The Gulf region is unlike most places in the world. The passport you hold makes a difference here.
Entering the United Arab Emirates
Your passport influences if and how you can enter the country. As a citizen of a Western country such as: The Americas, The United Kingdom, The European Union or Australia – you can enter the United Arab Emirates with a tourist visa issued on arrival. This visa allows you 30 days in the U.A.E. After the 30-day period, if you haven’t been awarded residency through your job, or a real-estate investment (those who purchase a home in Dubai are granted permanent residency automatically), you must leave the country.
What You Need
Before you move to Dubai, I recommend using a site like Indeed, Gulf Talent, NaukriGulf or Dubai Jobs to secure a job. I found job hunting easy using these sites. You can search by category, level of experience or education.
Once you get hired, there are a few more steps you must take before you get on a plane to the Middle East.
First, you will need to take your degree to a notary. You can find one in your city if you look online. I used Walk-in Notary in Mississauga; it cost $25.
The next step is taking your notarized degree to the Ministry of Interior in your country to get it authenticated. This is free in Canada.
Finally, you take it to the U.A.E. consulate to get a stamp and check that you didn’t miss anything.
Now you can get on your way. Most companies provide free airfare to Dubai, but you should confirm this in advance. If they don’t offer your airline ticket, you should negotiate for it as a part of your contract, along with annual plane tickets to visit your home country.
I chose to fly with Air Canada. They have a non-stop flight from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport to Dubai International Airport.
Photo credit: Air Canada
Once you get to Dubai, you have to take your degree to The Ministry of Interior to get one last stamp, and you are ready to go. After your paperwork is in order, you’re required to do a medical test. The test is basically a chest x-ray and blood work. The purpose of this medical is to check for contagious diseases like TB or AIDS. Now, you can get your resident status.
Don’t Make the Same Mistake I did!
I got recruited for my Dubai job when I was already in the country. I went back to Canada to get all of my paperwork sorted out and returned to the Middle East. I did this before my company had procured my residency status. The HR representative was not very proactive and asked me to come back so I could go to the ministry and run several errands at government offices in relation to my application for residency. I later found out that was actually his job to do this running around. Furthermore, he made several mistakes on my application and it got rejected not once, but twice.
As my Canadian passport only allowed me 30 days in the U.A.E without official residency status, I had to leave and re-enter the country.
You can drive or fly across the border into The Sultanate of Oman or any other neighbouring country to change your visa. If you do this before the 30th day, you can drive across the border and drive right back.
Photo Credit: Rana Darwish
To change my visa, I rented a car at Dubai International Airport from Sixt Car Rentals. If you don’t feel comfortable driving, there are tour companies like Go Tours Dubai that do visa runs for as little as 120 AED (approximately $44 CAD).
Since I waited until the last minute (the 30th day) to exit the U.A.E., I had to stay abroad for at least 48 hours. I took this as an opportunity to drive further into Oman and explore the beautiful city of Muscat, approximately a four-hour drive from Dubai. I stayed at the Grand Hyatt Muscat. The hotel has a beautiful spa and excellent service.
So the lesson to be had here, make sure your company arranges your residency status before you get on an airplane.
Photo Credit: Rana Darwish
What you Should Know
Another benefit of a western passport is that companies will provide you with accommodation or a housing allowance. I negotiated for more than what my company initially offered. Feel free to do this. It may be intimidating, but it won’t hurt you.
I used the site Dubbizle to find an apartment. I chose to live in the Business Bay neighbourhood, close to my office. While it cost me a bit more in rent, it saved me from taking taxis.
Dubai traffic during rush hour is brutal. From Dubai to Sharjah without traffic is about 30 minutes. During rush hour, this drive can take up to four hours! Sharjah is a neighbouring Emirate with cheaper rent.
Rent is expensive in Dubai. Especially so in the Downtown area, that’s why many people choose to live in neighbouring Emirates where rent is significantly cheaper. I shared a three-bedroom apartment with a couple of girls from France, and my portion of the monthly rent was 5,000 AED (approximately $1850 CAD). My rent included a private room, a shared bathroom and maid service five days a week.
Photo Credit: Atkins
If you live in Sharjah or Ajman, your rent might be as little as 3,000 AED ($1,111 CAD) per month for a clean one-bedroom apartment in a new building. If you don’t mind funny smells and dirty buildings you can find cheaper rent!
Note, that in the U.A.E. you pay yearly rent. This is usually paid in four cheques or one lump sum. Occasionally, you might find a month-to-month rental, but it will be significantly more expensive.
My Canadian driver’s license was valid in the U.A.E. with my tourist visa. When I gained residency status, I took my license to the Canadian Embassy in Dubai where they issued me a letter confirming the authenticity of my license. I then took this letter to the Ministry of Transportation in Dubai, where they issued me a local driver’s license.
Photo Credit: @dubai
My experience in dealing with government organisations in Dubai (Ministry of Interior & the Ministry of Transportation) was smooth and civilised. Wait times were not too long, and the staff was pleasant.