Kingpin's Guide to Moving & Living in Dubai

Dubai is one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is also the main city within the emirate of Dubai.

When speaking of Dubai, the most common reference is to the City of Dubai rather than the emirate as a whole. The City of Dubai is where the majority of expats base themselves, and where they find work. It is also the lifestyle hub for the entire region.

Why Dubai

Dubai has become a popular choice for relocation for a number of key reasons. However the booming economy and diverse lifestyle are the two mostly referred to as key drivers for relocation.

Booming Economy

Dubai has a booming economy where there is an abundance of employment prospects. Many people have made strong fortunes in Dubai, which add to the emirates’ wealth and prosperity. 

Expats who relocate long-term to Dubai can legitimately earn their salary free from income tax.

Diverse Lifestyle

With a multi-cultural and diverse population, Dubai is a hub of bustling activity and cultural flavour. Dubai is particularly attractive for Western Expats who benefit from a largely excellent climate, wonderful leisure facilities, a relatively laid back pace of life as well as good education and healthcare standards.

Visa Requirements

To live in Dubai, all expat residents require a visa. You need to have a residency visa in place in order to secure everything in Dubai from a bank account to a long-term rental agreement. This is why newly arrived expats often live in short-term serviced apartments or hotels.

Employment Visa

Most expats have an employer sponsored visa that allows them to obtain a residency visa and sponsor their family to move to Dubai with them. 

To date, Dubai has not put a cap on the number of years an expatriate can remain living and working in Dubai.

If you plan to follow this route, then you need to find work in Dubai first, and then your employer will be able to assist with your in your application and sponsor your work permit.

Your employer will advise you about the documents required to obtain your permit. This is standard practice within the emirate.
Please note you will also need to undergo a medical examination.

Visa Pitfalls

People often get advised to work on a visit visa for the short-term whilst an employment contract and visa are finalised. DO NOT TAKE THIS RISK.

If caught, you risk immediate deportation and being banned from re-entering the UAE. Instead your employer should issue you with an employment visa which is valid for 30 days. This will enable you to enter the UAE and begin the application process for your work permit, and then your residency permit.

Visa Process

The process for obtaining your residency permit is to acquire your entry permit and work permit and to then go to a government hospital or medical clinic for a health check.

You will undergo a blood test and chest X-ray and be screened for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, leprosy, and syphilis. Note: if your results for any of these tests come back positive you will be deported, (with the exception of syphilis for which treatment is available).

You then return to the residency department with your passport, medical test results, and if required, other documents such as a salary certificate, etc. Ideally, your employer will assist you with all this as there are often additional paperwork requirements revealed at the last minute!

At the residency department, or DNRD (which stands for Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department – which has been superseded by the name General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs Dubai, but which still gets referred to as DNRD!) you go to the typing office and obtain your application form and hand over required fees.

The process can differ from person to person and take a great deal of patience, you’re well advised to bring something to read and something to drink and just wait it out.

Eventually you will be asked to return to collect your passport with your resident’s visa stamped in it. If your employer employs someone to do the running for you, ensure you get your passport back, it is not acceptable for your employer to retain it.

Residency Visa

If you’re thinking about buying property in Dubai in order to obtain a residence visa, think again. Whilst permanent residency was once offered as an incentive to invest in Dubai real estate, the rules have since tightened up.

If you were to go ahead with this method the only visa you would be entitled to, would, be a six month multi-entry visa. This is renewable, but it’s a hardly convenient solution to obtaining residency.

Instead, the best method of obtaining residency visa is via the employment visa as mentioned above. An employment visa is also available for three years and is renewable.

Sponsoring Family

Once you have your residency permit, you can sponsor your family to live in Dubai with you. 

Each sponsored individual will also have to undergo a health check as described above. Once again the DNRD will process your application.

History of Dubai

Located in the Middle East, the UAE was formed in 1971 by the then ‘Trucial States’ after their independence from Britain. Dubai’s initial wealth was as a result of their oil industry, but since then it has successfully diversified its economy. Today Dubai has multiple strands supporting its fiscal strength, including, tourism, real estate, financial services, health and education.

Political Situation

Dubai is ruled by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who together with the Abu Dhabi emirate has veto power of certain matters of national importance in the country’s legislation. An example of this is foreign buyers are not allowed to own the freehold title to certain property in the Dubai emirate. However, this is not the case other emirates within the UAE.

This also means that Dubai has not been forced to make the likes of health insurance mandatory for all expatriate citizens. This is an obligation in the likes of Abu Dhabi.


*Please note, you need to have a residency visa in place in order to secure a long-term rental agreement. This is why newly arrived expats often live in short-term serviced apartments or hotels.

The first thing you need to know about securing rental accommodation in Dubai is that some expats have accommodation allowances as part of their contract’s remuneration terms.

This may include a certain amount being paid towards rent each month, or having your agency fees covered when looking for a place to live for examples. These fees are usually 5% of the annual rental fee of the chosen property.

RERA (Real Estate Regulatory Agency) is the land department of Dubai, and if you want any sort of peace of mind when signing a tenancy agreement you need to use a RERA registered agent.

Documents Required for Lease

You can be looking for a property if your residency visa is being processed and you have al etter from your employers stating this fact.

To sign a lease, you will require the following documents:

  • Copy of your Passport.
  • Copy of your Residence Visa.
  • A statement of income from your employer. (This is to show both affordability as well as the terms and duration of your employment).
  • A signed official application for the tenancy with all information provided.
  • A security deposit (this is usually equivalent to four weeks rent). Note: this is refundable when you leave the property providing it is returned in the same condition as when you entered it. Your deposit along with your lease agreement will be lodged with RERA.
  • A year’s rent in advance which is usually given in the form of four cheques. The first cheque is for the first three months and dated immediately, the rest are forward dated covering three monthly intervals each. To bounce a cheque in Dubai is to break the law.
  • Once you have your tenancy agreement in place you can get your utilities connected. Your real estate agent will be able to give you the most up to date contact details and procedures to follow.

All tenants and landlords are governed by Law No. 206 of 2007 when it comes to rental agreement, and this deals the obligations of both parties. You can find out more information on the RERA’s website.

In January 2008, RERA set a cap on rental price increases. The still remains at 5%, meaning that landlords cannot increase your rent by more than 5% of the existing rental agreement. This applies for a period of two full years, starting from the commencement date on your lease agreement.

Where to live in Dubai

Where you want to live may depend on where you’ll be working or if you have children, where you want them to go to school. Traffic during rush hour in Dubai can be extremely congested and this should also be taken into account when looking for accommodation.

Some areas you may want to look at include the following:

  • Green Community – mainly villa based with some apartments and townhouses.
  • Jebel Ali Village - older villas and plush properties, with schools, health facilities, clubs, restaurants, a cinema and shopping malls within easy reach.
  • The Gardens – relatively affordable apartment based development.
  • Dubai Marina and Al Sufouh – apartments in the former and villas in the latter – all with the wow factor you’d associate with Dubai.
  • Emirates Hills – including The Springs, The Lakes, The Meadows and The Greens featuring single family homes.
  • Al Barsha – villas with gardens and apartments.
  • Arabian Ranches – stunning villa homes in a luxurious setting.
  • Umm Suqeim – single family homes close to the beach, ranging from palatial villas to slightly run down houses.
  • Al Safa and Al Wasl – single family homes in a range of styles – not always attractive!
  • Jumeirah – expensive villa-based accommodation.
  • Satwa – well located apartments and some villas in a lively but slightly run down part of the city.
  • The Trade Centre – tower based apartments with good facilities.
  • Bur Dubai and Al Mankhool – very well located, properties of all types.
  • Karama – conveniently located mainly older apartments.
  • Oud Metha and Umm Hurair – low to medium rise apartment blocks.
  • Deira – mainly apartments and popular with singles or couples rather than families.
  • Garhoud – everything from apartments and townhouses to established villas.
  • Mirdif, Al Warqa and Rashidiya – fairly well landscaped area containing mainly villa based accommodation.
  • Al Qusais - mainly apartment living.
  • Sharjah - this is actually an emirate in its own right rather than a residential district of Dubai City, however it’s considered a suburb by many of the expats who live there! All accommodation types and often more affordable than Dubai – but note Sharjah is 100% alcohol free!


If you would like more information or advice about relocating to Dubai, please contact Kingpin, who will be able to answer your questions.


If you are interested in relocating to Dubai, Kingpin have a number of current roles available.

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Alternatively, if you would like to speak to Kingpin about future opportunities in Dubai, please contact one of the team who will be happy to help.

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