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How To Move To Dubai From The US: The Ultimate Guide for US Citizens

Jan 8, 2023 | Featured Posts, Living in Dubai

Dubai is a top destination for expats. It offers a vibrant lifestyle, cultural diversity, and significant business opportunities, making it appealing for those looking to relocate or expand their business from the US.

This guide aims to simplify your move, covering essentials from cultural insights to tax benefits and business prospects. Embrace the chance for a fresh start in one of the most dynamic cities globally, ensuring a smooth transition to enjoy everything Dubai has to offer.

How to Move to Dubai from the US

US citizens looking to move to Dubai have several visa options available to them, depending on their intended activities and duration of stay in the UAE. The types of residence visas available are tailored to different purposes, such as employment, study, investment, and retirement.

The Golden Visa

Launched in 2019, the Golden Visa Program in the UAE is designed to grant a decade of residency to investors and exceptionally skilled individuals, proving to be a significant success. To date, it has issued over 150,000 visas, drawing a wide array of talents including international celebrities and experts in health, engineering, science, and art.

The initiative plays a pivotal role in the UAE’s strategy to attract and retain elite talent, considerably impacting its economic and societal development. The popularity and effectiveness of the Golden Visa Program underscore the UAE’s position as a prime location for global talent and investors.

The Golden Visa provides a great opportunity for expats looking to move to Dubai, as it offers them flexibility and security. It eliminates the need for US businesses to obtain an investor’s visa or work permit in order to reside in the UAE, making transitions much easier.

Additionally, the program also provides expats with access to various benefits such as tax exemptions, long-term visas, and expedited processing of applications – all of which can make a big difference when moving from the USA to Dubai.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Individuals who make public investments of AED 10 million (USD 2,722644) or more.
  • Entrepreneurs with a project valued at AED 500,000 (USD 136132) or above.
  • Professionals with specialized skills in fields such as science, knowledge, and the arts.
  • Exceptional students and graduates.

Holding a Golden Visa in the UAE brings a host of benefits, including the opportunity for long-term residency, enhanced prospects for business activities, and entry into a vibrant and varied economy. This significantly improves the quality of life and investment opportunities for expatriates.

At Virtuzone, we are equipped to provide comprehensive support for those looking to apply for a UAE Golden Visa. We offer a detailed and efficient service to ensure that all the necessary paperwork is correctly prepared and submitted, streamlining the application process to enhance your chances of success.

Green Visa (for Investors)

The Green Visa aimed at investors is awarded to those engaged in business ventures within the UAE, granting them a five-year visa.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Receive approval from the ICP based on a specific rating system tailored for investors.
  • Provide evidence of the investment, with the calculation of total invested capital in cases where the investor holds more than one license.
  • Securing approval from the relevant local authorities.

This new framework is designed to encourage investment by offering a more stable and long-term residency option for investors, reflecting the UAE’s commitment to fostering a supportive environment for business growth.

Green Visa

The Green Visa of the UAE is a residency visa type that empowers individuals to sponsor themselves for a period of five years, thus bypassing the requirement for sponsorship by a UAE national or an employer.

Eligibility Requirements:

1. Freelancers and Self-Employed Individuals Eligible applicants in this category are required to provide:

  • A permit for freelancing or self-employment issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation.
  • A bachelor’s degree or a specialized diploma.
  • Proof of annual income from self-employment over the last two years of at least AED 360,000 (USD 98,000) or evidence of financial stability for their duration of stay in the UAE.

2. Skilled Employees Applicants who are skilled employees must demonstrate:

  • A current employment contract.
  • Classification within the first, second, or third occupational level according to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation standards.
  • A bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.
  • A monthly income of at least AED 15,000 (USD 4000).

Standard Work Visa

The Standard Work Visa in the UAE is a visa that ties your employment within the UAE to your residency. A foreign national can obtain a standard work visa, typically valid for two years.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • If they are hired in the private sector, they need to apply for a residency visa specifically for individuals working within the private sector through the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs Dubai (GDRFAD).
  • If they are hired in the government sector or within a free zone, the application process involves applying for a residency visa for individuals employed in these areas, also through GDRFAD.

In both scenarios, the application for the standard residence visa must be initiated by the employer on behalf of the foreign employee. This process ensures that the employee is legally authorized to live and work in the UAE for the duration of their employment contract.

Student Visa

The Student Visa is designed for students who must reside in the UAE for educational purposes or are sponsored either by a resident parent or the academic institution they are enrolled in. The student visa is initially granted for a one-year period and can be renewed annually with evidence of ongoing enrollment provided by the educational institution.

For expatriate residents, sponsorship of male children is possible up to the age of 25. However, male students older than 25 can remain under their parents’ sponsorship by demonstrating enrollment in a higher education program lasting at least one year. Female students can be sponsored by their expatriate parents for educational purposes without age restriction until they get married.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • An official letter from the educational institution confirming the duration of the study program.
  • Fulfilment of other general requirements as outlined in the residence visa provisions.

Universities and colleges have Student Affairs offices dedicated to helping students navigate the visa application process efficiently.

Retirement Visa

The Retirement Visa is available for retired expatriates, granting them a 5-year long-term, renewable visa.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Have a career spanning at least 15 years, either within or outside the UAE, or be aged 55 or older at the time of retirement; and
  • Own property in the UAE worth a minimum of AED 1 million (USD 272,264)or
  • Possess financial savings of at least AED 1 million (USD272,264) or
  • Earn a monthly income of no less than AED 15,000 (USD 4000).

This visa is renewable every five years, provided the retiree continues to meet these eligibility requirements.

For detailed information on the retirement program in Dubai and guidance on the visa application process, it’s advisable to refer to the official Dubai or UAE government websites, where you’ll find comprehensive steps and criteria for applicants.

An image of a visa application.

Source: Pexels

How to Set Up Your US Business in Dubai

Despite Dubai’s relative accessibility for businesses, setting up a US business anywhere outside of your own country can be challenging. That’s why it is essential that you familiarize yourself with the procedures involved before you start.

Living in Dubai means taking responsibility, both as a citizen and as a business owner.

  1. Comply with the Legal Requirements — This includes understanding local laws and regulations, obtaining the necessary permits and licenses, determining registration fees, and more.
  2. Choose a Business Structure — The structure of the company determines how it will be operated legally, as well as what types of transactions and paperwork you will need to complete.
  3. Find a Suitable Business Location — Finding the right workspace is essential for any business’s success. Dubai offers numerous options, from industrial parks to free zones and more. Consider factors such as accessibility, amenities, and cost when selecting your ideal location.
  4. Obtain Visas & Work Permits — For US citizens planning on working in Dubai, obtaining the necessary visas and work permits is a key step before beginning operations. Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to apply for investor or entrepreneur visas as well as residence permits for employees.
  5. Set up Bank Accounts and Financing — Before launching your business, you will need to open a corporate bank account and consider financing options. You can look at both local and international banks for banking services, as well as explore venture capital firms or angel investors if needed.
  6. Register with the Chamber of Commerce — US businesses are required to register with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce in order to be recognized by the government and gain access to certain privileges such as trade discounts, promotional activities, and more.
  7. Market Your Business — Once all these steps have been completed, it’s time to start marketing your business! Consider advertising and promotional activities such as social media campaigns, and paid ads. You should also consider joining local business communities or networking events to further expand your reach.

Check out our guide to Everything You Need to Know About Starting a Business in Dubai for a more comprehensive overview.

Why Move to Dubai from the US?

Located in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai has become a major global hub for commerce, finance, and tourism. Not only will you find yourself surrounded by luxury and state-of-the-art technology, but you will also get access to some of the most promising business opportunities in the world.

Let’s discuss in full detail the many reasons why you should consider living in Dubai.

1. Business-Friendly Environment

One of the top reasons to move to Dubai is the prospect of starting a business. The Dubai government is committed to fostering entrepreneurial development. Among the recently implemented policies to encourage innovation in the business sector such as the ‘freelancer visa’ that allows entrepreneurs from outside of Dubai to set up businesses in the city with greater ease.

Dubai is also home to a range of international conferences and events, which provide opportunities for networking with other businesses and gaining exposure on a global scale.

2. Tax Benefits

The UAE has a 0% taxation on personal income tax and inheritance tax. This offers a unique tax-free package for expats, meaning that US citizens will have more money in their pockets each month. Although the UAE introduced a 9% corporate tax rate, companies with net profits lower than AED 375,000 or those located in a free zone will still receive zero taxation benefits.

Zero taxation is especially attractive for US entrepreneurs who are looking for ways to maximize their businesses’ profits. Take advantage of the business flexibility that exists across the country by checking out the top 8 business ideas in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

3. World-Class Infrastructure

One of Dubai’s major drawcards is its world-class infrastructure, which allows businesses to operate efficiently and effectively. The UAE government has invested heavily in making it a highly desirable place to do business and live.

Dubai has an extensive business infrastructure, including well-developed roads, ports, and airports, which makes it easy for international companies to operate. This includes well-maintained roads, reliable public transportation systems, high-speed internet access, and modern telecommunications.

Dubai can also facilitate the import and export of goods and has storage facilities, which puts it at the top of the list for many US businesses.

4. Networking Opportunities

As one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, Dubai is an ideal location to network with other entrepreneurs and business professionals of over 200 nationalities.

Dubai also ranked first in the global FDI ranking for financial services, attracting foreign investment projects and outpacing cities such as New York, London, and Singapore. This solidifies Dubai as a top destination for building relationships with potential clients, partners, and investors.

English is widely spoken throughout Dubai, which helps ease communication between different cultures and when doing business with US companies. By encouraging a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, businesses are empowered to come up with innovative products and services.

An image of US citizens working in Dubai.

Source: Unsplash

5. Safety

With stringent laws against drug use, alcohol consumption, and other criminal activities, the government of Dubai has implemented several measures to ensure the safety and security of its citizens. The zero-tolerance policy in Dubai deters many people from even considering committing a crime.

Additionally, Dubai is home to some of the most advanced emergency services in the world. Emergency response teams are available 24/7 and equipped with the latest medical equipment and personnel to respond swiftly to any situation.

6. Exceptional Quality of Life

It’s no surprise that so many US citizens and entrepreneurs are planning to relocate to Dubai in search of a higher quality of life. For starters, the city provides a unique mix of modernity and tradition that can be found in a few other places around the world.

Dubai boasts a vibrant nightlife, shopping malls, luxury hotels, iconic skyscrapers, one-of-a-kind architecture, and world-class attractions such as the Palm Jumeirah man-made island, Dubai Mall, and the Burj Khalifa skyscraper.

Aside from its business opportunities and jewellery industry, Dubai is also known as “the city of gold” because of the year-round sunshine it enjoys throughout the year. Dubai is the perfect place for those who want to get away from the cold winter months back in America – or just enjoy some sun all year round!

7. Cultural Exploration

Dubai is a melting pot of different cultures from around the world – making it an ideal destination for US citizens looking to explore various cultures close at hand.

As a whole, Dubai offers a captivating blend of traditional Middle Eastern culture and modern international influence, making it one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. The city has something for everyone – from architectural marvels to ancient monuments and picturesque beaches.

The food scene in Dubai is also an influential part of cultural exploration, with many traditional and modern restaurants serving dishes from all over the world.

An image of Dubai- a popular place for US citizens to move to.

Source: Pixabay

What is the Cost of Living in Dubai?

If you’re thinking about moving to Dubai for business or personal reasons, understanding the cost of living is crucial. With 85% of its population being expatriates, Dubai presents an attractive environment for those seeking opportunities in a global city. Despite its reputation for luxury, Dubai’s living expenses are relatively lower compared to other major cities like Hong Kong, London, New York, and Singapore, according to Mercer’s annual Cost of Living Survey for 2021, where it ranked 42nd.

Tax-free income in Dubai is a significant advantage, as salaries are competitive on a global scale. The average monthly salary in Dubai is around AED 15,700 (USD 4,270), comparable to salaries in cities such as New York and London, which average around USD 4,298 and USD 4,531, respectively.

Housing costs vary, with a studio apartment in Dubai City Center costing about AED 5,648 (USD 1,500) per month and a one-bedroom apartment averaging AED 8,359 (USD 2,280) monthly. Utilities for an apartment can run about AED 780 monthly. Dining out is also reasonably priced, with a meal at a fast-food restaurant costing around 35 AED and a more casual dining experience averaging about 50 AED per meal.

Our comprehensive guide to the Cost of Living In Dubai has an extensive list of rent, food, entertainment, education, and healthcare costs in Dubai.

Moving to Dubai from the US

Relocating to Dubai as a US citizen offers significant advantages, including a thriving business environment, state-of-the-art infrastructure, premier shopping and entertainment options, and a high level of safety. The lure of tax-free earnings and attractive banking benefits further enhances Dubai’s appeal as a relocation destination. While adapting to local regulations and cultural nuances may present challenges, these can be navigated with preparation.

Embracing Dubai as your new residence promises a swift transition into a community that’s vibrant and ripe with opportunity. Collaborating with a company like Virtuzone can streamline the setup process for entrepreneurs looking to establish their foothold.

We specialise in facilitating business establishment in Dubai, having guided over 60,000 entrepreneurs through the intricacies of starting their ventures in the city, ensuring a smoother integration for both you and your business in this dynamic metropolis. Contact us today for a free consultation.

An image of Dubai.

Source: Unsplash


Why do Americans choose Dubai for their business expansion?

Dubai is emerging as a prime destination for U.S. entrepreneurs to grow their businesses. It offers global market access, a thriving entrepreneurial environment, and various business incentives. The city’s ease of doing business is enhanced by a favourable tax system, freedom to repatriate profits, and government support through capital access, financial aid, and loans.

Is living in Dubai cheaper than in the USA?

Yes, overall, living in Dubai (UAE) is cheaper than in the USA. The US has higher consumer prices by approximately 26.6% compared to the UAE, and food prices in restaurants and groceries are significantly lower in the UAE, with groceries being 64.8% higher in the US. Rent in the US is slightly lower (by about 3.7%) than in the UAE, but overall housing costs, including utilities, are more affordable in the UAE, as are transportation costs.

What’s a good monthly salary for a single person moving to Dubai?

For a single person moving to Dubai, a good salary can vary greatly depending on your lifestyle and spending habits. However, as a general guideline, a salary ranging from AED 10,000 (USD 2,700) to AED 15,000 (USD 4,100) per month is considered pretty good, allowing for a comfortable lifestyle that includes rent, utilities, transportation, and personal expenses. Salaries between AED 15,000 and AED 20,000 (USD 4,100 – 5,450) are seen as very attractive, offering more flexibility and comfort.

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