Problems you might encounter before getting your visa
So you’ve finalized your job offer, legalised your documents, found a new home for your furry friends and are ready to fly out to the UAE. Unfortunately, you’re not out of the woods just yet! Since you won’t have a residency visa when you get to the country, there are certain regulations as to what you are able to apply for once you’re there.
It can take at least a month to process a residency visa, depending on where you are based and the speed of the company processing the visa, though quite often it is longer. The UAE government however have committed to turn these around quicker in order to streamline the integration process for new expats in the country. You will also need an Emirates ID Card which is a mandatory part of the visa process. Your Emirates ID will prove your residency status and can be used as a piece of official ID to support your applications.
You will receive a visit visa when you arrive, which will last for 30 days or can be extended to 90 days upon request. Until your residency visa is finalised however, you will be unable to enter into certain agreements such as a rental tenancy or mobile phone contract. It can feel as if life doesn’t get started until you’re able to settle into something more permanent. How can you navigate these restrictions and still have some sense of normality, without spending a fortune on expensive workarounds?
Luckily, we’ve compiled a few tips below to help you navigate your first few weeks in the UAE, so you’re not too flustered when you arrive. Keep on reading to find out more!
Firstly, you’ll need a place to stay. You will be unable to sign a tenancy contract in the UAE until your residency visa and employment permit have been granted. This means you will need to organise some temporary accommodation until you are in a position to make more permanent arrangements. The hotel scene in the UAE is well known for being luxurious but expensive, especially for long-term stays, therefore serviced apartments are probably going to be your best option. As well as being more cost-effective, you will have at least basic kitchen and washing facilities to help you save on food and laundry. Just keep in mind that you’ll be required to pay for the entire stay in advance.
Whereas some banks are known to open accounts with a letter from an employer confirming that your residency is in progress, this is not the norm. Most UAE banks do howver offer account packages for visitors. These are usually a savings account with debit card facilities and a minimum balance, which are often very high. You will not be issued a cheque book or lending facilities as a non-resident. As cheques are incredibly important in the UAE, especially for the rental of property, you will need to ensure that you have this facility as soon as your visa is granted. With this in mind, it’s better to wait until you can open a full current account as it could create further bureaucracy by converting it.
You will be able to withdraw funds using a foreign issued card within the UAE but the fees levied by your bank can vary and often be very expensive, whereas some accounts offer this service for free. There is a restriction of the amount of cash you are allowed to bring into the UAE, set at AED 100,000. This is to combat money laundering so ensure you have made provisions for any cash you will require, as well as any fees your bank will impose for withdrawals within the UAE. You will still need an account with a UAE bank in order to process your salary once you begin your employment, but this is a relatively simple process and banks usually send an agent to your home or work to collect any required documentation.
Utilities such as water, electricity, gas and internet service providers all require a tenancy agreement and residency status. When you rent temporary accommodation, this also circumvents the red tape around utilities as these will be included in the rental price for you. When you are ready to set up home, these services will be available to you once you have completed your rental contract. There are fees to have the services connected and you must show documentation including your tenancy agreement and a copy of both yours and your landlord’s passport.
Even though you’ve signed your work contract and arrived in the UAE, you won’t be able to officially begin your employment on your visit visa. The company sponsoring you to enter the UAE for employment will arrange your work permit from the Ministry of Interior and Labour as part of your residency process. If you are entering the UAE for employment but are sponsored by a spouses residency visa, you will still need your own work permit to be issued through your employer.
Mobile phones are a very important part of life for a new expat, but only a pre-paid visitors SIM is available to people with a visit visa. These are different to the pre-paid SIMs available to those residents with an Emirates ID. There are two mobile providers in the UAE, Etisalat and Du, both of which offer a range of pre-paid tariffs. You must first purchase a SIM card, which are readily available in many places. There are even outlets in the arrival halls at Abu Dhabi and Dubai airport to get you set up straight away. You can choose which package will suit your needs best until you are able to move to a monthly contract. If you wish to wait and use roaming when you first arrive, there are plenty of outlets in all of the major shopping malls and other areas where you can weigh up your options later.
With such a variety of tariffs available, make sure you know what your average usage will be before visiting the outlet as if you have remaining allowances by the end of the monthly term they will not roll over. Even though you can’t arrange anything permanent in the UAE, there are services and processes in place to make sure you can enjoy your time as a new expat before work begins! Some phone companies offer special allowances on social media data to allow you to keep in touch with friends (be aware of their laws on VoIP and other communication restrictions) and many well-known companies offer deals on accommodation for pre-visa visitors.
These are just a few tips to help make sure you’re ready for what awaits you in the UAE. But there’s still a lot more to cover! Luckily for you, we’ve compiled a FREE guide called “101 Tips For Living in the UAE” for just this purpose, so you can be as prepared as possible for your new life abroad. Interested in finding out more? Click here to find out how to get it!