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How to move to Dubai from the UK

For me, moving to the UK was easy: I just had to sell off all my stuff in Antwerp, pack my bags, hop onto the Eurostar and I had moved. Obviously, I had to tell the embassy I now lived in the UK (This is something that HAS to be done if you are Belgian), I needed a national insurance number and tell the council I now lived on my current address and would be paying council tax.

All in all, that took about a day – going to Whitechapel to get my NIS and sending off documents to the embassy did not take all that long.

But our move to Dubai is a lot more expensive and a lot more difficult than we first imagined. And then we are not talking about flights or shipping costs.

Here is what we had to do so far and what we still need to get in order.

things you need to know when moving to dubai

Medical Checks

When you want to move to Dubai you need to undergo a series of medical checks before they decide whether to give you a residency visa or not.

They test you on tuberculosis, Latent tuberculosis, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. People with HIV or Aids will not be able to enter the country as a resident and depending on your job you might be deported when pregnant.

That’s a whole list! Luckily in the western world these kinds of diseases (except for HIV/AIDS) are not that prevalent. However – people who have a person in the family who has had TB or people who have travelled Asia/South America/Africa might want to get checked on TB and latent TB.

In fact: I would get checked on TB or latent TB anyway. There are many horror stories on forums about people having had bronchitis years ago that were unable to enter the emirate because the doctors were unable to rule that the scarring found in the X-rays was not TB scarring. Crazy!

Another way these tests can go scarily wrong is when you were inoculated against TB – like my husband and I are. The Mantoux test – a cheap and easy scratch test to test on tuberculosis, has a high risk of giving a false positive. The council can then decide to deport you – or to perform further tests. Wait… council? Yes! Council!

Basically, whenever there is a case they are not sure about they will put it through a council of doctors who rule case by case if they admit you to the country or deport you. I have the feeling – from reading loads and loads of blog posts and forum posts, that when you are a European or American, you are quite safe. However, someone made a good point about being tested in your home country and taking those test results with you as proof that you do not have TB.

My husband and I went to a travel clinic in central London to have a QuantiFERON-TB gold test. That is a WHOLE mouth full. I know. Basically, they had to take 3 vials of our blood which would then be sent to the lab. We had the results within 3 days. We were free of TB (wooohooo).

The test is NOT cheap. I think we paid somewhere in the vicinity of £120-140 each! But on the other hand – it would be a shame for you to arrive in Dubai, ready to start your new life, only to be deported over old lung scarring or latent TB you picked up on your other travels.

If you have any questions about this I would be more than happy to answer your questions over email!



Make sure your paperwork is in order as well. This means that your Passport needs to be valid for at least another 6 months on the date of entry. I just had mine renewed but I can imagine that this is not the case for everyone. Especially for people from countries that have ridiculously short passport life (Belgium – 6 years!).

Due to the medical checks it is very hard (but not impossible) to receive a residency visa on pre- or on arrival. When arriving in the UAE as an American, Canadian or European citizen, you will receive a TOURIST visa on arrival. You might want to ask for a long-term multiple entry visa that gives you 90 days in the country instead of the normal 30 days. This gives you a bit more leeway to figure out your paperwork – and if you do not have a job lined up it gives you time to do interviews and find a job.

When you have a job already lined up, it is highly likely that your company will arrange your visa for you. You will probably have to do your wife’s of husband’s visa yourself.

You will also need your documents attested by the UAE embassy. And this is where it becomes very expensive very fast. You will want a notary or solicitor to attest your marriage licenses, your diploma’s, bank statements, police certificate etc after which you need to send everything off to the UAE embassy. Each document will cost about £30 or 150 UAD to get attested.

Basically: if you know a solicitor or notary that might want to do it for free (like we did), you only pay the £30 fee per document. If you need to hire a notary or solicitor you will need to pay another £60 PER document to get them to sign (attest) it when you don’t want to send off the original (for instance your diploma).

Some employers – especially if you go abroad to teach, will ask you for a police certificate (which is itself costs £80 in fast track) and your diploma to be attested first by a solicitor (£60) then attested by the legalisation office (£30 per document) and then to the UAE embassy (£30 per document).

My wallet is crying!

Okay so Josh and I got married in Belgium. This means that we have to get our marriage certificate legalised by the Belgian Home Office (€40) and then the UAE consul needs to sign the document (€60). This means we PROBABLY need to make a little trip to Brussels although I might ask the Belgian Embassy here in London if there are any alternatives.

Coming from Belgium, red tape champion of the world since 1830 – this is quite a normal process for me, but I can imagine this can be quite overwhelming for others. Make a checklist of all the things that need to be done – maybe even call the UAE embassy to get things straight, and work through everything on the list step by step. Be organised!

How to move to dubai from the UK

Other things you might want to consider.

  1. You need to be married. No – I am not joking. You can’t move to the UAE with your boyfriend or girlfriend, no matter how long you have been together or how much you love each other. It is forbidden to cohabit with anyone that is not your direct family or your LEGAL partner (of the opposite sex). They are very serious about this!
  2. You cannot bring your E-cigarette or vape. They are forbidden! As a tourist, you might get away with it by the pool or in your hotel lobby but vapes and e-cigarettes are overall forbidden in Dubai. Don’t ask me why – they just are. I know there are a lot of people taking the risk (but I personally wouldn’t).
  3. You can’t hold hands with your husband. Well, I am lying – holding hands is a grey area. You might get some nasty looks. But kissing might get you arrested just like hugging – and I would DEFINITELY not have sex in public unless you want to see the inside of an Emirati cell for an undefined amount of time. I guess the whole not-holding-hands-kissing-in-public thing will be the hardest thing for Josh and I. But I am sure we get used to it soon enough!
  4. Leave your porn-collection at home. It is illegal to import porn into the UAE.

Sell your clothes and buy new ones!

I have been selling most of my dresses and clothes on eBay. Dubai has a strict dress code where shoulders and upper legs need to be covered – and no cleavage!

I love dresses with a good cleave which is why I have been shopping online for more modest dresses while auctioning off the ones I currently own.

Keep a few warm clothes at your parent’s or family’s house for when you are visiting cold and soggy Europe – but overall you will be baking in temperatures of 30 to 40 degrees.

Josh is going to go on a linen-shopping-spree once summer break has started because I do not think he would survive in the thick and warm clothes he wears to teach in the UK.

I hope I was able to answer some of the questions you might have about moving to the UAE. I welcome all comments about mistakes I might have made ( I tried to be as honest as possible) and would love to answer all your questions you might have yourself.

Lieze Neven blog

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