Finding a Job
Most Americans who come to Dubai will already have a job offer. You may have applied directly to a company, or you may have used a recruitment agency specializing in the Gulf.
An employment contract is needed to secure a residence visa in Dubai. Your employer pays the cost of the residence visa, and is responsible for ensuring you have adequate health coverage.
The PRO employed by the company offering you a job will be the person to sort out your visa and associated requirements. Often, this is the person who will meet you at the airport!
In order to get a residence visa, you’ll be asked to take a medical test, which includes screening for HIV and tuberculosis (T.B.). Once you’re cleared, you’ll have your residence visa processed. You’ll also need an Emirates ID card. This card is required when accessing government services.
If you are coming to Dubai as a tourist, but with the intention to look for work, be aware that the tourist visa given upon arrival at the airport has a duration of 30 days from the date it is stamped.
Starting Your Own Business
There are two ways to start your own business in Dubai. Option 1 is to have an Emirati sponsor. He or she will hold a 51% stake in your company. With this option, prospective businesses embark on a six-step LLC company formation process with one or more partners.
Option 2 is for people wishing to start their own company without Emirati sponsorship. They license their business in a so-called “free zone,” such as Virtuzone. Essentially, you pay the free zone a fee in return for the right to operate a business within its physical boundary.
What to Look For in Your Contract
Be meticulous when reading your contract. Clarify any points that you are unsure of. Your contract may include things that are not usual in the US, such as clauses forbidding you to post negative comments about your employer on social media (not generally a good idea, anyway).
Be sure that you know your job title, job description, and your liabilities should your contract be broken. Your Dubai employer should not keep your passport, and your employer cannot change the terms of a signed contract upon your arrival in Dubai.
Most jobs have a three-month probation period, but probation periods have been known to extend from six to twelve months. If you do not pass your probation period, then you will be terminated – and may be liable for any relocation costs (furniture allowances, etc.) that your employer provided.
If you do not pass your probation, and fail to secure another job in Dubai, then you will need to leave the country.
Employers are required to pay an end-of-service benefit (gratuity) of around one month’s salary for each year that you work for the company. This is your right, by law, regardless of whether or not a full contract term was completed. Companies can pro-rate gratuities if you leave mid-contract.
A List of What to Look For in Your Dubai Employment Contract:
- Job title and job description
- Working hours
- Vacations and holiday pay
- Duration of contract
- Probation period
- Benefits such as flight allowance, furniture allowance, accommodation allowance, education allowance, relocation allowance, and any other costs associated with your move to Dubai
- Information about the responsibilities and liabilities of both parties, should the contract be terminated by either party
Useful Things to Have When You Arrive in Dubai
- Extra photocopies of your birth certificate and passport, and those of your dependents
- Extra passport photos for you and your dependents
- Documentation of higher education and training required by your employer, such as diplomas and certificates
- If your employer has requested that your degrees be notarized and attested, it is useful to bring extra copies of the stamped documents
In years gone by, it was quite often the case that employers would offer attractive employment packages including flights, accommodation, and good holidays – as to entice people to work in Dubai. Such packages are becoming few and far between.
If you are applying for government positions, particularly in higher education, there is a certificate equivalency process required for certain types of degrees. Your prospective employer should check that your diplomas and certificates are from an institution recognized by the Ministry of Education.
If you have problems with your labour contract, you can review the contract at the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization website.
Dubai is in the United Arab Emirates, a country that does not withhold income tax. Any tax you pay is indirect, and usually in the form of fees paid for government services. American citizens should consult the Tax Guide for US Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad.
The US Embassy in the Emirates has a great deal of information on how to file taxes. Essentially, Americans are required to file income taxes on their worldwide income. These tax requirements are based on income, filing status, and age.
Adjusting to Your New Workplace
In his book, “Don’t They Know it’s Friday?” Jeremy Williams explores the cultural considerations essential to work and do business successfully in the Gulf region.
Adjusting to your new work environment, and to your colleagues’ perceived idiosyncrasies, will take time. Be patient and have a sense of humour.
Your colleagues will likely be from a variety of nationalities. They will be quick to forgive a mistake, but less forgiving if they sense any resentment or feelings of superiority on your part.
The weekend in Dubai is on Friday and Saturday. Dress is usually smart, and you cannot get away with a casual dress style as easily as you would in the US. You may find that things move slowly, until a superior makes an urgent request that needs to be delivered immediately.
Try to take it in stride, and you’ll learn to prepare for the unexpected.
Sending money to the US can be done via online bank transfer. This is generally the simplest method, although exchange houses abound – and there you can conduct a wire transfer. The UAE Dirham is pegged to the US Dollar, and the exchange rate stays fairly constant, at 3.68 Dirhams to the Dollar.
International pension planning, education fund planning, and estate planning are important considerations when working in Dubai. P.I.C. Middle East offers a range of plans and services to help protect you and your hard-earned money.
Upon receiving your end-of-service benefits, your bank may freeze your funds to ensure all credit card debts are paid off before you leave Dubai. It is a good idea to maintain a bank account outside of the UAE so that you are never caught unaware and without cash.
Likewise, assets are frozen should you pass away, which may leave dependents in the lurch. It is a good idea to have access to funds outside the country, or in cash.
In a nutshell, there are a lot of good opportunities in Dubai. Moving to Dubai takes planning and preparation. Likewise, leaving the country requires a good exit strategy so that you’ll have some savings and a job to go to in the US. Most people plan on a two-year exit strategy when they decide to leave Dubai.