For those considering new contracts in the Middle East, it is important to get a brief introduction to what to expect when going to work in the United Arab Emirates.
Each of the seven Emirates is governed by its own ruling family, and although they are currently federated, each maintains an individual identity. Everyone dictates the rules in the United Arab Emirates: how to move, how to live and what rules to follow. While language, customs and beliefs vary little among the seven Emirates, being a citizen in Abu Dhabi is a different experience than living in Sharjah, for example. Nevertheless, much can be said about the Emirates in a complex way.
Indigenous Emirati citizens make up only about 20 percent of the total population. Roughly a quarter are other Arabs and Iranians, half are South Asians, and the rest are various expatriates, including Westerners and East Asians. In total, about 90 percent of the entire workforce is from outsiders, mostly from India, Pakistan and the Philippines.
Arabic is the official language and before thinking about how to leave to live in the Emirates, you need to soberly assess your chances of learning the language. Farsi (Persian), Hindi and Urdu are spoken by many expatriates. English is widely spoken and understood, especially in business.
Passports and visas
People who want to buy a penthouse in the UAE or visit the country for the purpose of tourism should know the basic rules and requirements. For example, a valid passport and visa is required for almost all visitors to the UAE, with some exceptions for citizens of certain countries.
Business travelers must have a passport that will be valid for at least 6 months from the date of arrival and crossing the borders of the country. When figuring out how to leave for permanent residence in the Emirates, you need to be aware that the visa process is complex, the requirements and fees for travelers vary greatly depending on citizenship.
There are over 30 countries whose citizens can obtain a visa at the point of entry. An up-to-date list of visa waivers can be found on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (under “Other nationalities”).
It is highly recommended that you contact the nearest United Arab Emirates Embassy or Consulate for specific visa details before planning your trip to the UAE. Or contact a real estate agency in Dubai if a person wants to get a residence permit through the purchase of housing. For residents of many countries, a visa is not required for stays of up to 30 days. Depending on the nationality, an extension of stay may be granted without a visa.
What do you need to live in the Emirates, how to get a visa?
Visas fall into two main categories: business (single or multiple entry) and tourist, including transit visas and entry permits. It is important to apply for a visa through your sponsor (employer, hotel or UAE resident) well in advance of your departure date. Depending on the type of visa a person is applying for, the requirements may include some or all of the following:
- A valid passport approved for travel to the UAE.
Two visa applications.
Two passport size photographs.
Copy of the passport.
A letter from the employer explaining the purpose of the job.
- Letter/Fax from the UAE Sponsor to the nearest UAE Embassy stating the tourist’s name, length of stay and (if applicable) multiple entry request.
Entry permits are applicable to certain categories of commercial travelers (and accompanying family members). Usually used for urgent travel, they are only valid for 14 days and cannot be extended. They are issued at the airport, provided that the person is met by a local sponsor.