Moving to Dubai From the UK - All You Need to Know

As an increasing number of people are finding out, Dubai is one of the most exciting and diverse places to live in the world. Not only does the city have one of the fastest growing economies in the world but standards of living here are among the highest you can find too. With world-class food, architecture, transport links, and healthcare coupled with enticing tax breaks and opportunities for growing wealth, many Brits are now considering moving to Dubai from the UK.
 
Nevertheless, while Dubai is an accommodating place with many Brits now calling it home, the United Arab Emirates and Dubai are still almost 5000 miles away with different laws, customs, and plenty of factors to consider before making your move. To help you decide if moving to Dubai from the UK is right for you, here's everything you need to know.

1. UK to Dubai Visa Requirements

i. Types of Residence Visa ii. Essential Documents

UK to Dubai Visa Requirements

Top of the list of things you’ll need is a valid visa. The visa you need will depend on your reason for staying in Dubai and each is applied for differently. Importantly, all UK residents with a valid passport are given entry to Dubai for 30-days upon arrival in the city as long as they have more than 6 months left before renewal.

This means if you're considering a move to Dubai but aren't sure, you can spend a month there to get an idea of what life would be like without worrying about visas.

Types of Residence Visa

The different kinds of Dubai visas are:

1. Employment Visa 2. Investor Visa 3. Property Owner Visa
4. Retirement Visa 5. Student Visa 6. Dependent Visa

Types of Residence Visa

1. Employment Visa

For those looking to live and work in Dubai, you will need an employment visa. To get hold of an employment visa you'll first need a job offer sent to you from a UAE business or organization. Acting as your sponsor, your potential employer will then be required to apply for a work permit and acquire the other relevant documentation. After initial checks are complete, a two-month visa will likely be issued after which a longer-term permit is arranged by your employer.

2. Investor Visa

This type of visa is suitable for business owners and those looking to invest capital into Dubai's economy. These can be obtained by registering your organization within one of the city's Free Trade Zones, of which there are more than 30. Investor visas last 3 years.

3. Property Owner Visa

For those who own property in Dubai, a property owner visa grants entry for 3 years to 10 years depending on the value of the property. You will need your passport and deed for the property to be granted this type of visa and the property must be ready to be lived in.

4. Retirement Visa

The UAE also offers retirement visas for those aged 55 and over. You will need to have:

  • Invested in a property worth at least  AED 2 million (around £450,000)
  • Have an income of  AED 20,000 or more a month
  • Have savings of AED 1 million or more.
Satisfying these conditions grants expats an indefinite visa with at least 5 years of residency.

5. Student Visa

Student visas are granted to those with a letter of acceptance to educational institutes located in the UAE. This visa grants residency for the duration of your education.

6. Dependent Visa

Husbands or wives that work in Dubai can act as sponsors to their spouses and children, allowing families to move together. Men must earn at least AED 4,000 a month (around $1,100) and women must earn at least AED 10,000 (around $2,700) as well as receive permission from the authorities. Dubai is not accommodating of gay marriages and as such does not allow those in non-heterosexual arrangements to sponsor each other.

Essential Documents

The exact documents you will need for living in Dubai will vary depending on which type of visa you are applying for. That said, these are the most commonly asked-for pieces of information and documentation:

  • Valid passport (with at least 6 months before renewal)
  • Passport photos (for applying for visas and identification)
  • Health documents
  • Marriage certificates
  • Degree and training documents
  • Company registration documents

2. Culture and Lifestyle in Dubai

Culture and Lifestyle in Dubai

Despite being on the other side of the world, Brits feel right at home in Dubai. In fact, the vast majority of people living in Dubai are expats, with around 240,000 Brits calling the city their home. This makes Dubai itself one of the most diverse places on Earth.
 
As a bustling metropolis surrounded by an open expanse, life is as exciting or relaxing as you want it to be. While the UAE is an Islamic country, Dubai still features fantastic nightlife and alcohol is available here in suitable locations. It is also a shopper's paradise with some of the world's most spectacular shopping malls and high-end stores on offer. You'll also have some everyday favorites here too including grocery stores such as Waitrose, gyms, and other amenities expats would enjoy.
 
Despite not expecting visitors to live according to the Islamic code,  social values here are relatively conservative. Men and women are often separated in social environments and expected to dress respectfully. For women especially this means not exposing too much skin such as thighs, back, or stomach. A head shawl is also recommended when entering some buildings.
 
Notably, the UAE recently moved its weekend to Saturday and Sunday. This move was to make it more accommodating for international businesses and those living within the country. Originally, weekends here fell on Fridays and Saturdays as with the Gulf.

3. Buying or Renting a Property in Dubai

Buying or Renting a Property in Dubai

Most expats choose to rent in Dubai with plenty of properties on offer to suit any lifestyle. Some choose to live near the bulk of the city, while others with families for instance opt for quieter developments outside of the main complex.
The amount you'll pay to rent a property in Dubai will depend on four factors:

  • Location
  • Size
  • Furnishing
  • Length of stay

The cheapest rental options include smaller, unfurnished apartments, outside of the city center. While rent is not the cheapest here, it is still cheaper than in other major cities such as London with the average one-bedroom apartment in Dubai costing between £750 and £1200 per month.
 
Those looking to stay long-term often choose to purchase a property in Dubai instead. This is often seen as the better option if financially possible as property here is constantly appreciating in value and should you choose to resell after your visa has expired or you no longer wish to stay, you have not lost money to rent.
 
An inner-city one-bedroom apartment for sale in Dubai typically costs around AED 1.3 million (around £290,000) with multi-bedroom townhouses and villas for sale in Dubai costing more at around AED 5.2 million (around £1.1 million). Cheaper properties can be found however with some studio apartments starting from just AED 440,000 (around £100,000).

4. Living Cost in Dubai

i. Transport Links ii. Cuisine Options

Living Cost in Dubai

Living in Dubai costs considerably less than in other major cities in the world. The average monthly cost without rent is around AED 3,500 (£780)  with most outgoings going on food, transport, utilities, and healthcare. One of the main reasons the cost of living here is so low is due to it being a tax-free city. This means any income generated within Dubai is not taxed with no sales tax on the vast majority of goods and services.
 
Taxes are levied against certain activities and services, however, some businesses are liable to pay tax. Dubai taxes restaurant and hotel bills by 10% as well as imposes steeper taxes on non-Islamic imports such as alcohol, cigarettes, guns, and ammunition. Tax regulations are changing constantly in Dubai so it’s worth keeping abreast of the latest information. Expats are also taxed a small amount a year to renew their identifications.

​Getting around Dubai is a cinch with some of the world's best transport links. With an easy-to-navigate grid layout, Dubai is a pleasure to drive around with most choosing to use a car to get from A to B. With no shortage of space, there's also plenty of parking everywhere with wide lanes on main roads. Conversion of a UK driving license is relatively easy but it does take some time to adjust to driving on the other side of the road.
 
You can also make use of Dubai's fully-automated Metro lines which offers air-conditioned, cheap travel between destinations. Above the surface, there are plenty of taxis, trams, and buses too for those that want to use public transport. Transport prices are also significantly cheaper in Dubai than you'd expect to pay somewhere like London.

Cuisine Options

​As an international destination with an enormous amount of people from all-round the world, the food in Dubai is diverse and wonderful. Whether you're a fussy eater or someone who likes to be adventurous with their food, Dubai's multitude of restaurants, cafés, eateries, and fast food establishments are guaranteed to have something for everyone.

As well as being home to more than 10 Michelin star restaurants serving up some of the world's most avant-garde dishes, you can also find pub and carvery style restaurants to satisfy every type of UK expat. If choosing to cook at home, you can get almost all cupboard essentials from one of Dubai's main grocery stores with Carrefour, Spinneys, Lulus, and Choitrams offering familiar brands, fruit, and vegetables for home cooking.

5. Birth, Death, and Healthcare in Dubai

i. Climate and Weather ii. Takeaway

Birth, Death, and Healthcare in Dubai

Dubai's healthcare system is one of the best in the world and is available for local residents and expats alike. All you need is healthcare to use any of the public hospitals to receive a range of free and affordable healthcare options. Those staying in Dubai on a visa will need medical cover which is either provided by an employer or can be arranged privately.
 
Pregnancy in Dubai should be registered with a hospital by the seventh month when a maternity file will be opened. Registration of birth is undertaken at public hospitals in Dubai or via the Ministry of Health if opting for private healthcare. The British embassy should then be contacted to issue a passport for your child.
 
Those unfortunate enough to experience a death in Dubai should inform the UK Embassy located in Dubai and ensure they receive a death certificate to avoid future problems.

Climate and Weather

​One of the biggest draws of Dubai for UK expats is the year-round tropical climate. More often than not Dubai's weather is pleasant and temperate with unbroken sunshine. During July and August, especially, however, the climate can become extremely humid and almost unbearably hot if outside in the middle of the day.
 
Temperatures are persistently high throughout the year, however. In the summer months, you can expect average temperatures between 30 and 40 degrees, and in the winter between 19 and 25. You can expect a few days of rain a month in the winter and essentially none between May and November though occasional short and strong tropical storms are not unheard of.

Takeaway

​While there are a lot of things to consider when moving to Dubai from the UK, the weather, opportunities, and standard of living make the city one of the most attractive places on Earth for expats.
 
Armed with the tips and knowledge above, you should have a better understanding of life in Dubai, and remember, UK residents all receive a 30-day visitor visa upon arrival meaning you can soak up the atmosphere for a month to decide if life here is for you or not.

Furthermore, explore some of the finest properties in Dubai.