Everything you need to know about emigrating to the UAE

Everything you need to know about emigrating to the UAE

As with any long-distance emigration (such as to America, New Zealand, or Canada), moving to the UAE demands great planning and organisation. So it’s crucial that you’re prepared for every eventuality. To give you a hand, we’ve taken a look at the reasons you might want to move, what you should know before emigrating, the steps you need to take to settle in country, and the cities to consider moving to.


In this article:


Why consider moving to UAE?

Much of the UAE is famed for its glamour, and the country comes with a certain charm. After all, the likes of Dubai and Abu Dhabi are famed for being holiday retreats of the social media influencer, perfectly perched before golden sandy beaches and the glistening Persian Gulf. But what are some of the considerations you should make before making the move?


Despite the country officially adhering to Sharia Law, the UAE is relatively liberal when it comes to what expats can and can’t do. For instance, in the UAE, alcohol is freely available at bars, restaurants, and hotels. In fact, the nation’s nightlife economy is booming. You will, however, have to pay a premium for the privilege, with alcohol carrying a whopping 30% tax rate.

When living in the UAE, you’ll also have to get used to a slightly different weekend: rather than the standard Saturday and Sunday format, Arab countries often take Friday and Saturday off instead.


One of the greatest draws of moving to the UAE is the great weather; in contrast to the UK, you’re likely to enjoy year-round sun. Even at the country’s coldest (usually during January), the temperature doesn’t often drop below 20 degrees Celsius, while the summer sun can hit scorching highs of up to and above 40 degrees Celsius.

Cost of living in UAE

Fortunately for expats moving to UAE from the UK, the cost of living in the Emirates is generally more affordable than back home, with comparative wages and salaries also often on the more favourable side. The main benefit, though, is that you aren’t required to pay income tax in the UAE on any of your earnings, so long as you have a residency visa.

Naturally, however, the cost of living in UAE is primarily down to you and your spending habits; you can find yourself spending a small fortunate if you’re not careful. However, spend on the likes of public transport, mall shopping, and groceries shouldn’t put too much of a dent in your savings.

Things to know before moving to UAE

Do I need a visa for UAE?

Whether you’re moving to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, or another popular emirate, you’ll be required to apply for a UAE visa. However, there are various different types of United Arab Emirates visa, depending on the purpose of your emigration: are you moving to retire, live with family, or work? We’ve outlined the two main UAE visa permits:

  • UAE residence visa

To visit the UAE as a British tourist, you aren’t required to enter with a visa; you must, though, leave within 30 days and make the trip with a return ticket. It’s recommended to visit the country you’re looking to emigrate to, before committing to the move, so bear this in mind.

To live in the country on a permanent basis, you’ll need to apply for a UAE residence visa. This often lasts for 2-3 years but can be renewed and extended indefinitely. Retired residents over 55 can apply for long-term five-year visas.

  • Working in the UAE

To work in the UAE, you’ll need a ‘sponsor’ from your place of employment. This person is responsible for applying for the relevant work permit required, beyond the standard tourist or residency visa; they will also often cover the associated costs. Working in the UAE without the right documentation can result in a heavy fine or deportation.

Driving in the UAE

First and foremost, unlike in the UK, driving in the UAE takes place on the right-hand side of the road. Secondly, you’ll need to transfer your British license to a UAE driving license. This will require:

  • Your current valid license
  • A completed license replacement form
  • An Emirates ID or UAE visa
  • An eye test proving you have competent sight
  • A medical screening (if you’re over 65)
  • A no objection certificate that evidences you have a sponsorship, and they have no concerns about you obtaining a license

To buy a new or second-hand car in the UAE, be aware that you’ll need to have a valid residency visa.


Bringing your pets with you to the UAE is a relatively uncomplicated process. However, there are some restrictions you’ll need to adhere to:

  • Each pet will require a valid import permit
  • You cannot bring more than two pets per person
  • Your pet must travel in manifested cargo, and cannot travel as added luggage

It’s also helpful to ensure your pet is up to date on its vaccines, to ensure a swift entry into the country; but a rabies jab isn’t mandatory from the UK. Helpfully, your pet will also avoid having to quarantine upon arrival. Importantly, though, the UAE does have a short list of banned dogs, including Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terrier, and Rottweilers, so it’s well worth checking if your pet is permitted.


In terms of language, living in the UAE shouldn’t prove too troubling; while Arabic is the official language of the region, many people speak English and there’s a great expat population across all the emirates.

Steps to follow before living in the UAE

Removals to UAE

Before moving to UAE, make sure you’ve put plans in place to ship your belongings to your new home; this means doing your research to find a great local removal company. The cost of this will vary, depending on the size of your current home, but, as a benchmark, expect to pay around £3,400 to ship a three-bedroom house. Naturally, this increases and decreases depending on the true size of your home and how many possessions you want to take with you.

Finding a home

Buying property in the UAE is relatively affordable, especially compared to the UK; you can often enjoy a lavish lifestyle without breaking the bank, and you’re sure to find a comfortable home within budget. To purchase a house, expect to have to pay a deposit of between 5-15%.

Renting is also an attractive proposition for expats moving to UAE, with rates outside of Dubai and Abu Dhabi especially affordable. In truth, you can travel between emirates with relative ease, so it’s often a sensible idea to find property within the cheaper regions and commute.

Moving home can be a complicated process at the best of times, without introducing foreign solicitor processes. Simplify your move and get in touch with our team for a quick house sale, so you can focus your attention solely on your new life in the UAE.

Opening a bank account

Living and working in the UAE requires you to open up a local bank account, to pay bills, transfer funds, and receive your salary. Before registering at a bank though, make sure to do your research and compare available rates and deals. Once you’ve decided on a bank, you’ll need to prepare the following documents to open an account:

  • Your passport (and perhaps copies)
  • Evidence of your employment and salary
  • Your Emirates Identity Card (or the application if it hasn’t been processed yet)
  • Your UAE residence visa

Registering for healthcare

The quality of healthcare across the UAE is extremely high, and the country has aims to improve standards even further. So you know you’re in good hands. However, when living in UAE, you are required to jump through a series of simple hoops to access public hospital care, including providing:

  • A copy of your passport
  • Your valid UAE visa/entry residence visa
  • Your Emirates Identity Card or the application

It’s also worth noting that health insurance is legally required when living in the UAE, and you’ll incur monthly fines until you can prove you and your family are covered. These fines can be upwards of AED500, which is roughly equivalent to £100.

Moving to the UAE from the UK: where to live?

Abu Dhabi

UAE’s capital city Abu Dhabi is a concoction of cultures, making it a popular choice for Brits emigrating to the middle east for a change of scenery. Combine this with the year-round sun and excellent standard of living, and you’ve got an immediate favourite.


Over two thirds of Dubai’s population is comprised of expats and foreign nationals, so you’ll have no problem settling into this incredible city. A popular location for tourists and residents alike, Dubai offers glitz and glamour, amazing career opportunities, and a vibrant social scene.


With a cheaper cost of living than both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Sharjah is a great alternative to the big two. And with it being just a short distance from the other emirates, you shouldn’t have a problem commuting to work.


Moving to the UAE requires great organisation, so hopefully we’ve made the process a little more straightforward. For even more helpful guidance, head on over to our blog.

We are proud members of...

  • NAPB
  • RICS
  • The Property Ombudsman
  • Trading Standards

We are proud to be the most regulated property buyer operating in the ‘Quick House Sale’ industry. We are an active member of the NAPB (National Association Of Property Buyers) and are RICS regulated, which means you can have every confidence of selling your home with us quickly & easily.