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Dubai — the basics
The Dubai Emirate is one of the 7 regions which form the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — a constitutional federation of states located on the Arabian peninsula, bordered by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman. Situated between the coastline of the Arabian Gulf and the northern part of the Arabian Desert, the Dubai Emirate's capital, Dubai City, is now considered one of the fastest-growing and most exciting cities on the planet.
A haven for lovers of heat and sun, Dubai's average August temperature surpasses 40 degrees Celsius — perfect weather for enjoying its long coastline of white, sandy beaches! Mirroring its blistering weather, Dubai's economy is also one of the world's hottest hubs for the construction, engineering, finance, IT and media industries. To meet the subsequent growth of the Dubai workforce other industries — such as hospitality particularly experienced chefs and executive chef jobs in Dubai are hot as well.
Dubai's expatriate community
Since the UAE Government first began establishing economic ‘free zones’ (tax-free areas) in the mid-1980s, Dubai has quickly become a business Mecca for Western professionals. It is one of the most rapidly developing urban centres in the world, and one of the only cities where expats far outnumber the locals.
Most expats living in Dubai come from Southern Asian countries — such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines — but foreign workers from the UK, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada and the USA are becoming more and more abundant, influencing the dynamic of Dubai's multicultural expat community.
Dubai's economy — and tax-free incomes!
You don't have to look far into to horizon to see that Dubai exudes wealth and abundance. Soaring skyscrapers and shimmering hotels dominate the skyline, while luxury resorts and opulent shopping malls sprawl across the streets down below.
The UAE operates a free market economy and is staunchly committed to the principles of free trade. To encourage commercial investment and the development of industry, the UAE Government has, since the mid-1980s, began a process of establishing economic ‘free zones’ across the country. These zones offer appealing financial incentives to foreign companies — such as collecting no corporate or personal income tax for at least 15 years, and allowing them to remain 100 percent foreign-owned. Employees, of course, also get taken along for the income tax-free income Dubai ride.
With its growing number of economic free zones, magnetic Dubai City has become an extremely lucrative option for foreign companies and investors. In some of the city's free zones — such as the International Financial Centre — companies operate tax-free. Employees' salaries are not subject to tax either.
The currency of Dubai is the dirham (AED or Dh), with 100 fils totalling 1 Dh. The cost of living in Dubai is not unlike that of most large cities but, with no personal income tax obligations, foreign workers generally fare much better here than in London or New York.
Dubai's society and culture
Apart from exciting career prospects and financial rewards, Dubai offers foreign workers a taste of Arabic culture and the chance to explore a vibrant Middle Eastern society. A safe and welcoming place for foreigners, it is also well-positioned in terms of travelling around the Middle East and northern Africa. Weekends away have never looked so exciting!
Dubai's population of almost 1.5 million people is predominantly male, with females accounting for approximately one-fifth of residents. Much of this has to do with the fact that key industries attracting workers to Dubai – such as construction, engineering, finance and IT – tend to be male-dominated.
The official language of Dubai is Arabic but, due to the development of big business and subsequent growth of the expatriate community, English is spoken just about everywhere. Islam is the official religion of Dubai, however all other religions bar Judaism are tolerated. In respect of local customs foreigners tend to dress on the conservative side, although there are no laws banning certain types of clothing.
The purchase and consumption of alcohol in public places is restricted and you need a personal license in order to buy alcohol in a liquor store. The booze news isn't all gloomy though – consuming alcohol within licensed hotels is allowed and there is no shortage of quality watering holes around town. In fact, the Dubai night life is undoubtedly one of the city’s selling points for young professionals.
Work permits and residency visas — Recruitment Agencies Dubai — Employment Recruiter — Dubai
Regardless of which industry you work in, the most common (and easiest) way for professionals to get work in Dubai is to be sponsored by the company you will work for. Employers usually with the assistance of recruitment agencies will organise the essential paperwork during the recruitment process, so fees for your work permit, residence visa and sometimes provisional accommodation is often included in your salary package when you are hired.
If you are concerned about relocating with your family don't worry — there are visa options for sponsoring spouses and children to live in Dubai as well. These options should be explained to you by either your Dubai recruitment agency, or by the employer with whom you are dealing directly. Employment visa rules in Dubai are relatively straightforward if you have a willing employer involved.
Getting a travel visa for Dubai
If you would prefer to look for work from within Dubai, you can enter as a visitor and start the job search whilst scoping out the social scene. Before you even start thinking about interviews, tax-free shopping and balmy nights by the hotel bar, you need to take care of a few essential matters — like your visa! You don't want to get caught in a tricky situation when you arrive in Dubai, so make sure you know which type of visa you need well in advance of flying.
Note: Visa regulations for foreign nationals wishing to visit Dubai change frequently. While the below information was correct at time of publication in late 2008, it is always a good idea to double check visa regulations with the UAE Government, your airline and/or tour company prior to planning your trip.
Travel visas for citizens of Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Canada
Citizens of the above countries — along with US citizens — are entitled to a 30-day Visit Visa for a cost of 500 Dhs (70.00), which can be paid upon arrival in Dubai. While this visa gives jobseekers some time to make contacts and apply for positions, one month is not a long time to secure a job. It is therefore in your best interests to do as much job seeking preparation as possible before arriving in Dubai.
For jobseekers wishing to stay longer than 1 month in Dubai, a 90-day Visit Visa is available for a cost of 1000 Dhs (140 GBP). For citizens of the a small number of selected countries (including the above) this can also be paid upon arrival in Dubai.
Contact: your nearest UAE embassy or consulate if in any doubt about visa requirements, fees and how to obtain one. These rules change frequently.
If travelling through Dubai to or from the USA or Europe, you can obtain a 96-hour Transit Visa upon arrival, for a cost of 100 Dhs (14 GBP). To obtain this visa you need to be sponsored by the airline you flew with, and need to provide evidence of your onward flight.
Contact: your nearest UAE embassy or consulate if in any doubt about your visa requirements.
See: the Department of Naturalization and Residency — Dubai website or the most up-to-date official information regarding visas and fees.
See: Getting to UAE — Visas and immigration (find link) on the UAE Government website for embassy contact details and information on obtaining your Dubai visa.
Working life in Dubai — Work in Dubai
According to many expats living in Dubai, the city offers a ‘work-hard, play-hard’ lifestyle. The working week for most companies in Dubai is roughly 40-48 hours, but indoor ski slopes and wave pools mean you never have to travel far for a bit of adventure after hours.
Working hours in Dubai are also lower during the September Ramadan (the Islamic Holy month during which Muslims are required to fast between dawn and dusk), when many companies only operate for around 6 hours a day. Most companies also do business on a Sunday–Thursday week, Friday being a day of rest in the Islamic faith.