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How To Move To Dubai From the UK

Dec 19, 2022 | Living in Dubai

Are you looking for information on how to move to Dubai from the UK? This comprehensive guide is your roadmap to navigating this life-changing journey. Moving to Dubai from the UK is an exciting step that can open up new opportunities. We will cover everything you need to know about visa requirements, work permits, and costs. We will also look through the different residency and investor visas, including the Golden Visa.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, there’s a 6-step guide on setting up a business in Dubai. Lastly, we delve into the living costs in Dubai and compare these costs with the UK so you know what you’re signing up for. Whether you’re seeking a new career horizon or a fresh lifestyle perspective, our guide demystifies the process, ensuring you’re well-prepared for your exciting venture to Dubai!

What Are the Visa Options in Dubai?

The first thing you need when moving to Dubai from the UK is a valid visa or residence permit. Fortunately, the UAE welcomes foreigners, so there are plenty of visa options for UK citizens.

The most common types of visas include employment and business visas, family residence visas, student visas, retirement visas and investor visas. UK citizens benefit from visa-on-arrival for short stays in the UAE, so you can visit Dubai before committing to one of the longer-term visas.

Visa on Arrival for UK Citizens in Dubai

Eligibility and Duration

  • Eligibility: This facility is available to UK passport holders travelling to Dubai.
  • Duration: The visa on arrival is typically valid for 30 days. It can be extended once for 30 days, subject to certain conditions and a fee.


  • Upon Arrival: On reaching Dubai, UK citizens need to proceed to the immigration counter at the airport.
  • Passport Requirements: Ensure that the passport is valid for at least six months from the arrival date in Dubai.
  • Visa Issuance: The visa will be stamped into the passport by the immigration officer. You don’t need to apply for this visa in advance or pay any fee upon arrival.

Golden Visa

The United Arab Emirates’ Golden Visa program is a pivotal government initiative aimed at attracting skilled professionals, entrepreneurs, and talented individuals to Dubai by offering an extended residency of up to 10 years. Particularly advantageous for UK citizens aiming for a long-term presence in the UAE, the Golden Visa stands out from other programs due to its simplicity and broad appeal to a diverse range of professionals. It provides a stable, long-term residency option, ideal for those looking to settle with family or expand business ventures in the UAE.

Eligibility Criteria

UK citizens in the following categories may be eligible for the Golden Visa:

  • Investors in Public or Real Estate: Those who have made significant investments in the UAE’s property or other sectors.
  • Entrepreneurs: Individuals with a proven track record in establishing and running successful businesses.
  • Professionals in High-Demand Fields: Including medicine, science and technology, engineering, genetics, AI, and biotechnology.
  • Business Executives: With extensive experience in business management.
  • Athletes, Humanitarians, Academics, and Creatives: Recognized for outstanding contributions in their respective fields, including culture, art, and invention.

Benefits of the Golden Visa

  • No Local Sponsor Required: Applicants can apply without the need for a UAE national as a sponsor.
  • Business Ownership: Full ownership of business ventures in the UAE.
  • Family Inclusion: Option to include family members, dependents, and business partners in the visa.

Application Process

  • Direct Application: UK citizens can apply directly to the Dubai government for the Golden Visa.
  • Documentation: The required documents are relatively fewer compared to other business visas, focusing on demonstrating qualifications and achievements in the applicant’s field.
  • Support Services: Organizations like Virtuzone provide end-to-end assistance for the application process, including document preparation.

Validity and Renewal

The Golden Visa is valid for 5 to 10 years and can be renewed based on continued eligibility.

Retirement Visa

The United Arab Emirates offers a Retirement Visa, tailored for individuals who wish to spend their retirement years in the country. As part of the UAE’s initiative to attract retirees, this long-term residence visa caters to older adults, typically those over the age of 55, allowing them to enjoy a comfortable and secure lifestyle in the UAE. The visa, valid for 5 years and renewable, enables retirees to live in the UAE for an extended period, provided they continue to meet the eligibility criteria.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for a Retirement Visa in the UAE, applicants must meet certain financial requirements. These are subject to change, but typically include:

  1. Investment in Property: An investment in a property in the UAE worth a minimum specified amount.
  2. Financial Savings: A certain amount of savings in a UAE bank.
  3. Income Level: A regular income above a certain threshold, which could be from a pension, investments, or other sources.

How to Apply for a Retirement Visa

  1. Check Eligibility: Ensure you meet the financial and age requirements set by the UAE government.
  2. Gather Required Documents: This usually includes passport copies, proof of investment or income, medical insurance coverage, and a medical fitness report.
  3. Submit Application: Applications can typically be submitted online through the UAE’s official government portals or through various authorized typing centres in the UAE.
  4. Property Evaluation: If your eligibility is based on property investment, the property needs to be evaluated and approved as part of the application process.
  5. Medical Fitness Test and Insurance: You will need to undergo a medical fitness test in the UAE and provide proof of health insurance coverage.
  6. Visa Issuance: Once all requirements are met and the application is approved, the Retirement Visa will be issued.

Family Visa

The United Arab Emirates provides a Family Visa as a key part of its residency visa offerings, enabling expatriates to reunite with their immediate family members – including spouses, children, and sometimes parents – in the UAE. This visa is essential for those working or living in the UAE who wish to have their families join them. It not only allows family members to reside in the UAE but also offers them access to important benefits like education and healthcare services, making it a crucial option for maintaining family unity and wellbeing while in the UAE.

Eligibility Criteria

To sponsor a Family Visa, the resident (sponsor) must meet certain criteria, including:

  1. Income Threshold: The sponsor must have a minimum monthly income, which varies depending on the emirate and the family member being sponsored.
  2. Accommodation: The sponsor must have suitable accommodation for their family.
  3. Relationship Proof: Valid documentation proving the relationship (marriage certificate for spouses, birth certificates for children, etc.) is required.
  4. Employment: The sponsor must have a valid employment or investor visa in the UAE.

How to Apply for a Family Visa

  1. Eligibility Check: Confirm that you meet the income and accommodation requirements to sponsor family members.
  2. Gather Required Documents: Prepare the necessary documents, including your passport, Emirates ID, labour contract, salary certificate, tenancy contract, attested marriage/birth certificates, and any other required documents.
  3. Application Submission: Apply through the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) in the respective emirate. The process can be initiated online or through a typing centre.
  4. Entry Permit: Once the application is approved, an entry permit is issued for the family members to enter the UAE.
  5. Status Adjustment: After entering the UAE, the status of the visa needs to be changed from an entry permit to a residence visa. This process involves a medical fitness test, Emirates ID registration, and biometrics collection.
  6. Visa Stamping: The final step is to get the visa stamped on the passports of the family members, which is done by the GDRFA.

Student Visa

The United Arab Emirates offers a Student Visa, designed for individuals who wish to pursue full-time academic studies at its esteemed educational institutions. This type of residency visa enables foreign students to live and study in the UAE, being typically granted to those enrolled in licensed educational establishments such as universities, colleges, or other academic institutions. The Student Visa is a key element in the journey for those aiming to study in the UAE, signifying their legal status as international students within the country.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for a Student Visa in the UAE, applicants must:

  1. Secure Admission: Obtain an official admission letter from a recognized and licensed educational institution in the UAE.
  2. Age Requirement: Generally, applicants must be at least 18 years old. Special provisions may apply for younger students.
  3. Financial Stability: Demonstrate sufficient financial means to cover tuition fees and living expenses during their stay in the UAE.
  4. Medical Fitness: Pass a medical fitness test, particularly for students aged 18 and above.
  5. Health Insurance: Have valid health insurance coverage in the UAE.

How to Apply for a Student Visa

  1. Admission Confirmation: First, secure a place in a UAE educational institution. The institution often plays a crucial role in initiating the visa process.
  2. Visa Application: The application process usually starts once you receive an admission offer. The educational institution often sponsors the student visa and assists with the application.
  3. Document Submission: Provide necessary documents, including a valid passport, admission letter, proof of financial means, health insurance, and passport-size photos.
  4. Medical and Background Checks: Undergo a medical fitness test and a background check, which are standard requirements for the visa.
  5. Visa Issuance: After approval, the Student Visa is issued, allowing entry into the UAE for the purpose of study.

Duration and Renewal

  • Validity: The Student Visa is usually valid for one year and can be renewed each year as long as you remain enrolled in the educational institution.
  • Renewal Requirements: Proof of ongoing enrollment and academic progress is required for visa renewal.

Part-time Employment

    • The UAE allows students on a Student Visa to engage in part-time work, subject to certain conditions and obtaining the necessary permissions.

Employment Visa

The United Arab Emirates offers an Employment Visa, a type of work permit crucial for foreign nationals seeking employment in the country’s diverse economy. This visa, essential for those who have secured a job with a UAE-based employer, allows them to live and work legally in the UAE. Serving as both a residency and work permit, the Employment Visa is a vital document for expatriate employees, outlining their legal status and work authorization in the UAE.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for an Employment Visa in the UAE, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  1. Job Offer: Have a confirmed job offer from a UAE employer.
  2. Sponsorship: The employer in the UAE acts as a sponsor and is responsible for the visa application and related processes.
  3. Educational and Professional Qualifications: Depending on the job, certain educational and professional qualifications may be required.
  4. Medical Fitness: Pass a medical fitness test conducted in the UAE.
  5. Security Clearance: Undergo a security check and obtain a clearance certificate.

How to Apply for an Employment Visa

  1. Employment Contract: Once you receive a job offer, your employer will typically issue an employment contract that needs to be signed.
  2. Work Permit Approval: The employer applies for an initial work permit from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) in the UAE.
  3. Entry Permit: Upon work permit approval, an entry permit is issued, allowing the employee to enter the UAE.
  4. Status Change: After entering the UAE, the employee undergoes a status change procedure to convert the entry permit into a residency visa.
  5. Medical Test and Emirates ID Registration: The employee must complete a medical fitness test and apply for an Emirates ID.
  6. Visa Stamping: The final step involves stamping the Employment Visa on the passport.

Duration and Renewal

  • Validity: The Employment Visa is typically valid for two or three years and can be renewed as long as the employment relationship continues.
  • Renewal Requirements: For renewal, the same process involving medical tests and ID registration is repeated.

An image of files being organised for a move to Dubai.

Source: Pexels

How to Set Up a Business in Dubai

If you are looking to set up a business after moving from the UK to Dubai, here are the steps you need to take:

1. Pick an Industry When Moving to Dubai

You will need to decide whether you want a professional service, trading business or industrial activity. You must choose the right type of business for Dubai and your skillset. Depending on your preferred industry, you may have to comply with additional licensing requirements or certifications.

2. Choose Your Business Location

You will typically have three options regarding your business location – free zone, mainland, and offshore.

  • Free zones: Free zones are special economic areas in Dubai where businesses can access a range of tax and legal benefits. They’re ideal for international companies looking to set up their business quickly and easily.
  • Mainland: When you opt for the mainland, your business will be subject to the UAE’s commercial laws, as well as other government regulations. You can also choose from various locations across Dubai, such as Al Barsha, Jumeirah Lake Towers or Business Bay.
  • Offshore: Offshore companies in Dubai don’t need to pay taxes but cannot trade in the country.

Each option has its own set of pros and cons. It’s essential to carefully consider your options and business necessities before choosing a location. We recommend you reach out to one of our experts at Virtuzone to discuss what is the best suited option for you.

3. Define the Company Structure

You have to define the company structure before you move ahead with setting up a business in Dubai. Limited Liability Companies (LLC) and Free zone companies are the most common legal structures. An LLC is owned by 51% of UAE Nationals and 49% by foreign investors, while free zones offer 100% ownership for foreign investors.

4. Naming and Initial Approval

Once you’ve chosen the right industry, you must apply for your business name. It must be unique and have a meaning related to your company. You can obtain initial approval for many business types without renting a business premise. You can then use the initial approval document to apply for other necessary approvals and rent a premises.

5. Paperwork and Licencing

You will need to gather a few documents and submit them with your application. These include passport copies, visa applications, bank statements, proof of address, business plans, tenancy agreements, and financial projections.

Once you have done the paperwork and received initial approval, you will need to obtain a licence from Dubai Economy and Tourism (DED). Depending on what kind of company structure you choose, this may involve filing additional documents. You can choose from three major licence types in Dubai:

Professional Licence

A professional licence is typically required for individuals or companies offering professional services based on their intellectual or artistic talents. It covers various professions, including consultants, lawyers, accountants, healthcare providers, and educators. The holder of a professional licence is recognised as having the necessary qualifications and credentials to provide specialised services in their field. This licence often requires proof of education, certification, and sometimes passing specific exams.

Commercial Licence

A commercial licence is required for businesses engaged in trading activities, such as buying and selling goods. It applies to a variety of sectors, including retail, trade, logistics, and general trading services. A commercial license allows businesses to legally import, export, distribute, and store products as per the stipulated regulations. It’s essential for companies that deal with tangible products or various types of merchandise.

Manufacturing/Industrial Licence

A manufacturing/industrial license is necessary for companies involved in manufacturing or industrial activities. This includes businesses transforming natural resources or raw materials into finished or semi-finished products. The license typically requires compliance with specific safety and environmental regulations and may also involve inspections to ensure adherence to manufacturing standards. Industrial licenses are key for factories, production plants, and other facilities that are part of the manufacturing sector.

6. Bank Account and Visa

Finally, you must open a corporate or retail bank account for your business or professional venture and obtain the relevant visas. Some prominent local banks in the UAE include Emirates NBD, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Commercial Bank of Dubai, Noor Bank, and Ajman Bank. You can also choose one of the international banks in Dubai, such as HSBC, Citibank, and Barclays.

Cost of Living: The UK vs The UAE

Finally, it’s essential to consider the cost of living in Dubai before you move. The good news is that salaries are generally higher in the UAE than in many countries, so if you find a decent job, it should be easier to manage your finances. Additionally, there are many tax-free benefits available for expats living in Dubai.

On average, a single person can expect to spend 5,000 AED per month in Dubai, including everything. For a couple, it will be around AED 9,000 per month, and for a family of four, you may have to spend AED 18,000 monthly.

On average, the monthly net salary (after tax) is 2,311.63 £ (10,376.37 AED) in the UK and 2833.27 £ (12,717.92 AED) in the UAE.

Whilst the average salary is slightly higher in the UAE, the cost of necessities such as food and accommodation can differ significantly from what you’re used to in the UK, so we have compiled a comparison of basic costs for you.

An infographic detailing the cost of living prices in both the UK and the UAE.

Information from: Numbeo

Cultural Differences in Dubai for UK Expatriates

Moving from the UK to Dubai, as a UK citizen you will encounter a vibrant blend of traditional and modern cultures. Dubai’s culture, deeply rooted in Islamic traditions, contrasts with the UK’s more Western lifestyle. Understanding and adapting to these differences is key for a smooth transition.

Key Cultural Differences

  1. Religion and Customs: Islam plays a central role in daily life in Dubai. This includes prayer times, dressing modestly, and the observance of religious events like Ramadan. In contrast, the UK’s culture is more secular with a diverse range of religions and practices.
  2. Social Norms: Dubai has stricter social norms. Public displays of affection are frowned upon, and there are regulations on alcohol consumption. The UK, in comparison, is more liberal in these aspects.
  3. Dress Code: In Dubai, modest dressing is appreciated. While the city is cosmopolitan, wearing conservative clothes, especially in public spaces and religious sites, is expected. The UK’s dress code is more relaxed and varied.
  4. Work Culture: Dubai’s work environment is more hierarchical than in the UK. Respect for authority and seniority is emphasized, and decisions often flow from the top down, unlike the more collaborative approach common in the UK.
  5. Language: Although Arabic is the official language, English is widely spoken in Dubai. In the UK, English is the primary language, making communication in Dubai relatively easy for UK expatriates.

Why Should I Move to Dubai From the UK?

Dubai is the most populous and developed Emirate of the UAE, and the city is an excellent place to live, work, and play. You will find world-class facilities, many high-paying job opportunities in various industries, and a high quality of life. Over 240,000 Brits have made the move to Dubai. Let’s quickly run through a few compelling reasons to relocate to Dubai from the UK.

International Business Hub

As a city known for its fast-paced business environment, Dubai is the ideal place to start or expand your UK business. Many global companies have headquarters in the city, and it has become an international hub for many industries, such as banking, finance, technology, media, and more.

What if you are an independent or freelance professional in the UK? You can leverage the city’s excellent infrastructure, diverse talent pool, and strong business network to expand your client base and start your venture after obtaining a freelancer visa in Dubai.

Zero Taxation

The UAE has a zero taxation policy right now, which means you won’t have to pay income tax on any of your personal earnings. This is one of the major reasons why many expatriates from the UK choose to move to Dubai every year. It also helps businesses in reducing their operational costs and gaining more profits.

Although the UAE government has implemented a new corporate tax regime to introduce a 9% corporate tax from June 2023, it will still keep zero taxation benefits for businesses with annual net profits less than AED 375,000 or businesses that operate from a UAE free zone. To read the full taxation laws, see the official government website.

Ownership and Profit Repatriation

As a foreign entrepreneur, you can start your own business in one of Dubai’s free zones and have 100% ownership. This means you won’t need to partner with a local sponsor or share any percentage of your income as part of the agreement.

You can also repatriate all your profits back to the UK without any taxes or restrictions. This starkly contrasts with many other countries with strict laws against profit repatriation for expatriates.

Excellent Business Infrastructure

Dubai is widely regarded as one of the world’s best business hubs, offering an extensive range of modern infrastructure businesses need to succeed. This includes high-speed internet networks, international airports, advanced digital services, and more.

The city also provides access to a global market with favourable trading opportunities from countries worldwide due to its strategic location at the crossroads between East and West. All these advantages make it a great destination for UK entrepreneurs looking for new challenges abroad.

Additionally, the free zones have all the necessary support and amenities to help businesses set up and manage their operations. Ensure you check out the top business ideas in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Warm Weather

Dubai usually enjoys a blue sky and minimal rainfall, making it a magnet for sun-seekers. The months from November to March offer moderate temperate conditions, with average temperatures ranging from 20°C to 30°C (68°F to 86°F), making it an ideal time for tourists and outdoor activities. Whilst living in Dubai, residents and visitors usually enjoy the magnificent sunny days. However, if the weather ever gets too hot, residents and visitors tend to stay indoors to enjoy the air-conditioned comfort of malls, restaurants, and indoor entertainment venues.

Vibrant Culture and High Quality of Life

If you’re looking for an exciting city, Dubai is the perfect place. The city has a vibrant culture and offers plenty of entertainment options, such as concerts, shopping malls, restaurants, cafes, art galleries and more. There are also plenty of outdoor activities, such as desert safaris, scuba diving and kite surfing! Overall, living in Dubai provides expatriates with a great quality of life unrivalled by other regions’ cities.

World Class Healthcare

The healthcare system in Dubai is known for its high standards and accessibility. Comprising both public and private sectors, it offers an extensive array of medical services and boasts state-of-the-art medical facilities. The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) oversees the healthcare sector, ensuring that services provided adhere to stringent quality standards. Residents have access to a network of public and private healthcare providers, with private facilities often popular for non-urgent and specialist care.

Dubai promotes health insurance coverage, mandating employers to provide their employees with health insurance, thereby ensuring broad access to medical services. If you are considering moving to Dubai, the healthcare system is not something you need to worry about.

International Schools

Dubai provides a plethora of schooling options for the children of expatriates, adhering to a variety of international curricula and offering a high standard of education. The availability of British, American, IB (International Baccalaureate), Indian, and other national curriculum schools provide expatriate families with diverse options to align with their educational preferences and future plans.

Schools for expats often boast state-of-the-art facilities, a wide range of extracurricular activities, and a multicultural environment, which can be an enriching experience for students. Admission processes can be competitive due to the high demand, and school fees vary significantly, with some of the top-tier schools being quite expensive. Additionally, Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) actively ensures that the quality of education in private schools is maintained at a high standard, providing annual assessments and support.

An image of a workplace in Dubai.

Source: Pexels

Safe for Expatriates

Dubai is a safe city and has a low crime rate. The security measures taken by the government are stringent, and expatriates can enjoy their stay in the city without any worries about safety. Also, the city is safe for expatriates, as expats comprise over 90% of Dubai’s total population.

English is Widely-spoken

Although Arabic is the official language of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is a highly cosmopolitan city with a significant expatriate population. Because of its diverse demographic and its status as a global business and tourist hub, English is commonly used in business, trade, and daily communication. Most signs and official forms are in Arabic and English, and you’ll find that most people, including locals, expatriates, and service staff, speak at least a basic level of English.

Attractive Tourism Destination

Apart from its bustling business environment, Dubai attracts tourists with its stunning beaches, modern architecture, vibrant nightlife scene and unique shopping experiences.

The city has so much to explore, including the world’s tallest building – Burj Khalifa, the spectacular Palm Jumeirah the iconic Dubai Mall. As an expat living in Dubai, you can take advantage of these attractions and enjoy the great quality of life it brings! If you consider business prospects, you can easily cater to foreign tourists by opening a travel agency in the UAE.

Easy Business Setup

Setting up a business in Dubai is relatively straightforward and hassle-free. Companies can get started with minimal paperwork and be operational within a few days. Setting up a company helps UK businesses quickly enter the UAE market, which can open up lucrative opportunities for entrepreneurs.

The city also has world-class infrastructure to help businesses succeed without major obstacles. The Ease of Doing Business Index, a concern of the World Bank, ranked Dubai in 16th place in the 2020 global ranking.

Wrap-Up: How to Move to Dubai

Moving to Dubai from the UK can be a great opportunity for those looking for new career prospects and an exciting lifestyle. With its world-class education and healthcare system, you know your family will be well cared for. Given the ease of setting up a company and the extremely favourable tax laws, it’s a great opportunity to set up a business in Dubai. Maybe you want to leave the rainy days behind and soak up some in the UAE.

Whichever reason it is that makes you want to move to Dubai, we can help you. At Virtuzone, we provide step-by-step guidance with your application and documentation when applying for visas and permits. Reach out to us, and we can help make moving to Dubai simple.

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