The UAE is one of the most favoured destinations for expatriate workers across nationalities and work profiles. The cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi rank among the top 5 cities for work globally. As per latest figures, the UAE hosts 8.45 million expats accounting for 88.5% of its population. Of these, India is the leading supplier of workers followed by Pakistan and Bangladesh. Expats from the US, Europe and Southeast Asian nations are also in plenty.
Every year, thousands of expats apply for jobs in the UAE. If you are one of those, start with familiarising yourself with the travel, work and living conditions that exist in the country. Here is an overview of the key things you need to know before making the journey to this business hub of the Middle East.
1. Visa and passport requirements: Foreigners need passport, visa and work visa/permit for employment in the UAE. It is the responsibility of the employer to arrange a work visa for the new hire. Employees must meet specific criteria to obtain resident visas for their wife, children and parents. It is important to note that the criteria for sponsoring resident visas are different for working women. Before taking up the job, candidates should clarify all details regarding passport and visa requirements from their employer.
2. Work hours: Employees in the UAE are expected to work a maximum of 48 hours a week (8 hours a day multiplied by 6 days a week). Work usually starts at 9 am and finishes by 6 pm, but certain industries like essential services may have alternative work hours. Article 66 of the UAE Labour Law states that employees should not be made to work for more than five hours at a stretch without rest, meals and prayer.
3. Vacations: The holiday and vacation benefits available to expatriates in the UAE are on a par with international standards. These are duly mentioned in the employment contracts, and the employee is made aware of them at the time of joining. Employees are eligible for 30 days of annual leave after the completion of one year of service. Under the laws of employment, professionals are not allowed sick leave during their probation period.
4. Salary entitlements: Any expatriate employed in the UAE for more than a year is entitled to End of Service Gratuity (ESG). The formula for calculating the same is the sum total of 21 days’ salary per year for the first five years of service, and 30 days of salary per year for every additional year of service.
5. Tax requirements: Income earned in the UAE is tax-free, both for locals and expatriates. There are, however, double taxation treaties with 115 countries allowing the home government to levy taxes on income earned in the UAE. It is important for expatriates to consult a chartered accountant/tax consultant to get a clear understanding of their tax liability.
6. Cost of living: This varies across cities, but in general, Dubai and Abu Dhabi have a high cost of living. Inflation is the major reason for rise in prices. Real estate is expensive across the UAE—especially in Dubai and Abu Dhabi—with rent accounting for a major chunk of the monthly expenses.
7. Local transport: Most people in the UAE have their own cars. Taxis are also popular. Some cities like Dubai and Sharjah have bus services, which provide a cheaper alternative to taxis. Dubai also has a metro rail service that is very popular with people.
8. Healthcare facilities: The UAE has among the best healthcare facilities in the Middle East, comparable with the US, Europe and Japan. There are a number of public hospitals and healthcare centres spread across the nation. There are also several multi-speciality hospitals with state-of-the-art infrastructure for locals and expatriates.
9. Local law: Islam is the predominant religion, and social conventions call for respecting Islamic laws, which includes dress code. Eating, drinking and smoking in public places is prohibited during Ramadan. At other times, smoking is allowed in designated areas. Some places do not allow unmarried couples to live together.
10. Language: Arabic is the official language, and most contracts—from employment documents to home lease agreements—are etched out in the language. English is the common language at most multinational establishments. Given the high percentage of Indians, Hindi was recently added as one of the primary languages to be used in Abu Dhabi courts.
As a multicultural society, the UAE provides ample opportunities to expatriates. Employees can enjoy all the facilities of a developed country. The UAE is among the most-expat friendly nations of the world with plenty of opportunities for work and leisure. The key to a successful life is to blend in amicably.
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