New to the UAE

You’re new to the UAE, where do you start?

Click on the title below to find out more information.

  • Before you can own or hire a car in the UAE, you will need to transfer your current foreign driving licence into one of the UAE. You will need to ensure that your current licence is still valid, and you should be a citizen of the country where that licence was issued, as well as having a valid resident status in the UAE.

    There are a number of documents required to transfer your driving licence and you must attend the RTA traffic department in person:

    • Eye test certificate
    • Passport – original & copy
    • Current license – original & copy
    • Emirates ID – original & copy
    • Translation (for some countries, check with RTA)
    • Consulate letter (for Canadians)
    • 1 passport photo
    • NOC letter from sponsor
    • AED 360-AED 800 for transfer fee and file creation

  • The majority of, if not all, employers will require you to have a bank account in the UAE for salary transfer under the WPS requirements. However, most banks will not allow you to have an account until you have a valid resident status.

    There are a few banks that will allow you to open an account while you wait for your residency, so check with your HR department for these banks.

    Because the UAE follows Sharia Law, your account with follow Sharia probate should you die, meaning the account forms part of your assets and will be frozen with no access for your family and beneficiaries. The funds will then be distributed in accordance with Sharia law, so it is sensible to set up an offshore bank account.

    An offshore bank account is similar to any other current account and will give you a base currency, e.g. USD, with additional currencies available, such as GBP or EUR. Offshore accounts are normally based in the Isle of Man or Channel Islands and allow you to hold money without the issues surrounding Sharia Law.

    Institutions such as Lloyds International, Standard Bank and Barclays offer solutions to expats with online access, debit cards and online transfers.

  • Most expats transfer money to either another bank account or to family/friends around the world. By using your local bank, it can prove costly with charges and fees incurred. Another way is to visit the exchange outlets found in most malls, although these are often more costly than a local bank. Furthermore, by transferring money on a regular basis into certain countries it may become liable for tax.

    The most convenient way to transfer money is through an FX provider. By setting up a virtual account with an FX company you can move money to other beneficiary accounts around the world and into nearly all currencies globally, with any frequency.

    In most cases with an FX account there are no charges associated with transfers and the FX provider will look to give a preferential exchange rate that will be better than that of the bank.

  • In the UAE ,the working week is Monday to Friday, with Saturday and Sunday making up the weekend. Friday is considered as the Holy Day with all schools and government entities finishing at 12pm.

    The UAE have public holidays that are announced in line with the lunar calendar.

  • Just as is the case in other Gulf States, the legal system in Dubai is a mix of Sharia (Islamic law), civil and criminal laws. These are implemented by the Federal Judiciary, comprised of the Courts of First Instance and Supreme Court. The Supreme Council of Rulers is the highest ruling body in the UAE.

    This means that the local laws are very different to those your home country and it would be prudent to understand the rules regarding the following:

    • Entry/exit requirements
    • Customs restrictions
    • ID cards
    • Dual nationality
    • Working illegally
    • Traffic laws
    • Non-payment of bills & bounced cheques
    • Smoking/Alcohol/Drugs
    • Behaviour/Dress code
    • Islamic law
  • Although the UAE is regarded as being tolerant towards alcohol consumption, there are rules you need to bear in mind.

    The law states that alcohol can be served at bars in major hotels or outlets that have the required permits, however this is intended for the hotel guests. Other patrons, who are not guests of the hotel and who consume alcohol in restaurants and bars here, are required to have their own personal liquor licences.

    It is not for the outlet to check if you have a liquor licence, the responsibility falls on the individual and it is therefore sensible to obtain one. Liquor licences are issued only to non-Muslims who own UAE Residency Permits.

  • The Health Insurance Law of Dubai No 11 of 2013 requires that all residents must have a level of health insurance that meets or exceeds minimum benefits as stipulated by Dubai Health Authority (DHA). In Dubai, employers are legally obligated to provide medical cover for their employees.

    If you have a less than adequate medical cover in place from your employer, you should speak with you HR department and see if you can upgrade the cover amount, even if it means paying the difference.

    If you are in the UAE with family, it is imperative that you have medical insurance to cover your entire family.

    Without insurance, you will be required to pay for all doctor’s visits and treatments, including prescriptions, and this can become very costly.

  • In order to obtain a spousal visa and children’s visas, the marriage certificates and birth certificates of your spouse and kids need to be attested in your home country before their visas can be processed.

    In addition, depending on the position you fill with your employer, it may then be necessary to also have education certificates attested in your home country before arriving in the UAE.

    It is advisable to check with your HR department and PRO for what you will need.

  • It is advisable to have a valid will in each jurisdiction which you hold assets and the UAE is no different, especially with the treatment of probate being completely different to Western countries.

    If the worst were to happen and you die in the UAE, your local assets will be frozen, regardless of them being either singly or jointly owned: this will include bank accounts, property, and investments, with the Law of the Land prevailing through the probate process.

    The legal guardianship of children can also be affected if the main sponsor were to die.

    It should also be noted that a will in your home country or another jurisdiction is not legally recognised in the UAE. You are able have your existing will notarised and registered in some parts of the UAE, which can be explained by an authorised legal counsel.

    It is therefore both sensible and advisable to consult a legal representative who is fully versed in the drafting and registration of UAE wills and guardianship wishes.

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