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How To Move To Dubai – A Guide For South Africans

Sep 10, 2023 | Living in Dubai

Dreaming of a life under the golden Dubai sun? You’re not alone. Dubai’s exciting blend of Eastern tradition and Western convenience offers folks like us many appealing attractions – from abundant career opportunities to a high standard of living. But let’s be real, the journey from the ‘Rainbow Nation’ to the ‘City of Gold’ isn’t a walk in the park. It needs careful planning and a good grasp of what the move entails. So you may wonder how to move to Dubai for South Africans? Read on to find out!

This guide will give you a detailed look at practical aspects like visa processes, financial considerations, and adapting to Dubai’s lifestyle and cultural norms. By reading this, you’ll gain the knowledge you need to make your transition smoother and embark confidently on this exciting new chapter of your life. So, let’s get you ready to turn your Dubai dreams into reality!

Exploring Reasons to Move to Dubai from South Africa

Apartment Living In Dubai

Employment Opportunities

If you’re a South African considering moving to Dubai, you’ll find many employment opportunities. Dubai is a bustling hub of business and innovation, with a variety of job prospects in fields like engineering, nursing, digital marketing, sales, and business development. It’s known for its thriving startup scene and strong business freedom index. The best-paying careers include IT management, data science, HR management, law, teaching, actuarial science, executive positions, and marketing. You’ll significantly increase your chances of landing a job in Dubai if you’ve got relevant experience and qualifications.

Quality of Life

Dubai offers a high standard of living, which is another attractive factor for South Africans like you. The city boasts a high quality of life, a diverse and multicultural population, and a warm climate. The healthcare system is top-notch, and the city’s safe with low crime rates. However, you should note that the cost of living, especially housing, can be relatively high. Despite this, the city’s good transportation system, reputable universities, and tolerant attitude towards different cultures and religions contribute to its appeal.

Cultural Experience

Dubai presents a unique cultural experience, blending Eastern tradition with Western convenience. This multicultural city has a diverse expat population and offers a range of cultural activities and attractions. As a South African in Dubai, you can immerse yourself in the local culture by exploring historic neighbourhoods, taking traditional boat rides, visiting cultural centres, and trying local cuisine. Familiarising yourself with local laws, customs, and dress codes will help you fully appreciate and respect the cultural experience Dubai offers.

Tourism Opportunities

Dubai isn’t just a place to live and work; it’s also a fantastic place to play. The city offers a range of activities and places to explore, making it a great base for South Africans who love to travel. English is widely spoken, making navigating the city and interacting with locals and other expats easy. From the Burj Khalifa’s stunning architecture to the Gold Souk’s bustling markets, there’s always something to see and do in Dubai.

Moving to Dubai from South Africa can be a rewarding experience, offering improved safety, better pay, and a transport hub for international travel. However, it requires careful planning and consideration, including understanding visa requirements, budgeting finances, obtaining health insurance, and familiarising yourself with transportation options. While South Africans can’t obtain citizenship in the UAE, the city is generally welcoming to both citizens and expats, and any incidents of discrimination can be reported to responsive law enforcement.

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Understanding the Migration Process

Aerial Shot Of Dubai

Visa Types and Processes

As a South African planning your move, it’s crucial to understand the various visa options. These encompass employment, dependent, freelance, student, investor, and property owner visas. Each category has specific requirements and eligibility criteria. For instance, an employment visa is necessary if your purpose is employment. Similarly, students require a student visa, and potential business owners need an investor visa.

Necessary Documents

The visa and application process paperwork also varies with the visa type. For work permits or residency, you must provide a passport-sized photograph, a copy of your passport, and educational certificates duly attested by the UAE Embassy in South Africa and the MOFAIC. If your spouse in Dubai is sponsoring you, an attested marriage certificate is necessary.

For a student visa, you need a copy of your passport, a passport-sized photograph, and a letter of acceptance from the relevant UAE educational institution. For a freelance permit, you need your updated resume or CV, a recent photograph, copies of your passport and visa, an NOC from your UAE sponsor, and a bank reference letter.

Legal Considerations

Residing in Dubai requires adherence to the cultural and religious norms of the country. In a Muslim nation, modest dressing is expected. Certain activities, such as consuming alcohol and cohabiting with an unmarried member of the opposite gender, are regulated by law.

Process Timelines

The process of securing a job and the processing time for a corresponding visa can span 6 to 12 months. It’s not advisable to enter the UAE on a tourist visa with the intention of job hunting. If you have a job offer, ensure the company provides you with an entry permit. If your residency isn’t processed within 30 days, you have to do a border run and pay for another tourist visa. You won’t have access to medical care or company benefits until you have residency under your sponsor’s (company’s) name.

Regarding accommodation, be prepared to pay at least two months of rent in advance. Most employers don’t provide housing in Dubai, so this expense needs to be factored into your budget. Rent is typically paid upfront in one large sum, but some landlords may accept monthly or bi-monthly payments. You usually pay one month’s rent before you move in and another as a security deposit. Don’t forget to account for the deposit and startup costs for utilities and internet when moving into a new place.

Navigating The Financial Implications

Sunset In Dubai

Understanding the financial aspects of your move is crucial. This involves assessing the cost of living, understanding the tax system and financial regulations, managing remittance and financial transfers, and evaluating the job market and salaries.

Cost of Living Comparison

Dubai’s cost of living is significantly higher than Johannesburg’s. This includes housing, transportation, groceries, and other daily expenses. For instance, rent prices in Dubai are over three times higher than in Johannesburg. Food, personal care items, and transportation also cost more in Dubai.

To illustrate, a combo meal at a fast food restaurant in Dubai is around AED 32.75, while a litre of whole-fat milk is around AED 6. Rent for a furnished 85m2 accommodation in an expensive area in Dubai can reach up to AED 8,135 per month. Even clothing and personal care items, like jeans or a roll-on deodorant, are pricier in Dubai than in Johannesburg.

However, your cost of living can fluctuate depending on your lifestyle and preferences. It’s advisable to create a budget and plan accordingly before making the move.

Taxes and Financial Regulations

While Dubai doesn’t tax employment or investment income, which can be beneficial for South African expats, South Africa’s resident-based tax system may still tax expats’ worldwide income.

South Africa’s two-tiered approach to income tax residency, based on physical presence and being “ordinarily resident,” could affect you. If you’re in the country for more than 91 days in a tax year, you’re considered a resident for tax purposes. The “ordinarily resident” test is more complex. It depends on factors like your residence visa and your intention to return to South Africa.

It’s advisable to seek expert tax advice before leaving South Africa to understand your income tax resident status and avoid unexpected tax bills.

Remittance and Financial Transfers

You should transfer money between South Africa and Dubai for expenses like housing or sending money back home. Understanding the process and any associated fees is important.

Job Market and Salaries

Dubai’s job market is generally more competitive and offers higher salaries compared to Johannesburg. Dubai’s average monthly net salary is over 200% higher than Johannesburg’s.

However, the job market is competitive, so researching the job market and considering your qualifications and skills before moving is important.

Remember, securing a job offer is the first step in moving to Dubai, as your employer usually arranges for your resident visa and labour card.

Settling into Dubai’s Lifestyle

Beach In Dubai Where You Can Move To Live

Housing and Accommodation

Securing a place to live is one of your initial tasks. The city is vast, with each district offering a unique lifestyle. Palm Jumeirah is known for its opulent resorts, while Bur Dubai and Deira are famous for their traditional souks.

Al Barsha, near the Mall of the Emirates, is a good choice for those mindful of their budget. Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence offer beach access and high-end living spaces for a more touristic vibe.

When choosing a location, consider factors like proximity to landmarks, airports, budget, and transportation access. Remember, commuting can be time-consuming in this expansive city.

Property rental typically involves a one-year contract, with landlords requiring a substantial deposit and pre-dated checks. The process is relatively simple for those considering a property purchase, with freehold and leasehold ownership options available.

Education and Families

For those relocating with family, understanding Dubai’s education system is essential. Private schools provide the majority of education, with 209 institutions offering various national curricula, including those of Canada, the US, the UK, Russia, Japan, and Iran.

Annual school fees can range from AED 12,723 to AED 64,093, necessitating careful financial planning. The city also hosts 26 international branch campuses from 12 different countries, providing a plethora of higher education choices.

Cultural Differences and Adaptation

Adapting to Dubai’s cultural nuances is part of the settling-in process. The city is a melting pot of cultures, with a significant South African expat community. Embracing and respecting diverse cultures and customs is key.

Despite being a global financial hub and a regional banking leader, Dubai has stringent laws and regulations. For example, many internet calling services are restricted, necessitating the use of a VPN.

Health and Wellness Facilities

Given the high cost of healthcare, having insurance coverage is vital. Dubai offers a plethora of health and wellness facilities, from hospitals and clinics to wellness centres and gyms.

Relocating is a significant change, and maintaining your physical and mental health during this transition is crucial. Whether it’s finding a new gym, joining a local sports club, or simply relaxing and unwinding, prioritising your well-being is key as you adjust to your new life in Dubai.

Building a Community in Dubai

Family Enjoying Dubai Aquarium

Social Life and Expatriate Communities

Dubai’s social scene is as diverse as its population. The city offers a plethora of entertainment options, from high-end shopping to indoor skiing and a food scene that caters to all palates. There are also numerous expatriate communities, including a significant South African presence, where you can find camaraderie and assistance during your transition.

Popular Activities and Clubs

Dubai’s recreational offerings are vast and varied. You can marvel at the city’s architectural wonders, such as the Palm Jumeirah islands and Burj Al Arab Hotel, from a helicopter or speedboat. For thrill-seekers, desert escapades like dune bashing and camel rides are available, or you can challenge yourself at Aventura Parks, a zipline park with a variety of obstacles. If marine life fascinates you, the Dubai Aquarium, home to over 33,000 aquatic creatures, is worth a visit.

Learning Arabic and Cultural Customs

While English is commonly used in Dubai, acquiring Arabic can be a beneficial experience. Locals appreciate efforts to speak their language, and it can enhance your cultural understanding. Dubai hosts language schools that offer comprehensive Arabic courses. It’s also crucial to respect the Islamic customs in Dubai. Dress modestly in public spaces, observe Ramadan, and familiarise yourself with local laws and regulations.

Volunteering and Networking Opportunities

Volunteering in Dubai can be a rewarding experience. Organisations like Al Noor Dubai and Emirates Red Crescent provide a variety of volunteer opportunities, allowing you to contribute to the community while meeting people from diverse backgrounds. Networking is also essential in Dubai’s competitive job market. It can help you uncover job opportunities and gain insights into the city’s business environment.

Embracing Your Dubai Adventure

Moving from South Africa to Dubai is more than just a big decision. It’s also an exciting opportunity. Dubai has a booming job market, high living standards, incredible cultural diversity, and amazing tourist attractions. You’ll need to plan carefully to navigate the challenges of moving, from understanding visa procedures to managing your finances and getting stuck into the local lifestyle. A wealth of resources is available to help you and a vibrant expat community you’ll soon be part of. You’re about to start an extraordinary new chapter in your life in this captivating city. So, get ready to embark on your Dubai journey and watch as this dynamic city reveals its many offerings.

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