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Brits moving to the UAE

The Downtown area of Dubai, UAE.

Located in the Arabian Gulf, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a thriving nation made up largely of Expatriates. According to statistics released in 2012 – less than 17% of the 8.4 million population were local Emiratis. Meaning 4 in every 5 people have adopted the UAE as their new home, with the majority being Indians and Pakistanis, but for Brits, the country is becoming increasingly popular.

Of the seven emirates that make up UAE, the vast majority of British Expats are drawn to Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. New developments however, in emirates as far afield as Ras Al Khaimah (60 miles North East of Dubai) also attract Europeans including large numbers of Brits.

Despite the financial crisis in 2007, Britons have continued to relocate in numbers exceeding 10,000 per year (a number which as of late 2013 is accelerating). Many British expats take up managerial roles in a number of diverse industries from finance, construction, oil & gas, to real estate, tourism, hospitality, and telecommunications.

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The UAE can offer it’s new arrivals, a busy social life, great infrastructure, fantastic (though occasionally dangerous) roads, and scenery very different from home. Living can be expensive, especially in Abu Dhabi, although in many areas it is possible to maintain a high quality of life for less than in the UK – with the added bonus of not paying income tax, providing most people with a higher disposable income than they would enjoy in the UK.

What You Need to Know

For a visit, British passport holders can gain entry to the UAE, for 30 days, upon arrival at one of the International airports (normally Abu Dhabi or Dubai). This can be extended for an additional 30 days (for a reasonable fee). However, you cannot work during this period.

In order to remain longer and start work, you will require a work permit, residence visa and an Emirates ID card. This is normally arranged by the employer and will be valid for two years. In order to allow your family to live with you, dependent visas are required, and you will need to prove you earn in excess of AED 4,000 (£ 650) per month.

In addition, marriage and birth certificates, legalized by the UK foreign office are needed. It is a legal requirement that you must be married to live together in the UAE.

UAE does not offer visas to people over the age of 65, however retiring in the UAE may be possible if you have a child working in the Emirates who is eligible to sponsor. This is made easier if they own a business. You can even continue to receive your UK pension whilst living in the UAE, however it is will not increase year on year, instead it will remain at the level it was when you moved your normal home from the UK.

All medical treatment comes at a price in the UAE, there is no National Health per se so your employer should provide medical insurance. If it doesn’t you should apply for a health card, which entitles you to cheaper treatment.

Case Study

Jenna Davidson, and who moved from the South East of England to Dubai in 2003, now lives in Arabian Ranches with her husband and 2 young sons. “My husband was transferred here with his company”. She says. “I was working full time as well, but managed to find part time work after the initial first three months”. The Davidsons have family member who have worked in Dubai since the mid nineties and had visited Dubai on three previous occasions before the move. “Having a brother-in-law and his family already here made the move much easier.

In 2003 Dubai was undergoing rapid change and my husbands company did not provide any kind of orientation program, so our previous visits and the insight we had made adapting to life in Dubai much smoother and less stressful… other families we got to know found the changes much more of a challenge.”

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The move was also a lifestyle choice. ”In the UK I had a good job but with a long commute… my part-time work in Dubai was close by and left me with much more time for the children, who have both really blossomed since moving here over 10 years ago.” She says the family leads “quite a privileged lifestyle, one which would be very hard to maintain in the UK. It is not unusual to have a part-time or even a live-in maid. We do a lot of social activities with the kids. The boys, have a number of hobbies, things like kite-surfing and sailing which we would have been impossible had we remained in Surrey.”

With so many other expats in Dubai, the chances of making new friends and acquaintances are endless. “There are social clubs and organisations catering to every sport, hobby and interest you may have. There is also a thriving business networking scene – something for everyone”

On the negative side Jenna mentioned, “The volume of traffic is beginning to build up again after a lull over the last few years. Cost of living is rising, and the prices of housing and schooling is definitely on the increase… but these are minor gripes and the pro’s still far outweigh the con’s.“

So, as a seasoned UAE expat, what advice would Jenna’s have? “Do your best to negotiate a very good package. Most landlords expect one years rent in advance. School fees and medical care is expensive so make sure your employer covers all (or at least the majority) of this. If you are arriving here for the first time, try to arrange fore some kind of orientation/home search course or package. You need to make informed decisions and employers are offering this as part of your package.” Finally Jenna mentions “Avoid racking up credit card bill and debt. It is very easy to do here but very dangerous and can lead to prison, so have fun but avoid excess!”

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