Employment visas in Dubai

How can you work in Dubai?
To work in Dubai, you have couple of options as for your visa status: your stay in the UAE can be sponsored by your family (dad, mom, sister or brother), your spouse or one company.


If your company will sponsor your visa you will have an employment visa.

After you arrive, it is mandatory to get a health card, followed by a residence permit on your passport and a labour card, particularly if you work for the private sector. If you work for the government sector, the government department will take the necessary procedures on your behalf.

To get your health card, you will need to go to a Medical Fitness Centre in Dubai, here you will go trough some examinations, but in aprox. 30 minutes you are ready, your results in couple of days.

Here are some useful links if you want to read a little bit more about this:

  • for the UAE Labour Law  on the Ministry of Labour website (unfortunately the English version doesn’t work that well as the Arabic, there are some things on the site you won’t be able to find). If you are an employee, you can verify your contract or labour card through the MOL’s website. An employer can also get the personal details of an employee in addition to company information, list of employees, licence or labour card status after logging into the website.
  • For attestation of your diploma you can find more information on the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research‘s website. Before seeking a job, particularly in the government sector, you must attest your academic qualifications as per the observed regulations. If you are holder of a degree from a foreign country or a university which is not licensed in the UAE, you must seek educational accreditation of your degree from the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

You need to keep in mind that applying for a Freezone visa has its own rules (similar to the regular visa, but still a little bit different).

Good luck!

How to get a liquor licence in the UAE?

Now that you already know how easy is to get or to change you driving licence, you will be surprised how many document and approval you will need to get a bottle of vine or a six-pack… simply put a liquor licence. Here are some instructions, details to apply for a Dubai or Abu Dhabi alcohol licence:

New licence
First you will need an application form, what you can get at any liquor shop.
The application form you will need to fill it in with your details and get it stamped and signed by your employer.

Theeeen…attach copies of:

  • Passport, Residence Visa and Passport Photo (for you and your spouse)
  • Tenancy Contract or NOC (No objection Certificate) from your landlord
  • Either:

Labour Contract (issued by the Ministry of Labour), or
Salary Certificate if you work in a Free Zone (issued by the Free Zone Authority)

When you are submitting your application form and documents together, you will need to pay a AED 160 municipality fee. Then you will need to give all these to a shop asisstent at any liquer shop.

Renew licence
Complete the application form and get it stamped and signed by your employer then submit this with a copy of your Tenancy Contract.
If your employer and visa hasn’t changed no other documents will be required

Terms & conditions

  • You must be non-Muslim and over 21 years old
  • You must earn in excess of AED 3,000 per month
  • You must be a resident of Dubai and if your visa is stamped in another Emirate other than Dubai or if you are employed by a company in any of Dubai Free Zones you will require a NOC
  • If you are self employed you will need to provide a copy of your Trade Licence.

We don’t know too many alcohol shop around Dubai, actually we know only one place, but it’s located in a convinient and surprising place: Mall of the Emirates. The name of the store is MMI and you can enter only from the parking area, on the ground floor, in row D (Next to the Food Court entrance).

Obtaining a Driving License in the UAE (Dubai&Abu Dhabi)

If you are lucky, it takes a few hours and around 300AED, and you can have your Emirates D.L. Here the laws state that with tourist/visit visa you can drive with your original licence, from your home country, but after you get the residence visa, you must change your license in order to be able to drive (legally) your car.

You need the following documents:

  • 2 passport photos
  • NOC (No Objection Certificate) from
    your sponsor (employer)
  • Copy of your passport & visa
  • Legal translation of your licence (costs around 70-100AED)
  • Emirate ID or at least the receipt that the process had been started
  • Your original passport, and Home License

The procedure is quite simple and fast. After you have all the mentioned documents, you go to the Traffic & Licencing Dept. or RTA (depending on the Emirate you have the visa from). There you have to pass an eye examination (costs 25AED).

With the eye exam paper and all the others mentioned above, you can go to the counter where they make a photo of you, and in less then 5 minutes they hand over your new Emirates Driving License. (here you will pay 200AED).

If you are not lucky, it means that your home country is one of those whose citizens need to take driving lessons (need to take the full lesson&exam stuff). The bad part is, that not only it takes around one month, but you will have to pay around 800AED for that. This is necessary if you don’t have a home licence, more info here (about the driving lessons and exams).

Usually European countries, Australia & NZ or the States are not a problem, but I heard that Hungarians need to take the lessons, while all the EU member countries surrounding Hungary not (Romania, Slovakia, Austria).

To be on the safe side always ask in advance, you can use the following phone numbers:

for Dubai8009090 (RTA)

for Abu Dhabi: 600577777 (Abu Dhabi Licencing Dept)

Hand Gestures!

Did you know, that holding the fingers in a pear shaped configuration and moving hands slightly up and down is a gesture to slow down or wait, in the UAE culture?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but in other cultures this gesture has a very different meaning. In Argentine it means “why??” or “what??”, used when the listener can not believe what someone is saying.

As I know the Italian meaning is a slightly different from the Argentinian one.

Do you know the exact meaning of this gesture in the Italian culture?

Short time visas

The kind of visa that you require for entry into the UAE depends on several different factors such as your nationality, the purpose of your planned visit and its planned duration.

– If you are a national citizen of a GCC country you do not require a visa to visit the UAE. You will simply need to produce your GCC country passport upon arrival at the point of entry into the UAE

– The following categories of visitors may receive their visit visa at the airport, upon arrival.

1. AGCC Residents (Citizens of the Arab Gulf Co-operation Council member states -Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and Saudi Arabia) do not need a visa to enter the UAE.)who are not GCC nationals but who have a high professional status such as company managers, business people, auditors, accountants, doctors, engineers, pharmacists, or employees working in the public sector, their families, drivers and personal staff sponsored by them, are eligible for a non-renewable 30-day visa upon arrival at the approved ports of entry.

2. National citizens of the following countries: 

UK (with the right of abode in UK), France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Finland, Spain, Monaco, Vatican, Iceland, Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein, United States, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and holders of Hong Kong SAR passports will be granted a free of charge visa for a single visit upon arrival in the UAE.

– If you do NOT fall into one of the above categories, you will require a visa and a sponsor for your visit. The sponsor normally applies for the visa on your behalf.
Valid sponsors may be as follows:-
a – Hotels & Tourist Companies can apply, on your behalf, for a Tourist Visa (valid for 30 days); or a Service Visa (valid for 14 days); or a Visit Visa (valid for 30 days and can be extended for other 30 days)
b – Airlines & Airlines Handlers apply on behalf of their crew members for a 96-hour Transit Visa.
c – Other Organizations based in the UAE may only apply for Visit Visas and Service Visas.
d – Individuals (Relatives or Friends) already resident in the UAE may, subject to guidlines, also apply on your behalf for a Visit Visa.

Entry Service Permit

An Entry Service Permit applies to the following categories and their families accompanying them: company manager’s representatives, sales managers, account auditors, delegations from companies or establishments to carry out a commercial activity in the UAE, consultants requested by companies operating in the UAE that are required to carry out an urgent task.

This visa is valid for use within 14 days from the date of issue. The duration of stay is 14 days from date of entry, exclusive of arrival and departure days. It is non-renewable.

In order to complete the application, the sponsor will require the visitor’s date of arrival and flight details, and a photocopy of the first few pages of the visitor’s passport which should be valid for at least three months. This type of entry permit will only be issued as urgent at a fee of AED 220.

The Entry Service Permit holder may enter and depart the UAE through any airport.

Visit Visa
The Visit Visa applies to tourists who wish to spend more than 14 days in UAE, those coming for family visits as well as those on long-term business visits. It requires the sponsorship of any UAE resident or any company or hotel licensed to operate within the UAE. A refundable AED 2,000 guarantee from expatriates who wish to sponsor distant relatives is imposed.

This visa is valid for entry within two months from its date of issue.

The Visit Visa is valid for 60 days and is renewable for a total stay of up to 90 days. A fee of AED 500 is charged for this renewal.

In order to complete the application, the sponsor will require the visitor’s date of arrival and arrival details and a photocopy of the first few pages of the visitor’s passport, which must be valid for at least three months. There is a fee of AED 100 for obtaining a visit visa. There is also a fee of AED 10 for visa delivery service by DNATA. Hotels, hotel apartments, tour operators, travel agents and airlines may not levy supplementary charges or processing fees in excess of AED 50/- for arranging visas for visitors.

The Visit Visa holder may enter and leave the country through any port of entry in the UAE.

Tourist Visa
A special category of visas under the Visit Visa type is a Tourist Visa, which can be obtained for individual tourists from: East and West Europe, Turkey, Bulgaria, Poland, Ukraine, Albania, Russia, the Hellenic Republic, St Kitts-Navis, St Lucia, Mexico, Cuba, Bermuda, Belize, Guyana, French Guiana, Martinique, Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent, Jamaica, Palao other non-defined American nationalities, Thailand, South Africa, Singapore, China, Malta, Cyprus.

The Tourist Visa entitles its holder to a 30 day stay and is non-renewable. The Tourist Visa requires the sponsorship of hotels and tour operators who bring in visitors from the above listed countries. The fee is AED 100. There is also a fee of AED 10 for visa delivery service by DNATA. Hotels, hotel apartments, tour operators, travel agents and airlines may not levy supplementary charges or processing fees in excess of AED 50/- for arranging visas for visitors.

Multiple Entry Visas
Multiple-entry Visas are issued to business visitors who have a relationship with either a multinational or other reputable local company, and who are frequent visitors to the UAE. This type of visa is valid for six months from the date of issue and the duration of each stay is 30 days. The validity is non-renewable. The cost of this visa is AED 1,000.

The visitor must enter the UAE on a visit visa and obtain the multiple entry visa while in the country. The visa is stamped on the passport.

Transit Visa
Transit passengers stopping at Dubai International Airport for a minimum of 8 hours and meeting the certain conditions mentioned below are eligible for obtaining a 96-hour transit visa. These conditions are as follow:

  • Airlines sponsored only (prior arrangements maybe required)
  • Applications should have confirmed onward booking to the 3rd destination
  • For transit passengers or those holding special permits, or for visit or mission, the passport or the document must be valid for at least three months

Citizens of the following countries are not eligible for the 96 hours visa on arrival:
Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Niger, and Yemen.

The transit visas for passengers arriving at Dubai International Airport can be arranged by Emirates Airline for its passengers or by Marhaba Services for those travelling on other airlines. Marhaba Services Tel: 00971 4 2162657; 2164629
email: marhaba@emirates.co

German Citizens
The German citizens (tourists and business people) may apply to the UAE embassy in Germany for a one or two year multiple-entry visa. No sponsor is required. The maximum duration of stay of visa holders should not exceed three months a year. The visa fee is AED 1,500

US Citizens
The US citizens (tourists and business people) may apply to the UAE embassies in the US for one to ten year multiple-entry visas. A sponsor is required and the visa will be granted free of charge. The maximum duration of stay should not exceed six months a visit

UAE Visa Requirements For CANADIAN Citizens

(The Requirements may be changed in the future)
I. Visas Issued from the UAE Embassy in Ottawa:
1) Visa Application to be correctly and fully completed (typed).

2) Clear and recent passport size photo.

3) Passport copy (Passport must be valid for at least 6 months at departure).

4) Complete the Attachment to the Visa Aplication & the Application Form.

5) Money order, Certified Cheque or Draft Cheque with the correct amount in Canadian Currency needs to be made payble to the UAE Embassy, Ottawa.

6) The Amount paid is non-refundable in case of a visa refusal.

7) The Visa application (with all requirements), the Self-Addressed Prepaid Return Envelop and the money Order need to be sent by courier to the UAE Embassy, attention Visa Section.

8) The complete Visa Application needs to be sent to the UAE Embassy 15 working days before the departure date.

For more information visit the website of the Government of Dubai or UAE Interact website.

Top 20 reasons not to move to Dubai (my comments)

I found a few forums with topics about why not to move here. I copy the reasons here, and I will write my personal opinion after each of them (source):

1. There is no standard address system making mail-to-the door delivery impossible. In fact, it makes anything nearly impossible. The taxi driver, here for only two days, and having learned English from old Beatles albums has no clue where your house is. He won’t tell you that of course, he’ll just keep calling and saying, “Okay, okay. Yeah, yeah.” When you purchase something that requires delivery they do not have an address line, but a box where you are expected to draw a map. Not able to draw a map? Explain like this: I live on the street after the airport road, but before the roundabout. Go past the mosque and make a U-turn.

I have a job that requires lots of travelling, even to emirates which I never visited before. I had no difficulties finding the places, and the explanations as described in the post were really helpful.

2. The government blocks all web sites that it deems “offensive” to the “religious, moral, and cultural values” of the UAE. That’s hard to swallow for a freedom loving American, but I get it. I do not understand, however, why all VOIP access and related web sites are blocked. I guess the government also takes offense to people inexpensively contacting their families back home. You’re welcome to call using the analog service provided by the government-owned telephone monopoly, but it will cost you a whole lot more. So much so, in fact, your frequency of calls will be greatly diminished if you can afford them at all. The government says VOIP is blocked for security reasons, yet even the residents of communist China and North Korea have access to these inexpensive calls.

Simple solution, use a proxy server as everybody does. 

3. It is really hot outside. Not Florida in July hot; Hot as if you were locked in a car in Florida in July with sufficient humidity to make it feel as though you are drowning. Hot as in 120 degrees with nearly 100% humidity. Do not look to the wind for relief. This is the equivalent of pointing a hairdryer on full blast directly at your face. Pour fine moon dust-like sand over your head as you do this and you get the picture.

Yes it is. And also airconditioning everywhere.

4. There are too few trees, plants, and grass – or living things aside from us crazy humans, for that matter. Ever see a bird pant? I have. In my opinion, human beings were not meant to live in such a place. If we were, there would be sufficient water and shade. The only greenery around are the roadside gardens planted by the government, who waters the hell out of them in the middle of the day. Thanks a lot! Didn’t you say we should cut down on our water consumption because you are unable to keep up with the demand? I have an idea: let’s all move someplace where it’s not 120 degrees outside.

Taking into the consideration the climate of this region, my opinion is that there are plenty of parks and green areas in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. If you ever visitid Al Ain, you will change your mind about the UAE as a desert.

5. This country prides itself so much on its glitz and glamour that it put a picture of its 7-star hotel on the license plate. Yet, the public toilets in the king-of-bling Gold Souk district are holes in the ground with no toilet paper or soap. Hoses to rinse your nether regions, however, are provided. This results in a mass of water on the floor that you must stand in to pee. Try squatting without touching anything and keeping your pants from touching anything either. Oh yeah. It’s 120 degrees in there too.

I’ve never been to the public toilets at the Gold Souk, but at gas stations or metro station I was amazed how clean the restrooms are. At the malls are even cleaner than in most malls in Europe, mostly because of the cheap labour, who keeps them clean.

6. This country encourages businesses to hire people from other poor countries to come here and work. They have them sign contracts that are a decade long and then take their passports. Even though taking passports is supposedly illegal, the government knows it happens and does nothing to enforce the law. These poor people are promised a certain pay, but the companies neglect to tell them they will be deducting their cost of living from their paychecks, leaving them virtually penniless – that is, if they choose to pay them. Companies hold back paychecks for months at a time. When the workers strike as a result, they are jailed. Protesting is illegal, you see (apparently this law IS enforced).

These people will never make enough to buy a ticket home and even if they do, they do not have their passports. They live crammed in portables with tons of others, in highly unsanitary conditions. The kicker: they are building hotels that cost more to stay in for one night than they will make in an entire year. Things are so bad that a number of laborers are willing to throw themselves in front of cars because their death would bring their family affluence in the form of diya, blood money paid to the victim’s family as mandated by the government.

I know Indian operation manager, who told me that if he gives to the labour (also Indians) their passports they will simply run away. Btw what about the cheap workers in the UK, US from different part of East Europe and so. Only those people come here to work who gets more than at his/her homecountry

7. Things are not cheaper here. I’m sick of people saying that. I read the letters to the editor page of the paper and people say to those who complain about the cost of living rising here, “Well, it’s cheaper than your home country or you wouldn’t be here.” The only thing cheaper here is labor. Yes, you can have a maid – but a bag of washed lettuce will cost you almost $10.

Things are cheaper here even than in Eastern Europe. The two things that are more expensive are the telecommunication and the rents.

8. There are traffic cameras everywhere. I consider this cheating. Where are the damn cops? I drove around this city for weeks before I ever even saw a cop. Trust me, they need traffic cops here. People drive like idiots. It’s perfectly okay to turn left from the far right lane, but speeding even just a couple of kilometers over will get you fined. These cameras are placed strategically as you come down hills, or just as the speed limit changes. Before you know it…BAM! Fined. Forget to pay the bill and your car will be impounded.

The cameras are put on most of the roads on same distance one to another (5 miles I think). Because of my work I’m driving around 5000 km/month, I was never fined. You just need to respect the speed limits, is that simple. On the other hand, yes, there are a few drivers who are idiots, as in any other country.

9. The clothing some of these women wear makes no sense to me. I understand that as part of your religion you are required to dress in a particular way, but a black robe over your jeans and turtleneck and cover your head when it is 120 degrees outside? In the gym some women wear five layers of clothing…sweatpants and t-shits over sweaters with headscarves. Yet the men’s clothing makes absolute sense: white, airy, and nothing underneath but their skivvies.

I think it’s their choice. If you feel offended by their dresses you can go home, and watch teenagers almost naked running around the city, for some people that is more offending.

10. People stare at you. I am sick of being stared at. I’m stared at by men who have never seen a fair-skinned blue-eyed woman before, or who have and think we are all prostitutes so it’s okay to stare. They stare at me when I am fully covered or with my husband, and even follow me around. It’s beyond creepy and has brought me to tears on more than one occasion. The staring is not limited to men, either. I’m stared at angrily by female prostitutes who think I am running in on their territory by having a few drinks with my husband at the bar.

I have lots of westerner friends, they never told me this. The only possibility is, that you were dressed not respecting the local customs, on that case, yes, that can be possible. See about this our earlier blog post.

11. Prostitutes? Oh hell yes, there are prostitutes. Tons of them. So, let me get this straight, I can’t look at a naked picture of a person on the Internet in the privacy of my home, but it is okay to go out in public and buy a few for the night?

Yes there are here too, and about the internet, please consider my advise below point 2.

12. Alcohol can only be sold in hotels and a handful of private clubs. A person must own a liquor license to consume in the privacy of their own home. To obtain a liquor license you must get signed approval from your boss, prove a certain level of salary that determines how much you are allowed to buy, and then submit several mug shots (aka passport photos) for approval. Pay the fee and the additional 30% tax on every purchase and you may drink at home. Then again, you can just pick up a few bottles in the airport duty free on your way in to the country, but two is the max. Why not just drive out to Ajman where it’s a free-for-all and load up the SUV? It’s easy enough, but crossing the Emirates with alcohol is illegal – particularly in the dry emirate of Sharjah, which just happens to lie between Dubai and Ajman. Go figure.

Crossing the Emirates with alcohol is NOT illegal, the only emirate where is illegal the possession of alcohol is Sharjah. Btw, the shop is not in Ajman, but in Um al Quwain. The prices are quite good at the alcohol shops in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

13. Not only do you have to get your boss’s approval to obtain a liquor license, but you must also get the company’s approval to rent property, have a telephone, or get satellite TV.

You don’t need your boss’s approval for anything. You need you sponsor’s approval (if you are on a husband visa, your husband’s approval is needed, if on a wife’s visa you wife’s approval and so on. If it happens that your company is your visa sponsor, than yes, you need their approval.

14. Back to the craziness on the roads: If I see one more kid standing up and waving to me out the back window while flying down the road at 160 kph…whatever happened to seatbelts?

Wearing a seatbelt is mandatory in the country, unfortunately there are some idiots, as in any other countries.

15. When is the weekend again? Let me get this straight: the weekend used to be Thursday and Friday, but no one took off all of Thursday, just a half day really. Now the government says Friday and Saturday are the weekend, but some people only take off Friday, others still take a half day on Thursday, but some might just take a half day on Saturday instead. Anyway you slice it, Sundays are workdays and little business can be accomplished Thursday through Saturday.

Legally (as per labour law) the only free day is Friday. It depends on the company if they give “half days” or any additional offs.

16. There are few satellite television operators: The movie channels play movies that are old and outdated. Many of them went straight to video back in the States. Every sitcom that failed in the US has been purchased and is played here. Old episodes of Knight Rider are advertised like it is the coolest thing since sliced bread. The TV commercials are repeated so often that I am determined NOT to buy anything I see advertised on television here just for thee principle of it. When I say repeated often, I mean every commercial break – sometimes more than once.

I can not comment on this, I am not a fan of TV’s. Any information or entertainment you need you can have on you PC.

17. The roads are horribly designed. Driving ten minutes out of the way to make a U-turn is not uncommon. People are not able to give directions most of the time (remember reason #1), and the maps are little help because most have few road names on them, if any. Where is interchange four? You just have to hope you got on the freeway in the right place and start counting because they are not numbered. Miss it and you’ll likely end up on the other side of town before you are able to turn around and go back.

Yes, some times you have to wait too much to make a U turn, but when designing a road the most important thing is the safety, what you think would happen if after each mile there would be a U-turn (I tell you, accidents and traffic jams)

18. Taxi drivers are dangerous and smell. Taxi drivers work very hard here to earn a living because travel by taxi is still relatively inexpensive, even though the cost of living is not (see reason #7). Because of this you may have a driver who has had little sleep or the opportunity to shower for several days. Many of these drivers have just as much difficulty finding their way around as you do, but add to this a third-world country driving style and extreme exhaustion and, well, remember to buckle up for safety.

Taxi drivers are nice. Yes some of them smells. And yes they are not that good with directions. So in this country is only safe to take a taxi if you know where you want to go, and what is the exact route.

19. Speeding is an Emirati sport and Emirates Road is just an extension of the Dubai Autodrome. I know I keep mentioning the roads, but really, much of this city’s issues are encompassed by the erratic and irrational behavior displayed on its streets. Visions of flashing lights on even flashier, limo-tinted SUVs haunt me as I merge on to the highway. Local nationals are somehow able to get the sun-protecting dark window tint denied to us lowly expats and use it to hide their faces as they tailgate you incessantly at unbelievably high speeds, their lights flickering on and off and horn blaring repeatedly. It doesn’t matter that you can’t get over, or if doing so would be particularly dangerous, they will run you off the road to get in front of you. Don’t even think about giving someone the finger; the offense could land you in jail. Tailgating is, unbelievably, legal.

Yes, this is true.

20. Dubai is far from environmentally friendly. Ever wonder how much damage those manmade islands are doing to the delicate ocean ecosystem? Coral reefs, sea grasses, and oyster beds that were once part of protected marine lands lie choked under a barrage of dredged up sea sand. Consider the waste that occurs from erecting buildings on top of these sand monsters and from the people that occupy them coupled with the lack of an effective recycling program and you have an environmental disaster on your hands. Add to this more gas guzzling SUVs than fuel-efficient cars on the road and the need for 24-hour powerful air-conditioning and its evident that the environment is not high on the priority list of the UAE.

I think they will never pollute that much per person as the USA for example.

Dresscode in the Emirates

We all know that even though Dubai is a Muslim state, it’s quite liberal.

Wearing abaya for expat women is not mandatory, but of course you will see a lot of people wearing long and short sleeves too. Even though it’s a very liberal country you may keep in mind wearing tops during the hot weather or mini-skirts for women, shorts for man can be offending for some locals.

I think we can say in general, wherever you go abroad it’s nice to respect the locals and their culture…Here is true too…Most probably you won’t go to prison just because you have “immodest decollete” or your short is too short, but you will have a lot of eyes on you when walking around.

You won’t need to wait until the summer to get some heat…and when hot outside…it’s cold inside… You always should bring some long-sleeves when going to any mall. Most of the malls has their own dress code , which means only that you shouldn’t show too much…but probably nobody will stop you at the front door to put some clothes on. If they do, you still can explain that the reason you came shopping is to buy some pretty good dress or just a jumper 🙂

When going on a business meeting or interview, it’s good to dress up formal. Suits for men and costume or coat with trousers. Local women wear abaya and men wear kandura…which goes for any event.