UAE Guide: living and working in the Emirates

In order to work in the Emirates you must have a valid employment visa and to live (rent a property, open bank accounts, buy cars) you must have a valid residency visa. The company that you work for will arrange for your visas to be processed and will inform you of any further paperwork that is required.

Once in Dubai, there may occasionally be a requirement for you to leave the country and return in order to ‘activate' or renew your visa. Your company will inform you whether this is necessary.

Visa rules and regulations are prone to change by the government, however your company should keep you updated of any further requirements. The visa charges for employees are almost always paid for by your employer however sometimes that cost is clawed back if you leave before a certain period of time - under six months for example.

Many international and local banks are represented in Dubai. You will be able to open a bank account when you first arrive, although you will not be able to use all the facilities - notably cheque books - until you have a residency visa. You will be able to get a credit card, however.

Cheques are important in Dubai - you will need to deposit cheques with your landlord when you take your tenancy, and leave tens of cheques when you buy a car - if you take a loan.

Usually your company will have a preferred bank which should be willing to offer services such as car and housing loans and will be more helpful when it comes to opening your account and administering the paperwork. Choosing a bank will depend on your personal needs.

Travel within Dubai
The only way to travel within the emirates is by car. Taxis are relatively cheap and easy to find.

Major hire car companies are represented in Dubai with the most economical car costing approximately Dhs.1500 per month (approximately £250). You are able to drive a hire car in the Emirates using some international licenses.

Buying & running a car
Buying a car in Dubai is relatively simple. You must hold a residency visa and you may need finance. The car must be insured and registered. This can be taken care of by the agency you are buying the car from, but it is worth shopping around for the best interest rates and lowest insurance premiums.

The finance can be taken between 1 and 4 years. Interest is worked out yearly, and most often offered on a "flat rate" as follows:-

A car costing Dhs.50,000 over 4 years will cost 50,000 x say 5% interest = 50,000 x 5% = 2,500 = 2,500 x 4 years = 10,000 = 50,000 + 10,000 / 48 months= Dhs.1,250 per month

Payment to the lender may be done by direct debit but more commonly it involves writing out the appropriate number of cheques, i.e. finance over 48 months could mean writing and signing 48 post-dated cheques.

Driving Licence
In order to drive anything other than a hire car you must have a valid UAE driving license. Holders of valid British (and some other) driving licenses can obtain a UAE license without an additional test. As soon as your residency visa is completed, it is illegal for you to drive in the UAE on anything other than a valid UAE license.

Companies often assist new employees obtaining the license although it will require your presence at the traffic police HQ for a few hours.

The form must be typed in Arabic.

You will also need to pass an eye test (cost approx. Dhs.25) which is available from most opticians or can be done at the Dubai Traffic Department when applying for the licence.

If you do not hold a relevant international license you will be required to take a series of lessons and then a test. This can take a period of several months.

The UAE driving license is valid for 10 years. It is the responsibility of the employee to ensure your license is valid.

Paperwork required:Valid residence visa, existing driving license, application form, passport copy and original and eye test certificate.
Cost:For transfer from UK to UAE license approx. Dhs.150.

Look out for all the usual catches. If you are buying a 4-wheel drive, for example, ensure that the car is insured offroad and in Oman. The insurance usually covers the car, regardless of the driver as long as he/she has a valid UAE license. Get full advice and details from your insurance agents.

Paperwork required:UAE driving license, passport copy and existing registration.
Cost:Approx. 4 - 6% of vehicle value

Registering your car
This can be taken care of when you first buy your car, but has to be renewed every year. You will need to have any driving fines paid in full before renewing the registration (see below). There is a charge for vehicle registration.

Paper work required:License, existing registration and insurance. It has to be fully insured before registering.
Cost:Approx .Dhs.360

Driving offences
It is essential that you obey and respect the laws of the UAE. Apart from the police patrols and checkpoints that it is possible to be stopped at, there are a number of speed cameras around the Emirates. These will take a picture of a speeding car and the driver will incur a fine. Occasionally this is sent to you but more often then not, the first you will hear about it is when you come to re-register your car - It has been known for the number and amount of fines to come as an unpleasant surprise.

Different emirates have different levels of fines and the fine often has to be paid in the Emirate in which the offence was committed (i.e. you will need to drive back to Fujairah to pay a for an offence committed there). You can keep yourself aware and pay the fines regularly by calling an automated system.

Hospitals & Medical facilities
Hospitals in the Emirates can vary in quality although the level of facilities in both public and private hospitals is high. Should you require regular treatment from a specialist you should ensure that there are trained staff and medical centres before you arrive.

Alcohol licence
Although alcohol can be bought and consumed in the majority of the Emirates, it should be remembered that, as an Islamic country, the UAE has strict alcohol sale and consumption laws.

You are allowed to drink in licensed bars and restaurants as long as you are not a Muslim.

It is illegal to buy, transport or keep at home alcohol without an alcohol license.

It is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol.

Non-Muslim residents in possession of a liquor license can only buy alcohol in the UAE from special licensed retail outlets. The license entitles you to purchase a prescribed amount of alcohol per month and can only be used in other emirates to that in which it has been issued, if the police of the other emirate(s) has endorsed it.

Sharjah does not permit the sale or purchase of alcohol within its borders.

Paperwork required:Passport - original, passport - copy, employment contract - copy, 3 passport photographs, Tenancy contract - original
Cost:Approx .Dhs.250.
You must:Be a resident and have a monthly salary exceeding Dhs.4,000. Allow approx. 4 weeks for completion.

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Posted by: Sam

I am a non-muslim staying in Sharjah. I get duty free alcohol from Dubai whenever I travel. To consume this alcohol at home in Sharjah, do I need an alcohol license? If yes, from where?

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