Expat Guide to Dubai 2016

Expat Guide to Dubai 2016

Dubai has established itself as the premier business gateway for the Middle East and Africa. While Dubai’s economy was certainly built on petrodollars in the beginning, it is no longer a metropolis that lives and dies with global oil prices. Due to extensive public policy initiatives to diversify the local economy, revenue from petroleum and natural gas now account for less than five percent of Dubai’s gross domestic product. For the aspiring expatriate, this means that opportunities abound in every conceivable industry and trade.

Income Tax Rates

Dubai, like the rest of the United Arab Emirates does not have a federal income tax on wages or salaries. Instead, each individual emirate, Dubai included, can impose income taxes. Fortunately for expats, none of these emirates do so. This is advantageous as this allows for more disposable income to enjoy all of the entertainment and leisure activities that Dubai has to offer.

Employment Visa Information

Upon agreement of the terms of employment with a business entity based in Dubai, the organisation will process the employment visa application on behalf of the new recruit with the local government authorities. The process can vary to some degree, but typically it will take approximately 2 weeks. This process can also be completed with the new employee either already in the country or still abroad.

It is normal in Dubai for the employer to assume all the costs of the processing. Further, most companies 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 an employment visa is obtained. To acquire a Labour Card, applicants will need the following:

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

Main Relocation Costs

The biggest expenses to expect when relocating to Dubai revolve around the necessity of transportation. Owning a car is more essential in Dubai than it may be in other expat destinations such as Singapore or Berlin. Luckily, petrol is relatively cheap in comparison, making this cost easier to cope with. Other significant relocation costs can be seen in accommodation, given the rising value in the real estate market, especially in high profile expat neighborhoods.

Cost of Living

Dubai is the third most expensive city in the Middle East, behind only Tel Aviv and Beirut. As mentioned previously, the rising value of real estate is a significant factor in these costs.

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If your rent a two-bedroom flat in one of Dubai’s popular expat neighborhoods, you will likely need to spend about USD 28,000-42,000 per year. Like any city, however, you can find cheaper accommodation if you compromise on some housing conditions; and if you aim for more luxurious estates, such as family villas, these will obviously be more expensive.

Despite rental prices steady increases, general living costs are not that expensive. 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 USD 45.15. A regular cappuccino costs USD 4.52, a pack of American cigarettes (Marlboro) is USD 2.98 and Gasoline is 48 cents per litre- an unfathomable price for many expats!

Lifestyle Synopsis

When you’re off the clock, Dubai offers plenty to see and explore. Dubai boasts museums, film festivals, concerts, art festivals and sporting events. To experience a taste of Emirati life, there are also the traditional souks, desert safaris, dune bashing, camel riding and pearl diving expeditions. Expats can also shop to their heart’s content, as Dubai is a global shopping destination- with a mall on nearly every corner. Anything and everything can be found within Dubai to suit your personal interests.


Private Schooling Fees

The education sector is one that Dubai’s local government is investing heavily in. Many schools are attracting top western educational professionals and applying a curriculum more similar to that of a European education system.

As an international, your child will attend a private education. This may seem a daunting prospect, with the perception of waitlists and rigorous application processes found in some countries. However, with Dubai’s population largely made up of expatriate workers, private schools are abundant and typically smooth to transfer into. There is a great variety of schooling options, with over 165 private schools in the emirate. 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 from all across 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 and the Mall of the World beginning construction early this year there is always something for you and your family to enjoy in this enchanting metropolis.

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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