaking School, one of the top British schools in Dubai.

  • Rent: Prices start at AED 107,000 per year for villas
  • Sale: Prices start at AED 1,220,000 for villas

Dubai Marina and JBR

Prices start at AED 38,000 per year for studio apartments in Dubai Marina.
Prices start at AED 38,000 per year for studio apartments in Dubai Marina.

Looking to live with a beautiful water view? You can own a luxury residence in Dubai Marina or along the shores of Jumeirah Beach Residence and enjoy the top amenities in the area. Shop at Dubai Marina Mall and get your groceries from the British Waitrose Supermarket, or enjoy the lively beach-front area of The Walk in JBR with luxury boutiques, and top cafes and restaurants. Families will be glad to find the Toddler Town British Nursery, and British schools such as the GEMS Jumeirah Primary School, and the Dubai British School Jumeirah Park in the area.

Property Prices in Dubai Marina

  • Rent: Prices start at AED 38,000 per year for Studio Apartments
  • Sale: Prices start at AED 440,000 for Studio Apartments

Property Prices in Jumeirah Beach Residence

  • Rent: Prices start at AED 67,000 per year for Studio Apartments
  • Sale: Prices start at AED 891,000 for Studio Apartments

Downtown Dubai

Burj Khalifa itself is quite an attractive residential area for expats.
Burj Khalifa itself is quite an attractive residential area for expats.

If you’d like to live in the centre of the city, near the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa, and one of the largest malls in the world, Dubai Mall, this is the place for you. Burj Khalifa itself is quite an attractive residential area for expats, and Britons looking to relocate to Dubai from the UK since it offers a unique living experience in luxury apartments, and also proves a wise investment with its high rental prices. This area is also ideal for families since there is a large number of nurseries and schools in the area, like the British nursery, Blossom Downtown Nursery, and UK-curriculum schools like Safa British School.

  • Rent: Prices start at AED 53,000 per year for Studio Apartments
  • Sale: Prices start at AED 525,000 for Studio Apartments

Al Barsha

Mall of the Emirates which houses Ski Dubai is located in Al Barsha.
Mall of the Emirates which houses Ski Dubai is located in Al Barsha.

This area in Dubai is perfect if you’re keeping an eye on your expenses with its mid-range prices. It’s also ideal if you work in Media City or Dubai Internet City. As for entertainment and shopping, your needs will be more than covered by Al Barsha Mall, and Mall of the Emirates which holds Ski Dubai and Vox Cinemas. It also has British schools such as GEMS Al Barsha National School for Boys and Kings’ School Al Barsha.

  • Rent: Prices start at AED 37,900 per year for Studio Apartments
  • Sale: Prices start at AED 438,000 for Studio Apartments

Jumeirah and Umm Suqeim

One of the other top choices when thinking of living near the beach is Jumeirah or Umm Suqeim.
One of the other top choices when thinking of living near the beach is Jumeirah or Umm Suqeim.

One of the other top choices when thinking of living near the beach is Jumeirah or Umm Suqeim. While you may not find the most technologically advanced residential units, you’ll certainly feel the heart of Dubai since this is one of the oldest areas in the city. The stunning views and active entertainment and nightlife make this a cool area for singles and young couples. It also works for families since it’s very close to a number of nurseries and schools. Britons will be happy to find Toddler Town British Nursery, and the Raffles International School offering the UK curriculum.

  • Rent: Prices start at AED 43,000 per year for Studio Apartments
  • Sale: Prices start at AED 740,000 for Studio Apartments

Palm Jumeirah

The Palm Jumeirah has luxury villas, townhouses, apartments, and hotels.
The Palm Jumeirah has luxury villas, townhouses, apartments, and hotels.

Imagine owning your own property on a glitzy man-made island in Dubai. Palm Jumeirah has luxury villas, townhouses, apartments, and hotels along with all the amenities and services. You won’t feel much of a need to leave the area since it has a diverse collection of restaurants and cafes, not to mention the adventurous entertainment options in the area, with facilitated transportation thanks to the Monorail connecting different areas on the island. As for schools, you’ll be quite close to top-notch UK curriculum schools such as GEMS Wellington International School.

  • Rent: Prices start at AED 74,00 per year for 1-Bedroom Apartments
  • Sale: Prices start at AED 755,000 for 1-Bedroom Apartments

Driving in Dubai

The most important thing is to adjust to the driver’s seat being on the left side, not on the right side as in the UK.
The most important thing is to adjust to the driver’s seat being on the left side, not on the right side as in the UK.

To be able to drive in Dubai, you’ll need to transfer your driving licence. To do so, you will need to furnish some documents including:

  • Original, valid driver’s licence, plus a copy
  • Complete a licence replacement form
  • Dubai residence visa, Original Emirates ID
  • A No Objection Certificate (NOC) proving your sponsor has no problems with you obtaining a licence
  • An eye test that a health authority in Dubai approves and accredits
  • Medical screening certified by the DHA, for senior residents (age 65+)

As for getting used to driving in Dubai, the most important thing is to adjust to the driver’s seat being on the left side, not on the right side as in the UK.

Taxes

There’s great news and possibly bad news here. The Dubai government does not require any taxes from expats working and living in Dubai. However, as a UK resident, you may be required to pay some income tax.

If your domicile is not the UK, you will not have to pay foreign tax income to the UK government. You can identify your domicile through reading chapter 5 of HM Revenue and Customs, or better yet, getting professional tax help.

If this does not apply to you, and you earn more than £2,000 per tax year, you’ll have to report foreign income or gains and pay UK tax on them. Otherwise, you can claim the remittance basis, which will allow you to pay tax only on the income you bring to the UK, but you may lose tax-free allowances and need to pay an annual fee ranging from £30,000 to £60,000 if you’ve been a UK resident for some time.

Pensions

The UAE government has recently announced that they would provide expats with pensions.
The UAE government has recently announced that they would provide expats with pensions.

This may surprise you, but the UAE government has recently announced that they would provide expats with pensions which vary with the type of job, organisation and company, as well as years of service. Your company may have its own pension scheme, so it’s best if you consult with your office.

If you’re working for a company in the UAE, you may also be able to keep your UK State Pension if you continue National Insurance payments for the first 52 weeks of working abroad. But you must also meet these conditions:

  1. Work for an employer with an office or premise in the United Kingdom
  2. Be a resident of the UK
  3. Were living in the UK for some time right before relocating to work abroad

Otherwise, for self-employed UK citizens, you will not be obliged to make any Class 2 National Insurance payments. However, if you wish to keep your State Pension and benefit entitlement, you can carry on payments but also meet specific conditions. To identify whether you’re eligible, contact the HMRC for more information.

Healthcare

Your company is governed by law to provide you with health insurance.
Your company is governed by law to provide you with health insurance.

Since the UAE and UK do not have reciprocal healthcare agreements, your health insurance in the UK will probably not be transferred to Dubai. You’re advised to purchase medical and travel insurance that covers your needs before arriving in the UAE. In case you need to return to the UK for treatment, make sure your health insurance covers medical costs in the UK to avoid being charged by the NHS. You can find more information regarding such coverage on the NHS website.

Private hospitals in Dubai are accessible for all. As for local hospitals, you might not have access to them unless you get a health card from the Department of Health and Medical Services, however, it is usually for employees with lower salaries.

But you need not worry about all that, as your company is governed by law to provide you with health insurance, and it will usually be more comprehensive than what the health card provides.

Planning your move from the UK to Dubai can be quite stressful, but if you take into account the previous notes, you’ll find the process quite smooth. Just consider all the aspects, prepare yourself, and you’ll find life and work in Dubai is quite enjoyable and rewarding.


This Blog is made available for educational purposes only, in addition to providing you with general information and a general understanding of its content, including referenced laws and regulations, and not to provide specific legal advice. The Blog should not be used as a substitute for competent advice from a licensed professional.