An Expat’s Comprehensive Relocation Guide: Dubai

An Expat’s Comprehensive Relocation Guide: Dubai

Dubai is the premier business gateway for the Middle East and Africa. While Dubai’s economy was initially built on petrodollars, revenue from petroleum and natural gas currently account for less than two percent of Dubai’s gross domestic product. It is an emirate which has put a premium on diversifying its economic profile, so opportunities abound in every conceivable discipline. However, the most prominent growth industry in recent years has been tourism; the construction of hotels and real estate development stem from this growth.

Income Tax Rates

The entirety of the United Arab Emirates does not have any federal income tax on wages or salaries. Rather, each individual emirate, Dubai included, can impose income taxes. None of these do however.  It is also very unlikely for this policy to change in the near future.

Visa requirements Employment Visa Information

Upon agreement of the terms of employment with an organisation based in the UAE, the organisation will process the employment visa application on behalf of the new recruit with the government authorities. The process can vary depending on where the organisation is based, but generally can take around 2 weeks and can be processed with the new employee either already in the country or still outside.

It is normal for the employer to bear all the costs of the processing and most have a representative called a PRO to take care of all the formalities and make the process as smooth as possible for the new employee. 

A work permit (also known as a Labour Card) can only be acquired once a employment visa is obtained.

The applicant would need to provide the following:

  • Photograph of applicant
  • Passport (with at least six months validity) and residency visa
  • Valid health certificate
  • Photocopy of sponsoring company’s trade licence
  • Three copies of employment contract with signatures of employee and employer
  • Copies of professional qualifications

Main Relocation Costs

The biggest expenses to expect when relocating to this global city come out of the necessity of transportation. Owning a car is more essential in Dubai than it may be in other global hotspots such as Bangkok or New York City. Fortunately, petrol is relatively cheap in comparison, making this cost easier to cope with. Other significant costs can be seen in accommodation, given the rising prices seen in the housing market.

Cost of Living

Dubai’s general cost of living has increased dramatically over the past year, largely due to the rising cost of real estate and price of inner city apartments. The Cost of Living Survey for 2014 by Mercer revealed Dubai as the 67th most expensive city to live in in the world. This is a significant change from their previous ranking of 90th just a year earlier.

The 3rd most expensive city in the Middle East, you will find that this is largely due to real estate, being so expensive. A 3 bedroom apartment outside of the city center will likely cost you in excess of $2,800 USD whereas if you wished to live in the city center that price would increase to $4,200 USD.

Despite rental prices being overwhelmingly high, general living costs are not that expensive, despite recent hikes of food prices throughout. However, with such a luxurious lifestyle, many expats would say you actually receive good value for the quality you receive. For example, a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant in Dubai (on average) will set you back $44.65 US Dollars. A regular cappuccino costs $4.12 USD, pack of cigarettes (Marlboro) is $2.72 and Gasoline is 48c per litre, an unfathomable price for many expats!

Dubai, UAELifestyle Synopsis

When you’re off the clock, Dubai offers a lot to see and explore. Dubai boasts museums, film festivals, art festivals and sporting events. To experience a taste of Emirati life, there are also the souks, desert safaris, dune bashing, camel riding and pearl diving encounters. Expats can also “shop ‘til they drop,” as Dubai is a shopping destination with a mall on nearly every corner. Anything and everything can be found within Dubai to suit your proclivities.

Private Schooling Fees

The education sector is one that the UAE in general is investing in a lot more heavily. Many schools are attracting top western educational professional and applying a curriculum more similar to that of a western education system. 

As an international, your child will attend a private education, however, with Dubai’s population largely made up of expatriate workers, private schools are not difficult to enrol your child in with approximately 158 private schools predicted to reach 200 by 2020. However, the costs do vary. 

The private institute with the lowest costs in Dubai was the Al Diyafah High School where prices began at a little over 10,000 AED with the most expensive being just shy of 100,000 AED per year at schools such as the GEMS World Academy and Repton School Dubai. Many other schools private schools average price can be around 40,000 AED per year. (If you want more details on this click here)

Expat Community:

The expat community in Dubai is a blend from nationalities all around the globe. Among the largest communities come from the United Kingdom, the United States, Bangladesh, India, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.


Dubai is already considered one of the top destinations to live globally. Even so, it still has a lot on the horizon. With upcoming projects set to consist of the likes of Expo 2020, the Dubai Tram, Quran Park, and the Mall of the World beginning construction early this year there is always something for yourself and friends in this quickly evolving gulf city.

With all that Dubai has to offer, it’s no surprise that it has become a global hub for expatriates. Will you join their ranks?

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