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

Americans will find it easy to settle in this liberal city

Dubai offers warm winters, awesome shopping malls and  amazing theme parks.
Dubai offers warm winters, awesome shopping malls and amazing theme parks.

Thinking about moving to Dubai from the USA? What a great idea! Just imagine those warm winters, awesome shopping malls and all the amazing theme parks, what’s not to like? Plus all the technology and diversity in culture, and the great job opportunities that Dubai offers. It does not just promise a carefree life, it guarantees it. Aside from all that, Dubai has become the technological hub for the MENA region.

In this article, we will help you learn all you need to know about going to Dubai from the USA.

Visa requirements

If you have a US passport that is valid for 6 months, you can ask for a 1-month stay visa upon arriving at the airport.
If you have a US passport that is valid for 6 months, you can ask for a 1-month stay visa upon arriving at the airport.

If you have a US passport that is valid for 6 months, you do not need to get a visa. You can ask for a 1-month stay visa upon arriving at the airport. If you need to stay for more than one month, you can go to the immigration office and request a longer stay.

  • Employment Visa: The first thing you need to get a work visa is to have a job offer from a UAE organisation or company. Once you do, your employer will be responsible for getting your work visa that takes about two to three weeks. Required papers vary, so you need to check with the official agency. But there are basic requirements such as:

·       Education certificate

·       A copy of the contract of employment

·       The two-month work permit provided by your employer

  • Student Visa: You will need to be registered in any educational institute in the UAE to be able to get a student visa. The visa will be valid throughout the time of your education only.
  • Investor Visa: You can get an investor visa if you have your own business or plan on starting your own business in the UAE. You can get a visa that is only valid for three years from a free zone in Dubai.
  • Property Owner Visa: If you own a property in Dubai, you are allowed to apply for a renewable residence visa, but you will need to check with the developer if there are certain requirements needed and what the visa benefits are.
  • Dependent Visa: You can apply for a dependent visa if you have children over 18 years old. They can sponsor your visa, but they will need to earn a basic salary of AED 20,000 a month.

You may sponsor your spouse or children (if they are under 18 years of age), but your minimum salary should not be less than AED 4,000 or AED 3,000 plus accommodation.

There are some general requirements when applying for any type of visa. They are:

  • A health certificate from a local hospital
  • Education certificate
  • A passport that is valid for at least 6 months
  • Passport-size photos

You will also need to authenticate your documents from the US Department of State Office of Authentications and then get them authenticated from the UAE Embassy in Washington DC.

US passport holders are allowed a 30-day visa permit when they arrive at the airport. You can use that if you need to visit Dubai first before moving there.

Life in Dubai

Dubai is a very accepting, tolerant place, so you can enjoy your life without severe boundaries.
Dubai is a very accepting, tolerant place, so you can enjoy your life without severe boundaries.

If you are a bit worried about Dubai being an Islamic country, that’s totally normal, but there’s actually nothing to worry about. It is an Islamic country, but there is a huge variety of cultures there, so you won’t feel any sort of discrimination. Dubai is a very accepting, tolerant place, so you can dress freely and enjoy your life without severe boundaries.

Dubai lifestyle

Life in Dubai vs the USA is not quite different. In fact, you’ll find that living in Dubai is quite an experience since it has a huge percentage of expats as residents; it is an inclusive city where you will not be judged. As an American, you will feel quite at ease in this glamorous city and are sure to be impressed by some of its attractions. Yet, there are a few things you need to learn to have a perfect life when moving from the US to Dubai.

Weekends and language

What you may need some time to adjust to is the weekends since the weekends in Dubai are Fridays and Saturdays, whereas Sunday is the American Monday. The weekend is still two days though, so you will probably not need much time to get used to it.

As for the language, the good thing is that even though Arabic is the official language in the UAE, everyone speaks English.

Getting around

It’s pretty easy to get around Dubai as there are different public transportation modes like taxis, buses, the Metro and the Tram. You can always drive around Dubai, and while there is some traffic, it’s nothing compared to what New Yorkers face. Perhaps it can be more related to LA traffic with a better public transportation network.

There are different public transportation modes like taxis, buses, the Metro and the Tram.
There are different public transportation modes like taxis, buses, the Metro and the Tram.

Food

Dubai has so many restaurants offering different cuisines, including American, Italian, Chinese, Indian and more, so you will find whatever you like when it comes to food, exactly like America. You will also find tons of American franchises spread across Dubai. So, from a culinary sense, it will feel like home.

Here are some of the best American restaurants in Dubai:

  • Scots American Grill
  • Hard Rock Cafe
  • Perry & Blackwelder’s Original Smokehouse
  • Texas Roadhouse
  • Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes

Dress

For women, it is okay to wear skirts that are knee length or a little bit above the knee.
For women, it is okay to wear skirts that are knee length or a little bit above the knee.

Dubai is a modern, accepting country where you can wear pretty much what you want. Yet, there are a few guidelines you may need to know so you respect everyone living there.

For women, it is okay to wear short sleeves or sleeveless tops, and even shorts and skirts that are knee length or a little bit above the knee. Hot shorts and short tops though are acceptable at beaches and nightclubs, but may not be as common in the city.

If you are going to a mosque or a religious place, it is advised to wear long pants and short (but not too short) sleeves.

For men, you may wear shorts unless the place has a clear no shorts policy.

So basically, you are free to wear whatever you want. Just keep in mind that it is suitable for the place you are going to.  

Weather

The hottest month is August and the temperature reaches around 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
The hottest month is August and the temperature reaches around 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

Weather is one of the things you may need to adjust to, especially if you’re moving from the northern states of the US. The weather is warm during winter and pretty hot during summer. January is the coldest month in Dubai. The coldest it reaches is about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The hottest month is August and the temperature reaches around 110 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll probably wave goodbye to your heaviest sweaters.

Marriage

If you are a non-Muslim, you can get married at a church or at the US Embassy according to the normal requirements of each of those entities.

Birth and death

In case of birth, all you are required to do is get a passport and a birth certificate for the newborn from the US embassy.

In case of death, the family of the deceased should report the death to the US Consulate General.

Work environment

Dubai attracts a lot of professional international workers and their local employees are also quite well-educated.
Dubai attracts a lot of professional international workers and their local employees are also quite well-educated.

As for working in Dubai vs the USA, you will surely see some differences in the work environment, but nothing that you can’t get used to. Dubai attracts a lot of professional international workers and their local employees are also quite well-educated. You may even find yourself earning more and getting more benefits compared to your job in the USA, especially with their more lenient tax system.

Safety in Dubai

Generally, you’ll adjust quite quickly to life in Dubai as a US citizen. As for the million dollar question, “Is Dubai safe for US citizens”, the answer is a resounding yes. The city is tolerant and generally safe as well.

Cost of living in Dubai

One of the main issues that Americans consider when relocating from the USA to Dubai is the cost of living. Dubai is known for being one of the most expensive countries in the world, yet you can earn a good salary and learn how to save up and spend less. In this article, we will give you a breakdown of the cost of living in Dubai vs the USA.

Transportation

One of the main concerns is the cost of getting around Dubai. We’ll tell you the different modes of transportation and their average cost.

Bus

There are many bus stations in Dubai that can take you to almost any place in town. Bus tickets start from AED 2, which is almost $0.5.

As for Deira and Bur Dubai, they have a special water bus as they are both on the Dubai Creek, therefore surrounded by water. The tickets cost between AED 1 and AED 4.

Deira and Bur Dubai are served by special water buses.
Deira and Bur Dubai are served by special water buses.

Dubai Metro

The Metro covers many places in Dubai through two lines: the Green Line and the Red Line.

  • The Red line covers the areas from Al Rashidiya and reaches Sheikh Zayed Road.
  • The Green line runs through Deira and Bur Dubai and is parallel to the Dubai Creek.

Ticket prices depend on the length of the trip and how many zones you will pass through. You can get a Red Ticket that starts from AED 2 or apply for one of the Nol Cards. The Nol Card prices start from AED 25, and they give access to 19 trip credits or more depending on the card.

Taxi

Taxis are found everywhere and they are not expensive.
Taxis are found everywhere and they are not expensive.

Taxis are the easiest means of transportation in Dubai. They are found everywhere and they are not expensive. The taxi fare starts at AED 5 and increases every 0.99 miles, yet the minimum fare is AED 12, even if it was less on the taxi meter.

Car rentals

Car rental is available in Dubai and some people prefer it to public transportation if they do not own a car. However, it is not exactly the cheapest or the most recommended.

The average price of renting a car for one day is $43. Prices vary according to the car model, insurance and the facilities. There will be a range of cars offered from economic to luxury ones.

Another thing to know is that when you rent a car, you receive it with a full tank, and you are required to return it with a full tank as well.  

Buying and renting homes in Dubai

Real estate is a booming market in the UAE and you may find that that accommodation cost takes most of your salary. However, we’re breaking down the prices of the most popular areas for Americans to live in Dubai which are suitable for families, couples and people living on their own. These places include:

Dubai Marina

Dubai Marina offers a cosmopolitan life with amazing views.
Dubai Marina offers a cosmopolitan life with amazing views.

This area sits right in front of the Arabian Gulf, as a man-made marina with a number of residential towers and a few townhouses. This freehold area offers a cosmopolitan life with amazing views. There are tons of American restaurants in the area, with Dubai Marina Mall also offering grocery stores such as Waitrose Supermarket. Plus, it’s very close to the American University in Dubai.

  • Rent: Prices start at AED 37,000 per year for studio apartments
  • Sale: Prices start at AED 444,000 for studio apartments

Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR)

JBR will show you just how grand life by the beach can be.
JBR will show you just how grand life by the beach can be.

A waterfront community that offers a luxurious and entertaining life. This part of town is quite lively, and will show you just how grand life by the beach can be. One of the best entertainment places is The Walk, with luxury boutiques as well as cafes and restaurants. It also has some of the most popular American chains including The Cheesecake Factory and Shake Shack.

  • Rent: Prices start at AED 58,000 per year for studio apartments
  • Sale: Prices start at AED 890,000 for studio apartments

Downtown Dubai

Downtown Dubai houses the Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Mall.
Downtown Dubai houses the Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Mall.

The centre of Dubai where the Burj Khalifa resides with the highest observation deck in the world, in addition to the Dubai Opera and The Dubai Mall featuring the Dancing Fountain, Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. There is a lot of shopping options as well as cafes and restaurants, including many American chains. There are also a number of American schools in the area, including Dubai International School and International Horizons College.

  • Rent: Prices start at AED 45,000 per year for studio apartments
  • Sale: Prices start at AED 530,000 for studio apartments

Emirates Hills

This gated community is named after Beverly Hills, and it takes much of the same grand allure. It’s the place for luxurious residential units and lush landscaping that will make life feel truly regal. With a multinational community, this place is perfect for expats looking to live the good life, enjoying an 18-hole championship golf course and stunning views of The Montgomerie Dubai.

  • Rent: Prices start at AED 220,000 per year for villas
  • Sale: Prices start at AED 6,000,000 for villas

Arabian Ranches

Arabian Ranches is the perfect opportunity for expats to live in a gated community in Dubai.
Arabian Ranches is the perfect opportunity for expats to live in a gated community in Dubai.

It is one of the first suburban freehold neighbourhoods and is the perfect opportunity for expats to live in a villa in a gated community in Dubai. Arabian Ranches offers a true sense of community living, which is perfect for families, thanks to security, parks, pools and sports courts.

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

Other places include Business Bay, which is a business district affording an upscale life for mixed-use developments. Rent starts at AED 40,000 while sale prices start at AED 515,000 for studio apartments.

Alternatively, you could opt for mid-range areas such as Al Barsha where you can enjoy close vicinity to the Mall of the Emirates, as well as American schools including GEMS Dubai American Academy, American School of Dubai and more. Rents start at AED 38,000 and sale prices starting at AED 438,000 for studio apartments.

Mirdif is another freehold zone but with affordable price tags. It has Mushrif Park which makes it a great spot for families, as well as a number of American schools, including Uptown School and Mirdif American School. This multinational area has affordable rents starting at AED 42,000 and sale prices starting at AED 445,000 for studio apartments.

Driving in Dubai

Do not be tempted to cross the speed limit, as many drivers own racing cars, and you may be tempted to follow suit.
Do not be tempted to cross the speed limit, as many drivers own racing cars, and you may be tempted to follow suit.

The first thing you need to do is convert your international driving licence. Here are the documents required:

  • Your original, valid driver’s licence
  • Complete a licence replacement form
  • Your Dubai residence visa
  • A letter from your sponsor that proves they do not object to you obtaining a licence
  • An optometry form approved and accredited by a health authority in Dubai

While driving in Dubai is not very different from the US as they drive on the left side as well, the attitude towards driving is what may need a little getting used to. There are international rules that everyone knows, yet you may need to understand the drivers’ attitude there to enjoy a peaceful, safe drive. The rules remain the same despite some people not abiding by them, and traffic laws are quite strict in Dubai. So, make sure you’re on the right side of the law. The main tips include:

  1. Ensure you keep a safe distance between your car and the one in front of you.
  2. Double check all your mirrors because some drivers do not turn the night lights on, so you will need to be careful at night.
  3. Do not be tempted to cross the speed limit, as many drivers own racing cars, and you may be tempted to follow suit.

Taxes

As an American living in Dubai, you don't have to pay any income taxes to the Emirates’ government.
As an American living in Dubai, you don’t have to pay any income taxes to the Emirates’ government.

Worried about Dubai taxes for US citizens? As an American living in Dubai, you don’t have to pay any income taxes to the Emirates’ government. There is only a nominal 5% VAT levied on certain sectors. However, as a US citizen, all your worldwide income is subject to tax. The IRS puts the limit for exempted income at around $100,000, which increases annually with inflation. You can also reduce some of the taxes you have to pay by deducting foreign house amounts, which is essentially your accommodation costs.

Pensions

Recently, the UAE government made it possible for expats to have pensions, depending on their job and years of work at the company. Some organisations have their own private pension plans for employees, so you’re better off consulting with your place of work.

Healthcare

The company you work for can provide you with private health insurance.
The company you work for can provide you with private health insurance.

There are many private hospitals available in Dubai. However, you may not be allowed to use local hospitals without getting a healthcare card from the Department of Health and Medical Services. But there’s no need to worry as the company you work for can provide you with private health insurance that will cover all your needs.

So, that’s just about everything you need to know about how to move to Dubai from the USA, all the adjustments you need to make and things you need to know. Prepare yourself and you’ll have a smooth transition period of living in Dubai.


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