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Moving to Dubai From the UK

Martha Lott

Written by

7th Jun 2023 (Last updated on 8th Feb 2024) 10 minute read

With a diverse population, cheap housing and great job opportunities, Dubai is a tempting prospect for British expats. Being the largest city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dubai is located in the emirate of the same name.

In this guide, we’ll go through the essential steps needed to make Dubai your home. We’ll also cover visa and processing prices so you can budget your international move.

  1. Why Are People Moving From the UK to Dubai?
  2. Types of UAE Residence Visas
  3. Cost of UAE Visas
  4. UAE Citizenship
  5. How to Apply For a Dubai Visa
  6. Cost of Removals to Dubai From the UK
  7. Property Prices
  8. Work and Salary
  9. Cost of Living
  10. Education
  11. Healthcare
  12. Importing and Registering Vehicles
  13. Culture
  14. Is it Worth Moving to Dubai From the UK?
Some handy facts about moving to Dubai:
  • Average shipping costs from the UK to Dubai: £2,460
  • Population: 3,580,000
  • Currency: United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED)
  • Main Language: Arabic
  • Number of British Expats: 120,000+
  • Number of British Expats Compare My Move Have Helped to Relocate: 114

Why Are People Moving From the UK to Dubai?

Those willing to cross the cultural gap will find Dubai a very welcoming place. Dubai has a booming economy, receiving huge investments in recent decades. As a result, job availability in the region has skyrocketed, boosted by the bonus of taxless wages.

No one can describe Dubai without mentioning its skyline. Architecture in Dubai is some of the world's finest and provides an epic backdrop. To add to the appeal, Dubai is rated among the top 10 safest cities on earth.

There’s no shortage of social opportunities for Brits looking to move to Dubai. In fact, over 80% of the city’s population are expats, with Brits accounting for over 120,000 residents.

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Types of UAE Residence Visas

Stays in Dubai of longer than 30 days are only allowed for expats with a valid residence visa. Obtaining work is the only way for an expat to secure a visa in Dubai outside of studying, retiring or investing. Travellers can apply for a work visa whilst visiting Dubai on a tourist visa.

UAE Employment Visa

The most common visa in Dubai, an Employment Visa is granted by finding a job with an Emirate company. The employer acts as a sponsor for the individual, submitting a right to live and work on their behalf. Once processed, the individual will receive a work permit.

You’ll need to submit these items on top of essential documents when applying for an employment visa:

  • Proof of your sponsor’s UAE citizenship/legal residency.
  • A copy of your work contract and the company’s trade licence/firm card.
  • Your entry or previous residency visa.
  • An Emirates ID, if applicable.

A UAE Employment Visa's duration depends on whether the holder works for a mainland or freezone company. Mainland company employees get a visa with a 2-year duration, freezone get a 3-year visa*. There is also a shortened 1-year remote working visa.

The employer will revoke the employment visa if the individual loses their position. The recipient then has 180 days to seek alternative employment or leave the country.

*A mainland company is a firm registered with the UAE Department of Economic Development. Freezone companies are exempt from taxes including VAT, Customs, Corporate and Income Tax.

UAE Golden Visa

Another way to attain a UAE visa is by investing in a Dubai property - otherwise known as a Golden Visa. To be applicable, an applicant must invest a minimum of 2 million AED (£438,500) in real estate or business.

A visa secured through public (business) investments grants a 10-year residence. Real estate purchases provide a 5-year residence. Either of these Golden Visa types can be renewed.

Entrepreneurs can also get this visa by forming a startup which has at least 1 million AED (£220,000) in annual revenue. You can also get a Golden Visa by founding a project that sells for 7 million AED (£1,535,000) or more.

UAE Green Visa

The Green Visa is a new incentive designed to entice investment and skilled workers to Dubai. These are extended employment visas, with the applicant acting as their own sponsor. There are two ways to get a Green Visa:

  • Get an employment contract within the first, second or third occupational levels. You must also have a bachelor’s degree and earn at least 15,000 AED (£3,300) monthly.
  • After obtaining a self-employment permit from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation. This still requires a bachelor’s degree as a minimum. You’ll also have to show proof of annually earning 360,000 AED (£79,000) through freelance work for the last two years.

Once secured, a Green Visa grants a 5-year residency, with the option to be renewed upon expiry.

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Cost of UAE Visas

Visa TypeCost (AED)Cost (£)
Employment Visa3,000 - 7,000 AED£1,535
Remote Visa1,050 AED£230
Golden Visa2,800 - 3,800 AED£615 - £835
Green Visa2,280 AED£500
Investor Visa1,300 - 13,000 AED£285 - £2,850

Data taken from Wego

UAE Citizenship

Getting UAE citizenship requires exceptional talent, investment or family ties to secure. These are the following ways foreign nationals can secure Emirate citizenship:

  • By descent from Arab or Emirati citizens.
  • By marriage to an Emarit man (women only).
  • Via naturalisation i.e. being a working resident for 30 years.
  • Through merit in selective fields.
  • Being nominated after investment in property.

The UAE has recently allowed dual citizenship. This means expats won’t have to renounce their UK citizenship if they qualify as a citizen of Dubai.

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How to Apply For a Dubai Visa

Before entering Dubai, your sponsor must obtain an entry permit for you. An entry permit is only valid for 3 months.

You can attain a work permit through one of two government bodies. The first is the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship, which has an eChanel portal and mobile apps for Apple and Android. The alternative is the website for the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDFRA) of your emirate - in this case Dubai.

Once you’re in the country, your sponsor can apply for your residence visa at the GDFRA. They will then have to pay an application fee as well as submit the necessary documents.

You’ll need the following essential documents when applying for residence in Dubai:

  • The UAE Visa Application Form.
  • Your passport.
  • Two passport-size photos.
  • Proof you’ve passed a medical fitness test.
  • Health insurance approved by the DHA.
  • All other documents related to your visa type e.g. work contract, marriage/birth certificate, enrolment in a Dubai university etc.

Cost of Removals to Dubai From the UK

Here are the average costs of shipping a container to Dubai from the UK:

  • 20 ft container - £1,737
  • 40 ft container - £2,460

The cost of shipping a container from Dubai to the UK will be a similar amount. Be aware packing will add £250 to any quote.

The cost for international removals can differ depending on the freight you choose to use - sea or air. Road freight to Dubai is unavailable from the UK due to the distance.

Shipping freight is the best value for money, whilst air freight is quick but more expensive. Shipping freight has a much higher capacity than air freight, which is limited by the weight of items.

If you’d like more details on the process, look at our research on international removal costs.

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Property Prices

Those looking to buy property in Dubai can expect to pay these rough averages, featuring London prices for comparison:

Building TypeCost per m2 (£)
Dubai City Centre Apartment£3,100
London City Centre Apartment£12,880
Dubai Non-Central Apartment£1,865
London Non-Central Apartment£7,490

These rates show that buying property in Dubai is roughly 75% cheaper than in London.

For rental rates comparison, check out the average prices below:

1-Bed Apartment Location

Monthly Rental Rate (£)

Dubai£1,575
London£2,070

This makes rental rates around 25% cheaper in Dubai. Keep in mind that Dubai properties use annual rents instead of monthly payments. Be sure to save enough to pay for a year’s accommodation before moving.

Data taken from Numbeo.

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Work and Salary

Dubai boasts great job opportunities and high average salaries. Finance, technology and marketing companies are particularly prominent throughout the emirate. According to GrabJobs, the most in-demand expat positions include:

  • Financial advisors/money management
  • Web development/coding
  • Administration/data entry
  • Cyber security/risk management
  • Teaching/language skills

Data from SalaryExplorer puts the average annual salary in UAE at 235,000 AED (£51,578.16). By comparison, ThinkPlutus puts the average UK salary at £25,971, almost exactly half the pay. The drastic pay gap means a higher quality of living thanks to higher disposable incomes.

Cost of Living

The cost of living works out at 18% less than prices in the UK. These lower prices further contribute to the greater disposable income expats can enjoy.

Here’s a comparison of typical expenses between the two countries:

Cost of Living ExamplesUAEUnited Kingdom
Public transport pass (monthly)259.33 AED (£56.92)£74.74
Utility bills (monthly - one person)400.18 AED (£87.83)£116.24
Gym membership (monthly)221.67 AED (£48.65)£32.12
Taxi (5 miles)35.58 AED (£7.81)£13.78
Restaurant meal for 2 people158.11 AED (£34.70)£50.03
1 cinema ticket41.59 AED (£9.13)£9.82
Beer (0.5L)8.79 AED (£1.93)£1.77
Chicken breast (1kg)24.21 AED (£5.31)£5.92
Cappuccino15.65 AED (£3.43)£2.94

Data taken from LivingCost.Org

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Education

Dubai hosts both public and private education. Public schools are gender-segregated, with lessons taught in Arabic. Thus, international schools are the preferred option for expat families.

There are over 1,600 international schools across the UAE. If you need help narrowing down a suitable school, KHDA Ratings offer a great comparison. According to Edarabia, annual school fees in Dubai vary from 12,723 AED (£2,790) to 64,093 AED (£14,055).

Dubai features 5 public and 58 private colleges and universities. These include the international branches of many top Western universities. Tuition fees for private universities can range from 20,000 AED (£4,385) up to 158,000 AED (£34,645).

Top universities in Dubai include:

  • Zayed University
  • British University in Dubai
  • American University in Dubai
  • University of Dubai

Healthcare

Dubai has both public and private healthcare. Expats have to pay for a health card to access public healthcare, then pay a fee per service. Health cards cost 320 AED (£70) for adults and 120 AED (£26) for children under 10.

Every resident of Dubai is legally required to be covered by some form of private healthcare. Employers typically pay for some level of health insurance for employees, but will not extend this to spouses or children.

Private healthcare in Dubai is considered some of the most expensive in the world. A yearly policy for one person averages at 6,000 AED (around £1,300). Meanwhile, family health insurance will cost a minimum of 20,000 AED (£4,400).

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Importing and Registering Vehicles

Expats can import a vehicle once they’ve secured a residency visa, as long as it is less than 10 years old. Cars older than this will require a special permit from the Road and Transport Authority (RTA). Please note that only left-hand-drive cars are allowed on UAE roads.

Before importing, you’ll need to ensure you have the following documents:

  • Invoice for the car that proves ownership and value
  • Certificate of Origin
  • Original versions and copies of your passport, visa and driving licence
  • Original shipping receipt

Once a vehicle arrives, an import tax of 5% must be paid at Customs. You’ll then be issued a green registration slip, which must be taken - with the car - to the nearest Tasjeet office. These are testing and registration centres, where your vehicle will be verified as roadworthy.

When all tests are done and the car is approved, it can be insured and registered. Registration is also done at the Tasjeet facility.

Culture

Thanks to its cosmopolitan population, there are no shortage of things to enjoy in Dubai. For starters, the city is host to a great selection of budget and luxury food options. Fans of a day's shopping will find plenty of indulgence at the Dubai Mall - the largest in the world. The city also hosts many museums, heritage sites and festivals for extra entertainment.

Dubai has a reputation for strict regulations, but it can be easiest to navigate as long as you know the rules.

Here’s a quick list of things done in the UK that are illegal in Dubai:

  • Many across-the-counter pharmaceuticals.
  • Homosexuality.
  • Swearing.
  • Drinking without an alcohol licence, drinking outside or being publicly intoxicated
  • Kissing or hugging a partner in public
  • Having sex with someone who is not your legal spouse
  • Cross-dressing
  • Taking photos of government buildings or other people without permission
  • Criticising the UAE government online.

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Is it Worth Moving to Dubai From the UK?

When you consider booking removals to Dubai, here are the points you should weigh before deciding:

Pros

  • Great average salaries and quality of life
  • Cheaper cost of living
  • Lower property prices.
  • A big and bustling expat community

Cons

  • Expensive, compulsory private health insurance
  • Hard to obtain a visa without work
  • Stricter social regulations
  • Difficult to secure citizenship through naturalisation

All prices and conversion rates were valid at the time of writing but may change over time.

Martha Lott

Written by Martha Lott

Having guest authored for many property websites, Martha now researches and writes articles for everything moving house related, from remortgages to conveyancing costs.

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