There’s plenty to think about and a few processes to follow when moving to and living in Dubai. We’re here to walk you through all you’ll need to know.
Many of us Brits love the idea of waving goodbye to the cold weather forever – and Dubai may be the best place in the world to guarantee it. A city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and located in the Arabian Desert, Dubai is home to over 240,000 British expats.
But there’s a whole lot more to Dubai than just its toasty conditions. With a strong economy, modern education, reliable healthcare and affordable luxury living, Dubai is an easy sell for UK nationals looking for a new home.
Moving to Dubai from the UK
Before you make a house a home in Dubai, you can give it a try for 30 days if you hold a UK passport (valid for a minimum of six months). If 30 days isn’t enough, your taster visit can be extended by a further 30 days, twice.
Once you have your heart set on a permanent residency in Dubai, you need to get stuck into a visa. There are a few visas to look into, so evaluate your options and find out what’s best for you.
An employment visa permits you to stay in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for as long as you desire. To get your hands on an employment visa, you’ll need to show evidence of an official job offer from a UAE organisation.
Once you’ve acquired your job offer, your employer can get the wheels in motion for your employment visa – this should take about two weeks.
The required documentation may differ depending on your situation, so it’s always wise to consult the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs office of Dubai for official confirmation.
Most likely, you will need an education certificate, a copy of a contract or job offer from an employer and the two-month work permit arranged for you by your employer. You will also need an up-to-date passport photo of yourself.
You may also apply for a temporary or part-time work permit through the UAE’s Ministry of Labour. These are valid for no more than six months and may be beneficial if you are facing a short turnaround time. A temporary work permit can be issued much quicker than a full work permit.
A student visa will be available to you if you are able to provide a sponsor, whether that is a relative living in Dubai or a UAE educational institute (you will also need to show an acceptance letter from them).
The student visa permits you to live and study in Dubai for as long as your studies last but must be renewed every year.
The application for a student visa may cost up to AED 3,000 (£591) and requires a deposit of AED 1,000 (£197). Once your studies have finished, you will either have to return to the UK or apply for a work permit. Figures are correct at the time of writing.
The Dubai Investor Visa is offered to foreign nationals who are interested in starting their own business or investing in an existing business in Dubai.
The duration of residency granted by the visa changes depending on the type of business you will be starting or investing in. Most investor visas give you permission to come and go freely from Dubai for three to five years.
However, a long-term residence visa may be granted depending on the size of the investment you are making. The duration of this visa can last up to 10 years.
Property owner visa
Similar to investment visas, Dubai’s property owner visas allow you to live in Dubai for different lengths of time, depending on the size of your property investment.
10-year residency visa: may be offered to you if your investment in Dubai is the equivalent of AED 10 million (£197,000). A limit of 40% of this investment can be in real estate and may be split up across a maximum of three properties. The other 60% must be in other sectors.
5-year residency visa: can be obtained with an investment of AED 5 million (£98,500), which can again be separated across three properties. Unlike the 10-year residency visa, this visa does not require any investment in other sectors and can solely be in real estate.
Sponsoring family residency visa
As long as you have a valid residence permit, you may be able to sponsor your family to live with you in Dubai.
A male employee in Dubai can sponsor his wife and children providing they have a salary equivalent to AED 4,000 (£789) per month or AED 3,000 (£591) per month with sufficient accommodation. Previously, family sponsorship was only applicable to certain professions, however, this is no longer the case.
Five best places to live in Dubai
Dubai is a city filled with living environments to cater for everyone. If you’re not sure where you’d like to live in Dubai, here are five of the best suggestions for you to consider.
Popular with young singles and couples, Dubai Marina is a picturesque spot to call home. The man-made harbour is surrounded by modern, high-rise apartments offering views of the oasis below.
The Marina Walk is busy with shops, restaurants and fantastic leisure activities.
Also known as the ‘heart of Dubai’, Downtown may be one of the most luxurious places in the world to set up camp. Downtown is one of Dubai’s busiest tourist destinations, thanks to the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world) and Dubai Mall (the largest shopping mall in the world).
Aside from its popularity with tourists, Downtown is a perfect place to live for those who enjoy the finer things in life. Its state-of-the-art facilities tick all the boxes for an exciting life on your own or a comfortable life with family.
Taking the sting out of the busy areas of Dubai, Arabian Ranches is a quiet suburb outside the city with smart, homely villas.
The area is tranquil and popular among British expats. Despite its peaceful nature, Arabian Ranches is also armed with busy cafes, restaurants and a shopping complex. It’s particularly popular with families thanks to its superb schools and healthcare facilities.
Also located outside the ruckus of the city, Mirdif is a widespread community residing behind Dubai airport.
The plethora of apartments and villas are more architecturally in line with traditional Arabic design, giving a more authentic feel. The airport troubles little in the way of noise and the community’s shopping mall has plenty to offer without getting too busy.
Dubai Sports City
The clue is in the name of this place in Dubai as it may be the go-to spot for sports fans. Dubai Sports City is packed with contemporary gymnasiums, sports stadiums and arenas, golf courses, and much more.
Putting its sporting lure to one side, living in this area of Dubai is much more affordable than other locations with a multitude of residential buildings. Dubai Sports City is also home to lush green landscaping and delicate canals.
Cost of living in Dubai
Due to its modern and luxurious nature, you might be concerned about the cost of living in Dubai. Although it isn’t cheap, living in Dubai is actually more affordable than many of the world’s most popular cities.
- Dubai: AED 3,444 (£677)
- Singapore: AED 3,575 (£703)
- Hong Kong: AED 3,894.00 (£765)
- London: AED 4,384 (£862)
- New York: AED 4,957 (£975)*
Exchange rates are interbank rates, taken on 16/07/21.
These values are based on key areas that make up the living experience, such as food, housing, clothing, healthcare, transportation, to name a few. The most dominant contributor to the cost of living is housing, making up around 30% of expenditure. Next are food and transportation, both contributing 15%.
The total monthly cost of living is heavily dependent on the size of your household. As previously mentioned, a single person monthly cost of living in Dubai without rent is around AED 3,444 (£677). This climbs to AED 11,863 (£2,334) for a family of four.
The cost of living in Dubai has actually decreased significantly since 2020, predominantly due to the impact of COVID-19 and lower oil prices. The average cost of a single person living decreased by 89% from 2020 to 2021 and by 32% for a family of four.
Working in Dubai
There is plenty of reason to be excited about the prospect of working in Dubai. As one of the world’s focal business hubs, Dubai presents the opportunity to earn big bucks and meet people from all across the globe.
The working week in Dubai is different to the UK and may require some adjusting. Typically, the week runs from Sunday to Thursday, with most businesses operating for six days.
Rather than the UK’s standard nine-to-five working day, Dubai’s working hours must factor in the brutal midday heat. Because of this, you’re likely to work a day that starts at 8am, stops temporarily at 1pm, then restarts three hours later for a 4pm to 7pm finish.
The average salary in Dubai is around 143,000 AED (£30,000) per year – but this is largely dependent on your role and experience. And yes, one of Dubai’s major draws is that any income you earn is tax-free.
Remember you must have a working visa to work in Dubai. You could face punishment if you are caught working without a valid visa. It’s also worth noting that you must cancel your employment visa if you decide to leave the country to live somewhere else.
Moving to Dubai with a family
Dubai has an abundance to offer families and the process of moving is very manageable. As discussed earlier, you will first need a visa to live and work in Dubai. Once you’ve sorted your visa and evaluated the cost of living, you’ll next need to organise your health insurance.
Medical insurance in Dubai is mandatory and although many employers tend to provide it for you, there are some that don’t. You should consider getting in touch with health insurance companies in Dubai as soon as possible if you are not to be covered by an employer.
Until 2020, it was illegal in the UAE for unmarried couples to live together in the same accommodation. The same applied to unrelated flatmates. The laws have since changed to permit men and women to live together without repercussions. So, if you are looking to move to Dubai with a partner or friend, you can do so, freely.
Can women drive in Dubai?
The short answer is yes. Women have the same constitutional rights as men and are allowed to drive, vote, work, own property and receive an education. However, some of these require the presence of a guardian so it’s worth keeping up to date with the laws and rights.
It is also worth noting that Dubai is a Muslim city and maintains many religious traditions. Although you do not have to adhere to traditional attire, women should avoid wearing clothing such as short skirts and shorts and revealing dresses. Short-sleeved shirts are considered perfectly acceptable as long as the neckline isn’t too low. For both men and women, tattoos should be covered up if possible.
Sending money to Dubai
As we mentioned, the cost of living and accommodation in Dubai isn’t as pricey as you may have anticipated. But still, you’re going to want to take a decent amount of property with you, especially if you’re planning to invest in property.
This means you’ll need to exchange currencies, either in a lump sum or regular, smaller transfers.
There are a number of ways to send money to Dubai. Using your bank to exchange currencies may seem like the easy option, but it will likely cost you. For one, banks usually offer poor exchange rates. Two, they often add on extra, hidden transfer fees.
acquirinFor you, this can mean a decent chunk of the value of your funds is stripped away as you make the transfer.
A smarter, more cost-effective way to send money to Dubai is to use a specialist foreign exchange broker, like Privalgo.
Privalgo offers market-leading exchange rates, and we never charge any hidden fees. This can amount to a heavy saving on your part, especially if you’re exchanging a large amount of currency.
We also offer solutions that enable you to mitigate the risk of market movement or use volatility to your advantage.
Sound good? Book a free one-to-one with a Privalgo specialist today. We can discuss your requirements, offer you a quote, and take you through some of the currency solutions we provide.Book a chat with a Currency Specialist