For many expats, moving to a new city can be an exciting time, however, it can also be equally stressful. A common mistake that most expats make while moving to a place like Dubai, is that they often remain too focused on the logistical aspects, and ignore other equally important facets such as visa processing, cultural norms, and weather conditions.

If shifting is a major bugbear for you, then you can certainly count on this ultimate guide for moving to Dubai. With this comprehensive plan, your transition will be seamless and stress-free. It will help dive into your brand-new life in Dubai with remarkable ease.

 

Shipping/moving personal belongings and household items

You can always reduce your relocation pressures by using companies that offer international removals such as My Baggage, Cadogan Tate and Internations. However, it is necessary to understand your relocation city’s custom rules. Often expats are surprised to learn that they are prohibited from bringing certain items to Dubai. A range of prohibited items from dog breeds (Pit Bulls and American Staffordshire Terriers, for example) to more than three months worth of personal medication are subject to the UAE’s customs clearanceBlueground offers fully-furnished, equipped and serviced apartments in some of the world's most sought after cities.The UAE also has very stringent drug policies. To avoid any run-in with the law, while importing controlled medications, you will need to procure a permit from the Ministry of Health and Prevention before arrival. Additionally, ensure that you do not carry any medicines such as Abilify, Akineton, Alghaphan, Prozac, for example, without a proper prescription

Often, importing used items into the UAE can qualify them for duty-free, however, first, you will need to provide a residence permit. While Customs tax may differ slightly from city to city, if a customs inspector believes any item is being imported for commercial purposes, then not more than five percent tax is levied on the item.

Two men wearing work uniforms are carrying a being couch that is being moved to another house

If your belongings are shipped alone, then they must arrive within 30 days of your arrival. It is mandatory to be present during customs clearance. Keep a detailed list along with any relevant receipts, invoices, in case you have to prove ownership of certain items.

If you are still in the process of obtaining a residence visa, you can submit a letter from your entry visa sponsor. In this case, you must pay an estimated five percent of your total goods as a security deposit. This will be reimbursed once you complete the process and receive your residence visa. To get the refund, present your visa within 59 days of the items’ arrival in the UAE.

 

Moving with pets

Bringing pets to a new country can be nerve-wracking. The most important thing before taking this step is to ensure that you have a residence visa in place or a letter from your employer verifying that the application is being processed. To relocate your pet to Dubai, you will need: 

  • A copy of your passport
  • A recent veterinary certificate verifying your pet’s latest rabies vaccination
  • A UAE import permit from the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment
  • A valid pet passport

The cost per pet for the import permit is Dh 500. You will also have to factor in that the mandatory Ministry veterinary inspection fee is an additional Dh 500 per cat and Dh 1,000 per dog. Keep this permit ready prior to entering the UAE, and be aware that it is only valid for up to 30 days. You can only bring two pets into the country, and they must be microchipped. To avoid any last-minute disappointments, be mindful that certain breeds are restricted/prohibited.

A beagle puppy in a brown cardboard box getting ready for a move

In order to fully understand the process and ask further questions, you can always visit Dubai Kennels & Cattery (DKC). The team at DKC handles a broad range of important pet and other animal-related services that include Veterinary Care, Global Relocations and Boarding & Daycare. You can take a deep breath and feel secure as your pets will be in the safe hands of an official animal handler for Emirates Airlines and at Dubai International and Dubai World Central airports.

 

Planning your financial reserve

If your company doesn’t offer a living allowance during your settling-in phase, then you must have a financial backup plan for all the costs that will accrue. Expenses might range from renting a studio-sized hotel apartment to car hires, phone expenses food & drink, etc.. If you are traveling alone, it is ideal to set aside Dh 12,500-13,000 per month to cover your costs. However, if you are traveling with your family you should anticipate costs of DH 18,000- DH 21,000 per month. In addition, you must also keep something aside for other upfront costs such as agency fees for accommodation, deposits for rent, and utility services.  

 

Navigating your visa process

For many expats, the whole visa process seems overwhelming. Before traversing the tricky visa application route, keep a checklist on hand to lessen the hassle. The first step on that list should be to ensure that the following documents have been attested from your country of origin:

  • Professional Qualification Certificates
  • Marriage Certificate 
  • Divorce Certificate, if applicable
  • Birth Certificate of your family members 
  • Original driver’s license from your country of origin 

Expats have two options to travel to Dubai. You can arrange for a temporary tourist visa if you are a citizen of one of the 46 countries eligible to receive a visit visa upon arrival. However, arriving on a visit visa has its own set of troubles as you will have to exit the country after a stipulated period of time until you have a valid residence visa.  

A UAE residence visa is mandatory to legally live in Dubai. This visa is valid for two years if you work in the private sector, and three years in the public sector. These visas can then be renewed to stay longer. Usually, your employer will sponsor your visa and work permit.

Before beginning the application process, you will need to undergo a health check that includes a blood test and chest X-ray. For the application process, you must present your passport with validity for a minimum of six more months, recent color photographs,  medical test results and any additional proof of identity. 

A man wearing a suit sits at a computer and takes a piece of paper from the hand of someone standing in front

If a company applies on your behalf, you will receive the visa in two to three weeks. Upon receiving your residence visa, you will be able to sponsor and apply for visas on your family’s behalf. Your family members will require an entry residence visa (usually free upon entry), following which you will have 30 days to secure their residence passport stamp.

These days, you can escape most of the visa-related rigmarole by applying online or by downloading the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs of Dubai’s application to take you through the process.

 

Setting up your bank account

For most expats looking to live and work in Dubai, setting up a bank account and getting it in order is of topmost priority. You can visit the government of Dubai’s portal to learn about the steps and requirements involved in opening a bank account. With some banks, you can open up a non-resident account before you get your visa. However, such accounts will only permit savings or deposit accounts. Often your employer will recommend who to bank with as they could receive better rates and/or offers from the bank in question. 

 

Arranging your accommodation

Arranging suitable accommodation can be a stressful activity. In some cases, if you have just moved to Dubai and your residence visa is still in progress, your company will provide temporary accommodation since it is not possible to rent a flat or villa directly from a private landlord without a valid residence visa.

A furnished and serviced apartment in Dubai managed by Blueground. There is a dark green accent wall behind a grey couch. There is a round glass coffee table in front of the couch which sits on top of a light blue Turkish rug.

In the event you do not get any accommodation from your company, you can always move into a furnished and equipped unit provided by Blueground. With a ready-to-go turnkey apartment, new residents don’t need to worry about preparing utilities, furniture and moving logistics in advance. Guests also only need to provide a passport in place of a residence visa when renting with Blueground

 

Have proper health insurance in place

Effective January 2017, every resident visa renewal and application have been linked to health insurance. By law, your employer is required to provide health insurance cover for you. Often, they only offer a basic level of coverage– known as an Essential Benefits Plan 3 – which covers up to Dh 150,000 per individual per year. However, it is not mandatory for an employer to provide health insurance to your dependents. Isahd.ae lists all 46 registered insurance providers in the UAE to compare insurance plans. Perhaps you’re in Dubai because of a corporate relocation? Then the company should definitely have your back. 

 

Get an International Driving Permit

While Dubai has a well-planned transportation system in place, many expats prefer to use their private transport. In order to qualify for a UAE driving license, secure an International Driving Permit from your home country for the initial settlement period. Once your UAE residence visa is processed, you can apply for a UAE driver’s license.

In the UAE, expats with international licenses or those holding permits from 36 approved countries can now lease and drive a vehicle. However, getting around with a personal chauffeur is also an option through the app Careem

 

Know your educational options

If you are planning to move to Dubai with your family then it is mandatory to understand the school system here. Private schooling is the norm with a variety of curriculums on offer such as American, British, and IB. School fees across Dubai range from Dh 10,100 to DH 110,000 and can vary based on the year of schooling too. 

 

It’s sunny-side-up in Dubai

If you are used to living somewhere with four separate seasons, then the weather in Dubai might initially disappoint. With a sub-tropical arid climate, Dubai has high temperatures all throughout the year. Rainfall is low and erratic. July, August, and September are touted to be the hottest months with temperatures easily soaring above 40 degrees Celsius and extreme humidity.

A woman relaxes on a sunbed on a beach in Dubai while enjoying the sunset view over the water. On the left side of her there are some straw beach umbrellas and behind those are tall skyscrapers.

The best, most moderate time in Dubai is the period between November to March when the temperature drops to a pleasant 24 degrees Celsius in the day time.

 

Be mindful of Dubai’s cultural etiquettes and norms

Being a Muslim city, in Dubai, you must observe a more conservative code of behavior. Be modestly attired and keep in mind that drunken and unruly behavior in public spaces is not accepted. Since there is a zero-tolerance policy, it is possible it could lead to detention or even deportation. Also, avoid overly public displays of affection. Obscene language, making indecent gestures showing contempt in any way for Dubai’s religion or its leadership may land you in legal hot water.

A man wearing a traditional outfit sits on the sand dunes of Dubai with a hawk on his outstretched arm.

While normal photography is permissible, it is considered offensive to photograph people without their permission. Even though you’ll be awed by the architecture, it’s best to avoid taking pictures of government structures, mosques or military installations.

 

Getting an alcohol license is mandatory

According to UAE law, it is an offense to buy, transport and store alcohol as a Dubai resident without having a valid alcohol license. To obtain a license, you need to apply online. Make sure to have a copy of your Emirates ID, valid passport, residency visa, and a passport-size photo on hand. A fee of Dh 270 is necessary and upon confirmation of your application and it takes around four weeks to be processed.

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