Tips For Working And Finding Work In Dubai

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Tips for working and finding work in Dubai Sep 30, 2007
I’ve put the following list of tips/ odds and ends together for anyone wanting to work, or currently looking for work in Dubai/ UAE based on my past experience. It’s by no means complete, and I will answer and include good comments or postings if I feel they are valid and add to the content of the post.

I have tried to put as much general information together as possible to cover most eventualities; some of the items may not necessarily relate to a specific job/ career group or labour category. Please let me know if any of the web links are outdated or no longer work.

Tips for working and finding work in Dubai

Where to start
a. Use the Internet to look for prospective employers before you get to Dubai, the Dubai Yellow Pages; various Free Zone (or Free Trade Zones) websites contain listings of businesses and in some cases list vacant positions within the Free Zone.
b. First look at businesses which have a related internet site depicting their products or services, this will give you a good idea on the size, scope and nature of the company.
c. Some companies also have “Career” links embedded in their sites to which you can submit your CV/ resume.
d. Once you have a short list of prospective companies run a Google search on them, see if they are featured in the local or international news. Local news sites as well as other related postings on the internet may give you other indicators as to the business. For example, is the company always in the press because of bad business or labour practices, is there good positive and independent press about the company, a lot of information can be gleaned about companies in this way; this may save you headaches at a later stage!
e. You can also check the validity of a company’s trading activities, contact details and licensing. The Dubai Department of Economic Development has on-line, the active trading licenses of all registered company’s trading within Dubai. This is a good measure of the “bona fides” of a company, especially if you have never heard of them before, or are perhaps hesitant regarding their activities or legal status. The site is searchable on the English name of the trading company, providing the license number of the company and last registered contact details of the company.
If the site is maintained as it is advertised, any company not appearing on the list is not registered or not currently registered to trade legally in Dubai; this automatically excludes them from being able to provide employees with a legal labour card! I checked this against two old companies which I know are no longer paid-up licensed entities, and unfortunately it still lists them! I suppose in this instance it can still help in sifting out any fictitious company’s.
f. Avoid companies with Yahoo or Hotmail email addresses; there are however a number of legitimate companies in Dubai and the UAE that do actually use these!!! Personally, I feel that if a company can’t afford the 500 odd Dirhams to get a registered email address or web page, then you should be on the alert.
g. Do a reverse look-up of the contact details that the company provides you with. The Internet is a wonderful thing, for example if the company gives you an email address or a contact telephone number, then enter either of these as a search criteria into Google (or other). You’d be amazed at the amount of information you can glean from a search like this. You can see if the mail address or telephones number are being used in any other context, such as operating different businesses from the same number, the address details of the company, and a whole lot more..

Using Employment/ Recruitment agents to find work
a. Be advised that are a number of reputable agents operating in Dubai, as well a vastly superior number of “rogue agencies”. Attached to the “Jobs in Dubai Forum” is a list of agencies recommended by users of this forum, as well as a number of ones to stay away from.
b. A general rule of thumb is, if they ask you for money in any form (“registration fee”, “documentation fee”, “placement fee” etc.) then they are not legitimate or are acting illegally under the law. Article 18 of the UAE labour law states: “No licensed employment agent or labour supplier shall demand or accept from any worker, whether before or after the latter’s admission to employment, any commission or material reward in return for employment, or charge him for any expenses thereby incurred, except as may be prescribed or approved by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs”. Be warned there are plenty of “labour broking” scams waiting to take your money, if you do use a broker use one who is personally recommended to you.
c. Under the law all recruitment costs are borne by the employer, this includes: advertising for the position, agent’s fees/ commission (if one is used), labour deposits, labour application fees, medical examination fees, visit visa expenses, residency visa expenses etc. Having said that, an employer is well within his rights to deduct a pro-rata amount for expenses that he may have incurred should the employee fail to complete the full duration of his contract/ terminate the contract prematurely.

What documents to bring
a. Bring your original school/ university or technical college certificates/ degree/ diplomas with you.
b. You must have these attested before you leave for the UAE. Once again the rules have changed and the Department of Labour (actually called the Ministry of Labour – ( require that all qualifications be attested in the country of origin (or where the certificate was awarded) at a UAE consulate; having qualifications attested in the UAE through Empost is no longer an option. Different countries have slightly different attestation requirements so it is best to check with the relevant UAE consulate before taking them for attestation. Attest your highest qualification or, if you have a number of them, the one most pertinent to the position you are hoping to fill. They will normally accept documents attested at the consulate of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, if there is not UAE consulate or embassy in your home country. In a walk-in interview scenario a candidate with attested certificates wins hands-down, especially if the position is to be filled immediately.
A list of UAE consulates can be found on the following site:
c. If I don’t have a degree can I still find a job? This is a fairly common question and depends on a number of things. The first is what country you were educated in, if you were educated in a “western” country (including and not limited to: the UK, USA, Canada, South Africa or Australia) you can get away with having the equivalent of a secondary school leavers certificate. This is obviously dependant on the nature of the position you are applying for and in most cases are either vocational positions, unskilled or where you may have gained a lot of “on the job experience” but do not have a formal qualification. As unfair as it is, if you were educated in any “eastern” countries (e.g. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines etc.) you will need to have the equivalent of a degree (as a minimum) education qualification to be allowed to work in the UAE. This does not apply to unskilled construction labour, but because of safety requirements companies are encouraged to employ only literate staff.
d. If you are in marketing/ advertising/ architecture etc. industries, bring a current portfolio with you – on CD would be better than carrying a huge portfolio document with you. There are a number of print shops in Dubai and if you wanted to you could print off a soft-copy of your portfolio on arrival.
e. Your drivers license/ International drivers license if you have one. Note, you may only drive a rental car (through an official rental agency) with an International Driver’s licence! If you are on a Visit Visa you can get a temporary divers licence which is valid for 6 months – subject to conditions; depending on your nationality and where your driver’s license was obtained you may be able to simply convert you current license to a UAE driver’s license. You still have to re-do an eye test though.
f. If you are married or expect to bring your family with you then apply for the full, unabridged copy of your marriage certificate (if you are married), have a few copies of this notarised by a public notary; there are odd instances where the full version of this document may be required. The same applies to children’s birth certificates; if you are a single parent or if the child’s surname (family name) differs from your for some reason make sure that you have some kind of certified supporting documentation with you.
g. Make sure your passport is valid. If your passport is due to expire within 6 months they will not process your residency visa.

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Issues to sort out at home before you leave for Dubai Sep 30, 2007
Issues to sort out at home before you leave for Dubai
a. Draft a Will and Testament through an attorney.
b. Get an attorney to draft a full Power of Attorney document, giving full rights to a parent/ sibling or close friend to act legally on your behalf while you are not present in the country; this is often very useful for sorting out small legal issues that may arise while you are out of your home country, it could also possibly save you having to return home or courier documents back and forth. You can also get a limited or time stipulated/ sensitive version of the document drafted if you so choose.
c. Check with your bank, some banks do not accept attorney drafted “Power of Attorney” documents and require a separate document to be completed in full, in the bank, in person – if you wish someone to have control of your bank accounts. Also inform your bank that you will be working abroad and that from time to time you may transfer funds into your account, with the new FICA regulation all large transfers of funds into and out of bank accounts are queried (especially transfers originating in the Middle East), to prevent your account or transfer being frozen you may have to prove the source of the funds.
d. Another, topic is death, morbid as it is, people die for all manner of reasons, normally when they least expect it :D A major problem in the UAE is that if an expatriate dies in the UAE; if he/ she has assets of any value in the country– they are frozen under Sharia Law and held by the State – this occurs as soon as the death is publicised.
Odd as it sounds, this is how it works. The widow/ widower then has then to approach the courts with a legal Will and Testament (translated into Arabic and attested), the court then rules whether the assets are to be released to her/ him. The norm is the assets go to the fist male born child or male sibling of the deceased and not directly to the spouse! The other issue is that the remaining spouse is then left without any source of income until the court has made there decision; I have heard of instances where this can take up to 6 months! This pertains to any form of asset property, bank accounts, cars etc. What I used to do, as a precaution against such an eventuality, was to leave one signed cheque in the back of my chequebook, made out to my wife. If something were to happen, one of her first duties would be to get to the bank and draw whatever funds were in the account in cash (it may seem callus, but practical), that way she would at least have some form of assurance. Any excess money in my UAE account was always transferred off-shore to an account that was specified in my Will and Testament – making it easy to unravel for the executor of my estate. In the unfortunate event of a death, the employer is responsible for the costs associated with repatriating the employee’s remains.

Background reading

a. There are two good books I would also recommend for anyone who has not worked in the Middle East before. “Don’t they know it’s Friday” by Jeremy Williams and “Understanding Arabs” by Margaret K. Nydell. I don’t mean this in a derogatory or disrespectful manner; simply it will help people who have not worked in the region before in acclimatising quickly to the underlying social background and cultural issues of Dubai.

Arriving in Dubai
a. Be prepared to support yourself for at least 30 – 60 days before the right job comes up. This needs to include money for cab fares, accommodation, food, document attestation, visa renewal etc.
b. Remember even if you get a job on your first day in Dubai, you still have to support yourself for a full month before you can expect to be paid. Some employers (but not all) will provide a small cash advance for new employees to provide for their living expenses in their first month.
c. Don’t find yourself in the position that you become desperate for work before your visa and cash runs out and then have to compromise what you would accept as an offer – employers can tell when candidates are desperate and then exploit this.

CV/ resume
a. Bring an up-to-date CV, hardcopy as well as a softcopy on CD/ disk. On arriving in the UAE one of your first tasks is to get hold of a mobile phone; SIM cards are available at the exit counters at the airport. Add the contact number to your CV/ resume; it is pointless providing a prospective employer with a CV and no means of contacting you. Traditionally “western” CV’s do not contain photographs; where as the norm with most eastern and sub-Indian continent CV’s includes a photograph of the applicant. I’d recommend adding a photograph (see below).
b. You may have to tailor your CV to fit the profile of a specific position you are applying for, for this reason the softcopy is essential. Also if you don’t have access to a PC and internet connection, find out where the nearest Internet café is, many career advertisements only offer an email address as appoint of contact. If you are staying in a hotel don’t use their Internet service, in most cases it is very over-priced and a net café can offer the same services at a fraction of the price.
c. Keep the contents of the CV brief and accurate, do not try and “bulk” up the document with a huge amount of adjectives and synonyms!
d. Do not make any false claims or misrepresentations in your CV document, under UAE law this is reason enough for instant termination of your contract if you are caught out.
e. Make sure you use a spell check on the document (in the UAE both US and UK spelling protocols are used interchangeably, as are the metric and imperial measurement systems – but not on the same document!). BTW they also use both English imperial and US Gallon measurements as well as litres, this is sometimes confusing as the US Gallon is equal to 3.78 litres and the UK Gallon to 4.54 litres. Petrol is sold in US Gallons.
f. Do not start off with “I am seeking position with your hugely esteemed world-class organisation, the owner of which is hugely esteemed and generous …” etc, etc. I’m sad to say it, but half of the CV’s I encountered start off this way and continue for half a typed page in this manner. Firstly, every interviewer knows that you have literally hundreds of CV’s which you are handing out to all and sundry, extolling the virtues of people you have never met and companies you have never heard of – all in the same manner. It’s basically a waste of time, although I must admit having a smile at the contents of some of these “introductions”.
g. Many interviews in the UAE are set-up or arranged through friends or family. Add the person as a personal reference at the bottom of the CV; this will jog the interviewer’s memory when it comes time to short-list applicants.
h. Don’t apply for positions that you are not qualified for. Out of personal experience when posting a vacancy I would sometimes receive 2 or 3 hundred applications!!!! The first thing you do is perform a general sift of the documents to shorten the interview list; this would be based on different criteria at different times, but would generally start off with “Has attested documents”, “Has valid visit visa” or “Has relevant work experience/ qualifications” – the rest would end up in the bin (or as nesting material for my hamster)! If you feel that there are going to be a large number of applicants for the position then you have to try and at least get through to the interview phase, put your experience and qualifications up front on the first page (especially if your CV runs to more than 2 pages).

a. Be punctual, the UAE may sometimes run on “Arabic time”, but prospective employers respect punctuality. Be at least 30 minutes early.
b. Never tell a prospective employer that you are desperate for work and have to leave before your visa expires, most will ask you for a copy of your visa in any case and will be able to see the expiry date for them selves. Don’t become emotional and cry it makes interviewers uncomfortable and makes them terminate the interview prematurely.
c. Don’t tell a prospective employer that you have a starving wife and 10 kids at home to feed, firstly they hear this every day and are desensitised to the fact, secondly a person who is perceived to be continually worrying about their personal and home life is not a stable person in the work place – remain focused.
d. Turn off your mobile phone before you enter the interview, in UAE “culture” the norm is to simply take calls as and when you please, in the movie house, during meetings or at interviews. Personally I used to find this disrespectful and a waste of my time and would cut the interview short.
e. I don’t know how to put this delicately, so I may was well come out and say it, if you have a strong body odour, make sure you wash before the interview. The climate in Dubai/ UAE particularly in summer is hot and humid; an interview in a small closed room with a smelly candidate is not an interviewer’s idea of fun. Use deodorant if you’re unsure!
f. Make sure that you have a copy of your CV/ resume with you, attach a recent photograph as well, if the interviewer has a number of candidates it will help him to remember who you are. Always take a few spare passport photographs with you, if the position is for an immediate placement and the employer wants to hire you on the spot you need to provide him with at least 3 or 4 passport photographs so that they can start preparing the labour submissions.
g. Make sure your CV/ resume is current and has a current/ Dubai or UAE contact number on it.
h. If you are male and the interviewer is an Arabic woman, she may be dressed traditionally, or may only be wearing a headscarf, do not shake her hand; you may end up loosing the job before you have even started the interview – in this instance rather wait for her to offer her hand before shaking it, if she doesn’t then don’t offer yours!

Specific questions to ask or clarify with a prospective employer
a. What type of contract is it, definite or indefinite? Refer to DF posting
b. What is the probation period? (Normally 3 months, but not more than 6 months)
c. What are the hours of work required? (48 hours per week in most industries, retail and hospitality industries 54 hours per week)
d. What is the basic salary? (Remember this is what your gratuity will be based on)
e. What is the “perks” component of the salary?
f. When will the salary be paid, beginning, middle or end of the month?
g. Is transport provided to and from work?
h. Is there a company car with the position? If so, is regular maintenance and fuel provided?
i. Is there company accommodation or an accommodation allowance provided?
j. What (return) flights are provided by the company, and to where? (Some companies only provide flights to the point of entrance into the employee’s home country and do not cover local flights or travel within the employee’s home country).
k. Are the flights of your spouse and children covered as well? Don’t labour under the impression that your wife and children will get a free flight every year, and then when you are about to go on vacation you find they are not covered in the agreement. Some companies only offer flights home every second year, although leave can be taken annually!
l. Are you required to take your vacation at a specific point in the year, or can you take it at any time? Some companies only allow employees to take their vacation at specific times in the year in accordance with the company’s logistical requirements.
m. Is a uniform required as part of the job? If so who is responsible for the cost?
n. Some company’s provide “shared accommodation” for their employees, this is quiet common in the restaurant and other retail industries; if this is offered then ask if you are required to pay any of the other charges related to the accommodation (electricity, water etc.), or if these are covered by the employer. Also enquire as to the number of people who will be sharing this accommodation. I have personally seen 4 or 5 people cramped in to a 4 x 4 metre room. Labour accommodation is even worse than this and up to 12 people can share the same sized room!

Salary negotiations
a. Salary will depend entirely on who you work for and your experience; smaller companies will not be able to offer the same packages as a larger company would, having said this a smaller company (especially if new) may offer better long-term prospects over time to loyal employees. It’s sometimes a chance worth taking.
b. Salaries and packages can vary vastly between employers and even similar professions. There are no hard and fast rules regarding packages and what is included and what not.
c. Government medical coverage is mandatory at present, although there is talk about employers being forced to place expatriates on private medical policies. If the offer states “medical coverage”, this is not a perk that the employer offers it is a requirement by law. A government medical card allows you subsidised or discounted treatment at a local clinic or hospital; normally you will be associated with a specific clinic/ hospital and can only be treated at another after a referral.
d. Flights to and from your home country each year are also not a legal obligation by the employer, these are simply provided by most employers as a benefit of the position or a package benefit. A return flight home on completion of your contract is also another myth, the employer is not obliged to pay you out, or provide a flight back home for you if you break the contract or move to a new employer. The law only provides for repatriation of an employee at the cost of “others” if the employee can prove that he is not able to pay for it himself – in which case the Labour Deposit that is lodged by your employer (with the Dept. Of Labour) is used for this purpose.
e. All recruitment and visa processing costs are for the employers account; don’t let them tell you otherwise! Many employers try to deduct some of the visa processing and labour department deposits from the salary cheques of the employees – this is totally illegal. An employer can however deduct reparations from the employee’s final settlement if they abscond or terminate the contract before the contract period is complete.
f. Be prepared to haggle with your employer over the salary and perks. Haggling is a part of the local culture so get used to it.
g. Always start high, allow the employer some room to negotiate as well and then try to reach a compromise. A good formula would be to ask for 20% more than you would like, the employer is likely to come back with an offer between 10 and 20% lower than that, that way you would mutually compromise on the figure that you wanted in the first place (or if you are lucky, slightly more).
h. Remember what you agree to is what your remuneration will be fixed at for the duration of the contract! You could possibly use this as part justification for asking for a higher salary. Most employers do not offer 13th cheques or annual increases as many “western” country’s do – your salary is in effect governed by the contract for the period of the contract, and the employer is not obliged to give you any increases.
i. At the end of your contract you may be eligible for a gratuity payment from the employer; this is based on the (last received) net basic salary and not inclusive of any perks. For example if your employer offered you 10,000 AED per month and 8,000 AED on top of that in accommodation, vehicle and travel allowances, your gratuity would be based only on the 10,000 AED pm.
j. Look at the possibility of an incentive based add-on to the package (if your type of work or occupation favours this), like a performance bonus - come up with (and suggest) a mechanism that is both fair to yourself and the employer and that can be accurately measured and when it will be evaluated (monthly, quarterly, annually). Some company’s do use this type of scheme. THIS HOWEVER, MUST BE WRITTEN IN TO THE OFFCIAL EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT! See the following DF article -
k. Below is quiet a useful link, which can give you some insight into what your salary range should be for the position you are applying for. Remember this is not absolute, as it is dependant on age, experience, the size of the company employing you, and unfortunately in a lot of instances race. This site may not provide your specific job function, if not try and select something which is similar in nature, or a job function that you may also know the salary of – so that you have something to benchmark your offer against. Look under “International”.
l. Be careful where salaries have been quoted in currencies other than UAE Dirhams, for example you may respond to an advertisement where the salary is quoted in Pounds or Euro’s. Salaries are normally specified in the official labour contract and paid in local currency (Dirham) and into a local bank account; as the AED is “pegged” against the US Dollar you may suddenly your salary depreciating if the Dollar looses ground against the Pound or Euro.
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securing a job in Dubai Sep 30, 2007
The normal process of securing a job involves:

* Interview (possible follow up interview)
* Employers: Offer of Employment
* Employee: Acceptance of Offer of Employment
* Employee: Provides employer with passport copy, photographs and attested documents
* Employer: Seeks Labour approval for position
* Employer: Applies to Department of Naturalisation for Residency of employee
* Employer: Completes Official Labour Contract
* Employee and Sponsor of Employer: Sign the Official Contract
* Employer: Submits Official Labour Contract to Labour Department
* Employee: Undergoes Medical Examination (HIV/TB/ Communicable diseases)
* Employer: Submits results of Medical to Labour Department
* Labour Department issues Labour card in the name of the employee
* Employee: Submits original passport to employer for residency processing
* Naturalisation Department: Stamps Residency Visa in employee’s passport

Process can take anywhere between 1 week and 6 weeks depending on the HR officer of the company and time of the year (Ramadan and Eid Holidays etc.)!

Working on Visit Visa's
I can’t stress this enough, it is illegal to work on a visit visa irrespective what any employer may tell you. Simply look at the Expat Help Forum and you will have a good idea about what I mean, a large percentage of the queries/complaints and problems relate to people working on visit visa’s.
a. If you work on a visit visa you basically give up any chance that you may have or using the Labour Courts or Labour Department as an arbitrator should you have a dispute with your employer.
b. You stand a very good chance of being caught, fined, deported and black-listed from ever returning to work in the UAE.
c. If you enter the UAE on a visit visa looking for work; once you have a firm Offer of Employment from your employer then keep at them to process your Residency visa as soon as possible. You can tell them that you need a valid residency visa to open a bank account, rent a car, rent an apartment, purchase a mobile phone etc.

Probation Periods
There is a mandatory probation period included in all labour contracts of 3 months (and not more than 6 months), this is standard; either party can terminate services within the period without notice. Remember though, if you terminate your contract in this period you will most likely incur a 6 month labour ban!

Labour Ban?

Working Age
Residency and work permits are issued up until the age of 60 years. Thereafter any extensions can only be authorised by the Minister of Labour, and this would only be in exceptional cases.
Freehold property owners are technically sponsored for residency for the duration of their lease (99 years), however this does not entitle them to work or even guarantee them a work permit/ labour card even if they are under the 60 year age limit!

The minimum working age is 18 years of age, there are exceptions to this, but only applicable to apprenticeships or vocational training positions.

Residency Sponsorship
While this issue can sometimes be quiet complicated and take up a separate posting the bare basics are as follows:

Residency is temporary only and normally for a period of 3 years after which it must be renewed.

a. In order to live and work in the UAE you have to be sponsored by a UAE national, this can take the form of a private sponsorship (such as the case with domestic servants/ drivers etc.), although it is normally accomplished by virtue of the fact that the UAE national is the owner or majority shareholder of the company which employs you.
b. There is also secondary sponsorship; this occurs where the sponsored person (employee) sponsors someone else to reside with him in the UAE, the normal situations where this occurs are: a husband sponsoring a wife and children or sponsoring a domestic servant. You may notice I said “he” as it is not the norm for a woman to sponsor a husband and children in the UAE; this can only occur in certain circumstances and prior approval from both the Labour Department and the Department of Immigration and Naturalisation are required – this normally occurs only where the wife is deemed to have a profession of strategic or economic importance (medical staff, teachers etc.). A woman may however sponsor her children if she is divorced or widowed.
c. There are criteria which need to be met before you can sponsor a dependant, this is normally based on your earnings/ salary (the amount is changed form time to time, at present it is a minimum basic salary of 3,000AED pm and 1,000AED pm accommodation allowance from the employer, or a minimum of 4,000AED pm). In other words, if you were to earn a very basic salary you would not be able to sponsor a dependant. You have to have written permission from your sponsor in order to sponsor a dependant. As the secondary sponsor you are responsible for the processing fees (Medical tests and Residency processing fees), not your employer! As the sponsor of your family you are responsible for their behaviour, debt and support while they reside with you in the country!
d. You cannot sponsor your boyfriend/ girlfriend/ fiancé/ common-law spouse/ partner or extended family members. You can only sponsor a spouse to whom you are legally married (being a Muslim country this does not include same-s.e.x marriages), and a certified copy of the marriage certificate must be entered with the sponsorship application, this applies to men sponsoring wives, or in exceptional cases (as above), wives sponsoring husbands.
e. Children are defined as children (male and female) under the age of 21 years and un-married daughters over the age of 21. Daughters, once married have to fall under the sponsorship of their husband (if they are still resident in the UAE). Expatriate male children over the age of 21 must either leave the country (as they can no longer be sponsored by their father) or apply for a Student Visa at a registered educational institution.
f. As an expatriate you can never become a UAE citizen or naturalised; you have to either have been born to parents who are UAE citizens or a father who is a UAE citizen to be able to claim citizenship.
g. Expatriate children born in the UAE must take on the citizenship of their parents, an application then needs to be made for temporary residency status (to remain in the UAE) under the sponsorship of the secondary sponsor made within 3 months of the birth. See this thread for further information:
h. Property owners (freehold) are generally sponsored for residency by the property development company for the duration of the lease period (normally 99 years). Please check this with the company before buying a property, recently it has been found that there are numerous developers who do not have the authority (granted by government) to provide sponsorship to owners.
i. Temporary residency status does not automatically grant you the right to work or seek employment, although one normally follows the other. Example: a spouse, sponsored child of working age (over 18 ), or freehold property owner cannot simply start working, or work from home to earn extra income; she/ he would have to follow the normal procedure and find an employer who would provide her/ him with a labour card.

Student work/ Holiday jobs/ In-service training
The UAE and Dubai Labour Law do not recognise short-term holiday or vacation jobs. Any company advertising positions in the UAE for students is more than likely going to try and get you to work on a Visit Visa! The law does cover “apprentice” contracts; however I feel this is probably to cover the use of children (under 18 ) as camel jockeys rather than offering trade apprenticeship.

Working for the Government or a quasigovernment institution.
If you have been offered a position with any of the following institutions you are not subject to the normal conditions of the UAE Labour Law (1980): Government, Government Hospitals, Police, Military or Municipality (including Civil Defence). It should also be noted that if you are moving from private employment to a government position there is no labour ban on the move; however if you move from a government position there is a mandatory 1 year ban on your re-employment.

What next? So you have a job, now what?

Bank accounts
There are numerous banks represented in the UAE, both local and international; each offer different packages to new account holders.

One thing to consider is that many companies pay their employees by electronic funds transfer, if you happen to bank at the same bank as your employer you will most likely not have to pay any transfer fees on your salary; if not, you are liable to pay the fees to have your salary transferred from one bank to the other. The other issue is that inter-bank transfers can take a day or two to happen, this means that your salary will only arrive in your account a day or two after it has been paid by your employer (bear this in mind if you have standing orders).

The UAE Dirham, is currently “fixed” against the US Dollar, at a rate of 3.76 Dhs = 1 USD. It has maintained this rate within one or two percentage points for the last 10 years or more, the rate is maintained by the Federal Bank; as it is fixed against the USD, your (repatriated) earnings in dollar terms will fluctuate with this rate. Most GCC countries have their currencies fixed against the US Dollar in this manner, so the exchange rate between GCC member countries for all intense and purposes remains the same.

Credit cards. Getting a credit card in the UAE is easy; managing it correctly is another problem all together. Many banks will simply issue you a card whether you require on or not. In most cases you have to phone the bank to activate the card, they will charge you a monthly premium thereafter (once activated) whether you use it or not!

Cheque books. These are very handy, particularly when it comes to paying for accommodation and rental. Most landlords will require a set of post-dated cheques to cover the rental through the year.

Defaulting on cheque payments or accounts.
One very important thing to remember in the UAE, under Sharia Law, no one can be compelled to repay a loan; this applies to banks as well as privately. The normal way to ensure that you get back what you lent will be to ask for a post-dated cheque to cover the debt. If you fail to repay it in time the lender will simply submit the cheque to the bank, the bank will call him and inform him that there are no funds (if that is the case) and ask if they should re-submit it, he simply re-submit it. If the cheque still fails to clear, it then becomes of fraud, and the issue is handed over to the police department to clear up. They will then send a uniformed officer along to your work or home and arrest you (not an idol threat, they do this!).

I also know of instances where expatriates are leaving the country and simply run up debt on their credit cards and cheque accounts, the mentality is “Well, what are they going to do about it if I’m not here and have no intention of coming back”. That was to a certain degree correct a few years ago, now most banks have no qualms about handing the debt over to international collection agencies, affiliate banks in your country of residency or to have a black mark issued against your creditworthiness; try getting a mortgage on a home or open another bank account in your home country once that has happened!

At some stage, someone will ask you for one reason or another to sign surety for a loan that they may want to take from the bank. Under no circumstances unless you know the person extremely well should you do this. Banks and the legal system hold surety signatories liable for the full debt if the main applicant defaults on the loan or absconds; they do not accept “I’m didn’t really know what I was signing” and you can be arrested and end up in jail, or have your bank accounts emptied to cover the outstanding loan! Unfortunately this happens too often, where people think they are simply helping a colleague out in order to obtain a loan from a bank.

What to expect
Where to work in the UAE
Personally I’d start with Dubai as it is in my mind more cosmopolitan and easier to acclimatise yourself to the Middle Eastern way of life. The UAE is a Federation of emirates, and each is governed slightly differently from the other. Dubai is more relaxed and “western” in approach and general way of life, Abu Dhabi is a little more conservative, but is also generally liberal. Sharjah, Ras Al-Khaimah and Ajman on the other hand are more conservative with respect to dress codes, moral codes, legal issues etc. For example the death penalty is still imposed in Ras Al-Khaimah, but only life imprisonment given for the same offence in Dubai. If you are going to be working in the UAE, but out of Dubai read up on the local culture and what is permitted and what is not!

Cost of Living
I have posted another thread regarding the Cost of Living in Dubai, which I have tried to equate to an individuals standard of living as well:

Without wanting to paint a bleak or negative picture, everyone seeking employment in Dubai needs to realise this as a reality. Dubai is marketed both actively and passively as an international destination almost to the point where the “streets are paved in gold”, this has and still continues to create an almost wild-west gold-rush mentality among job seekers. This attracts people from all walks of life, all socio-economic backgrounds and all nationalities, all keen to get their slice of the action. In real terms this often results in an oversupply of skilled and semi-skilled labour in the market. Competition is stiff; perhaps not to the point of people killing to get a job, but when people are desperate they tend to resort to desperate and even underhanded methods of getting and then keeping a job. This is an obvious bonus to potential employers, they can have the pick of the crop (so to say), and offer less compensation wise than what they would normally do if they were conducting business in a country that had a minimum wage law.

This varies from industry to industry; in IT for example much of the work is actually outsourced to companies operating in India or the Indian sub-continent – the actual operating company in Dubai can then be run on a skeleton staff without all the normal overheads of expatriate salaries, accommodation and visa expenses. Obviously the converse applies, construction companies are labour intensive and very little work can be accomplished off-shore.

Look at the following statistics (a little dated) the UAE has a total population of 4.3 million people, of this only 20% (roughly 860,000) are Emiratis, the rest are expatriate workers!
In Dubai the population is about 1.4 million people, of which only 17% are local nationals (238,000); this means that almost 4 out of every 5 people are expatriates! And that is the figure of registered residency holders; it does not take into account the tens of thousands of people holding visit visa’s looking for employment.

When is the best time to look for work in Dubai?
Not during the following times:
a. Not during Ramadan/ Eid – work hours are shorter than normal, enthusiasm and motivation is at a low and business slow in general; many business owners/ managers (as well as UAE nationals) leave the country during this time. Find out when Ramadan and the two Eid’s fall, the Islamic calendar is lunar based and differs by approximately 11 days each year to that of the Gregorian calendar – the net effect is that Muslim (Holy) holidays tend migrate forward (earlier) by about 11 days every year.
b. Not during the mid-summer months (June, July, August), schools close for three months over the mid-summer and many expats simply pack their families off home on a long vacation. Most companies prefer their employees to take their vacations over this time for logistical reasons. There are normally very few people available at this time to make decisions!
Best time is the beginning of autumn going into the winter season (October/ November), this is also the best time to arrive in Dubai and acclimatise rather than arrive in the middle of summer. Business in general also picks up after the summer.

General Odds & Ends

A Fool and his money are soon parted!!
During the time I spent in Dubai, I saw or read about some of the most elaborate and also some of the simplest schemes employed to part you from your hard earned cash! While there is not much in the way of serious crime to contend with you still have to be cautious when handling your money. There are some recent postings on the forum stressing this issue, where some expatriates were the victims of an elaborate vehicle laundering scheme.

Some of the more audacious ones include selling property which does not belong to the seller. Selling bottles of “the special liquid that the American Reserve bank uses to convert pieces of paper into Dollar bills”. Saying “special words” over a bag of your money to make it more (which really converts it to cut up pieces of newspaper) which you discover only when you get it home, as well as various variations of the “Nigerian” letter as well as a few instances of “chain-letter” systems.

Normally if the perpetrator is caught or if the victim is not too embarrassed by the affair (which a lot of confidence tricksters count on), they publish the issue in the local papers; some of them are really funny and I wish I had started collecting them years ago, I could have published a book on it by now.

Be very cautious about handing over large (or even moderate) amounts of cash to people, this includes receiving cheques. A quirk in the banking system in the UAE (which is highlighted by the recent vehicle scam issue) is that cheques when they are deposited into your account show that the funds are immediately available although the person depositing it may not have any funds in his/ her account to honour the cheque. The bank only picks this up a day or two later and then reverses the transaction – leaving you with a hole in your bank account where the cash was paid to you was and the con-artist long gone with the Plasma screen TV you sold him.

The golden rule is: “If it looks to good to be true, it probably is!”.

Dubai has a slightly more conservative approach to dress than you would expect from a “western” country; having said that, Dubai is far, far more liberal in this regard than other emirates within the UAE. For example short skirts (within reason) are not really given a second glance in Dubai, but in Sharjah the regulation is that they have to be below the knee (in public); disregarding the law in this case will result in a fine or jail, even if you are just passing through! This includes guys wearing short pants in Sharjah!

Business dress
Personally I found it very odd that everyone was so dressed up, even over-dressed. Most business people wear jackets and ties, and most businesses demand this - I think this really has more to do with image than comfort. Many countries with extremely hot climates dispense with formal attire from a comfort and productivity perspective; this is not the same of Dubai!

If you use prescription medication
Most medicines are available in Dubai, but normally under different trade names that you may be accustomed to. I would however suggest that you either bring a recent prescription or the information pamphlet that accompanies your normal medication; that way the pharmacist can provide you with the local equivalent.

Religion and Holidays
Although being an Islamic administered country, a great deal of religious freedom is observed and there are a number of churches and places of worship through Dubai; in some cases the rulers of the UAE have even contributed in some way to the construction of these. These hold less conspicuous positions than the mosques and are sometimes not in plain site. Church services are normally conducted on Fridays and not Sundays.

Holidays are normally considered Private sector or Public sector; Private sector holidays are observed by all privately owned companies in the UAE while Public sector holidays are those given to governmental departments, military, police service, municipality and banks. In general the public sector get longer holidays than those in the Private sector. For example, the Private sector may get a 2 day Eid holiday, while the Public sector may get 7 or more days.

All Islamic holidays as well as UAE National Day and New Years Day (1 January) are observed as paid public holidays (both Private and Public sector).

Christian holidays (such as Christmas and Easter) are not recognised as official holidays; yet most employers do make allowances for staff wanting to attend services, sometimes due to the large number of non-Muslim staff. Hindu holidays and festivals are given at the discretion of the employer.

Foreigners are expected to observe the practice of fasting during the Holy month of Ramadan, and are required not to eat, drink or smoke in public areas during this time. Pregnant women and children (normally considered children under the age of 12) are excluded from fasting. If you forget and absentmindedly pop a cigarette into your mouth you will normally be reminded/ reprimanded by a passer-by, and at some point a policeman. Restaurants and bars are open in the evening, although no live music or band performances are permitted.

Restaurants only open after sunset in the evening and will normally remain open all night until just before sunrise; during the day however most hotel restaurants remain open, but are screened off from public view. Many shops will only open in the late afternoon or evening. As with many things the Emirate of Dubai is more moderate in enforcing this practice than other Emirates (possibly because of the number of tourists); however this is not to say that you cannot be fined or imprisoned for failing to obey the law. Muslims failing to observe the fast during this time (whether tourists or not) are severely punished, if caught.
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Sep 30, 2007
thanks soul brilliant and helpful as always. will get mod to sticky this
UAE, Dubai Forums Lord of the posts
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Sep 30, 2007
I am planning to go to Dubai. When would be the best month to go there? tnx :D
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Oct 01, 2007
Man i really want to thank you for this helpful information. God bless you and bless the people you love :)
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Oct 02, 2007
That is brilliant.Thank you once again. :D

..I still think I owe you a least!
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Re: Tips for working and finding work in Dubai Oct 08, 2007
Thank you for your insightful information.
It is both educational and beneficial.

Do you have any banking-related recruitment agencies and/or websites for job seekers?

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Oct 09, 2007
banking careers in dubai - as a starting point look at: as well as
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Re: Tips for working and finding work in Dubai Oct 16, 2007
Hi, I'm a 49-year old ex-FM broadcaster. I'm planning to try and find work in Dubai. What chances do I have? Please advise, thanks lots!
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Oct 16, 2007
Hi there, there are a number of small/ medium sized radio stations in Dubai and the UAE. Some of them are privately operated and others government sponsored. Due to the large number of stations and relatively small listener-ship it seems to be quiet competitive (for advertising). I used to visit one station on a regular basis; and there was always some kind of crisis going on and a lot of internal politics.

Below is a website listing the UAE radio stations.
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Oct 16, 2007
Ooops! Sounds like a bleak prospect, he he!
Is there censorship in the Eglish music stations?
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Oct 16, 2007
not as much as you'd expect. they have a list of music they can't play from though, and of course bad lanuage on air is not tolerated.
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Oct 16, 2007
Oh, ok. So what other prospects do I have? I'm rather well experienced in marketing and promotions. good training I got from supporting clients on-field. Like after-on-air-campaign services. Won't my age (49) be a problem?
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Oct 16, 2007
you are eligble for a work permit up to the age of 60, basically 57 as that would be the last 3 year permit you could have. you can only have an extention beyond that with specific permission from the minister of labour (and yours would have to be a very highly skilled position to obtain one).

try some of the marketing companies in the media free zone, alternativly there are also some marketing and events companies to look at.
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