Do you want to move to Dubai from USA to get a job? If YES, here is a detailed guide on how to move to Dubai from USA with your family and how much it cost.

Dubai has been attracting the attention of foreigners in recent years because of a lot of its endearing features, chief of all is its upscale leanings. Moving from the United States to Dubai is not an easy feat as it involves a lot of bureaucratic hurdles. Missing anyone of the stages might mean you being denied access.

If you are in the United States and you are nursing the ambition of moving to Dubai with your family, here is a detailed guide that you can follow.

A Detailed Guide to Moving to Dubai from USA With Your Family an How Much It Cost

  1. Scout the country

If you are resident in the United States and you have made up your mind to move to Dubai with your family, the very first thing that you are required to do is to scout the area. This is in fact a necessity because you do not want to bring your family to a country that has no working amenities, or to somewhere you will it find difficult to adjust to.

You also need to need to check out the best province for you to stay as well as sort out accommodation for your family, unless you intend staying at a hotel for the time being.

When coming to Dubai to see what obtains in the Emirate, one very important document you need to get is a visa. Good enough, American passport-holders are entitled to a visa-on-arrival at the airport, if their stay be shorter than 30 days. Since you intend to stay longer, you should start making plans to get a residency visa. Make sure your passport has up to 6 months validity in it before you start your journey.

  1. Know your visas

Dubai has various visas for immigrants and visitors, and you need to know the various types of visas to know which one applies to your situation. Research can tell you a lot about this, but an immigration consultant would be of immense help to you in this regard. The type of visas you need to know about include;

  • Work or Employment Visa: This is the most common type of visa issued in the UAE, and this visa type is issued by your sponsor company (that is if you have been given an employment prior). The company sponsoring you is mandated to take care of all arrangements relating to this type of visa.
  • Dependent Visa: If you have a spouse or dependent children (under the age of 18), then this is the type pf visa you should be looking out for. This visa type would enable you include your dependents on your own visa. But before you start applying for this visa, you must know that you will need to be earning at least AED 4,000 a month (or AED 3,000 with accommodation). If your adult children are in Dubai, and you want them to sponsor your residence visa, they will need to earn a minimum of AED 20,000 per month.
  • Student Visa: This visa is available only to students who are registered at an educational institute or university in the UAE. The visa is valid during the period in which you are studying in the UAE.
  • Investor Visa: If you’re an entrepreneur looking to start your own business in Dubai (or are planning on investing in one), you can be accepted in the country on an Investor visa This visa is usually valid for three years. To get this visa, you can apply through one of Dubai’s many free trade zones.
  • Property Owner Visa: If you own property in Dubai, you can apply for a renewable residence visa. While doing this, you have to check first with the developer as to what the dependent benefits of the visa are.

Note here that before your visa is issued in any of the above categories, you would be required to go for a medical test. This test consists of an X-ray and blood test to check for a few things.

  1. Documents you need to make the move

If you have scouted Dubai and you now feel confident that you want to move with your family, then you need to start putting together your documents.

If you had gone the employment route, then that means that the company that gave you a job would be responsible for processing most of your papers. But this does not mean that you have no work to do. You still need to get some of your documents in order.

Some of the documents you will need include;

  • Degree/educational certificate
  • Marriage certificate (if coming wth your family)
  • Passport photographs
  • Driving license
  • Health insurance card
  • Emirates ID (if you have one)

In order to process an employment visa, you will likely have to present your original and attested degree/educational certificate. Though you can get this done via a service once you get to Dubai, but it will be far easier and very cost-effective to do so while still in the USA.

If you are coming in through an employer set up, they’ll typically handle all of the paperwork for your work permit and visa. This can be done either before you enter the country, or you can change your visa status from visiting to work once you’ve crossed the border. It’s smart to check with the official General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs office of Dubai if your situation is a bit more complicated.

If you plan on moving your family with you, Dubai also requires proof that you have a salary of at least Dhs 10,000 per month before you can obtain an entry permit for your loved ones.

And remember, you’ll need a sponsor to enter Dubai regardless of it’s for a quick visit or for a permanent relocation. This could simply be your hotel or tourist company, your future place of employment, or a friend or family member who’s a permanent UAE resident.

  1. Authenticate your documents

Once you have gathered the required documents, you need to authenticate them to show that they are valid. First, you need to authenticate you degree certificate. Get an authentication from your state’s Secretary of State (get in touch with your school to figure out the best way to go about this).

Next, you will need to authenticate the documents at the U.S. Department of State Office of Authentications. The final step is to get authentication from the UAE Embassy, based in Washington D.C.

If you are coming to Dubai with your spouse, remember to bring your marriage certificate – but be sure to attest it in the USA first. This will be done initially by the issuing officer, then followed by the state’s Secretary of State, then the U.S. Department of State Office of Authentications, followed by authentication from the UAE Embassy in Washington.

  1. Get some passport photographs and several copies of your documents

An important piece of advice for anyone moving to Dubai is to bring as many passport-sized photos of yourself as you can. Everything from your visa, your driving license, health insurance card, Emirates ID and other documents may require several copies, so it’s better to have plenty in reserve to avoid running around trying to find a photo studio at the last minute.

  1. Sort out Health insurance

Dubai requires you to have adequate health insurance before even entering the country. They want to be sure that you can take care of yourself health wise. In fact, they require a medical examination before you can be issued a residency visa. This means receiving a blood test, and possibly a chest x-ray and urine test.

There are public hospitals which offer free or very low-cost services to Dubai residents. You’ll need to have a health card to be treated at one of these hospitals which is available from the Department of Health and Medical Services.

If you are coming in through an employment visa, your employers are required by law to provide you with health insurance coverage, but sponsors are required to get insurance cover for their resident dependents. That means, you have to get your family sorted out when it comes to health insurance. You’ll have a few insurance companies to pick from in Dubai, if you don’t already have insurance coverage from home.

  1. Bringing your Pets

Bringing pets to another country is never easy, and that is same with Dubai. It may be wiser to get yourself installed before you think of bringing in your pets. This is because you need is to prove that you have a residence visa before you can be allowed to bring a pet into Dubai. On the other hand, you can get a letter from your employer stating that the application is in process.

Also keep in mind that you will also need a permit to import your pet. This can be complicated but there is help available. Dubai Kennels and Cattery specialize in pet imports. They can help you out. Cats and dogs in Dubai have to be registered and micro-chipped. Your pets will need to be in good health and have up-to-date inoculation certificates before they can be allowed into Dubai.

You might like to consider that there are plenty of cats and dogs in the UAE looking for good homes. If you would like to get a pet on arrival, contact the local agencies. It would save you a lot of hassles and cost of importing pets into Dubai.

  1. Know the living costs

The cost of living in Dubai can be high due to the cost of housing and private schooling. So, although it is a tax free environment, make sure you have the salary to cover your living costs. It is possible to cut costs and economize in your home country where you know the system, but such would be a bit difficult on a foreign land.

You should have in mind that living in a new country on an inadequate salary will be a misery, and this would be particularly so in Dubai where there is so much to enjoy.

You cannot decide to walk to places, or ride a bike to work to save transport because of the heat, bearing in mind that the intense heat lasts for months. Again, you cannot decide to send your children to a government school to save cost, because that is not possible. Just know that some costs just cannot be avoided if you live in Dubai, you can only get prepared for them.

  1. Find an accommodation

It can be daunting finding a place to live in when you move to a new country. Many Dubai employers usually provide accommodation or have extra living expenses built into contracts for their new recruits. It’s also not uncommon for new immigrants to purchase a home rather than rent.

If you’re renting, many apartments or condos will likely come furnished, but it’s not too difficult to find a place without furniture. Most landlords will require you to pay either six months to a full year of rent upfront, so be prepared for that large transaction.

The districts of Jumeirah and Dubai Marina are more expensive and rental property is competitive, because they are close to the beach and are highly desirable. The Arabian Ranches also have a good reputation for well-built homes and can be at the high end of the market.

There are somewhat less expensive districts such as The Lakes, The Meadows, and The Springs where you can also get good accommodation. And if you’re up for the commute on the famous Sheikh Zayed Road, the longest highway in the UAE, there’s always room in the suburbs for you.

Usually, American expats in Dubai choose to rent a home when they first move to the city – in fact, the majority of expats in Dubai tend to rent, so that they can settle down before looking around for a suitable house to buy. Depending on your list of requirements for a home (for example, pet-friendly, furnished, with a garden, close to Dubai Metro etc) there are various properties to choose from – the only limitation will be your budget.

The way property rentals in Dubai normally work is that you will have to pay for the property up front. You can either issue out one or four (the most common) or six post-dated cheques. Employers will sometimes provide housing allowances or loans to meet the up front costs of this, but check first.

You will also have to set money aside for your estate agent’s commission (5% of the total rent), security deposit (5% once again), DEWA (water and electricity) deposit, internet deposits, Ejari (that’s the registration of your tenancy contract) as well as any other moving costs that you may incur – as there are a lot of upfront payments. For this reason, you need to set enough money aside before you can think of renting an apartment in Dubai.

  1. Open a bank account

To open a bank account you need the usual documentation – passport copy, ID card copy, salary certificate and a photo, though this latter requirement may be wavered.

Once you have a bank account, it should be possible for you to apply for a credit card. However, some banks will not issue a credit card until you have been in your job for six months. This is because most employers have a six months probation period before your job can be confirmed, or before it can be made permanent. Banks do not want to risk giving a credit card to someone who may abscond or lose their job.

Opening a bank account in Dubai is pretty simple. There are over 45 UAE-based commercial banks to choose from. There are also a handful of bank branches from regions like London, Germany and China present in Dubai. You must be a resident to open a checking account, but some banks allow non-UAE residents to open a savings account.

Remember that whether you’re there as a permanent expat, or for temporary work, you and your family can save money on cross border payments through TransferWise. Manage money in multiple currencies with the TransferWise Borderless account while avoiding steep bank fees and bad exchange rates from traditional banks or outdated money transfer services.

  1. Find a job

If you are moving to Dubai from the United States, you will need to find a way to sustain yourself and your family. If you did not get a job prior to relocating with your family, then you need to start looking for a job.

Working in Dubai can be financially rewarding, no matter where in the world you’re from. There’s no personal tax, so net income is generally much higher than other countries. As a Muslim country, the weekly day of rest is Friday, and some companies work from Sunday to Thursday, with Friday and Saturday as their weekend. During the holy month of Ramadan, working hours are reduced to six hours; however, a typical work day is from 8:30am to 5:30pm.

It’s recommended to find work prior to entering Dubai, as many new employees are recruited abroad from head-hunters or employment agencies. If you haven’t already landed a job prior to entering the country, you can go online and find a few English-speaking sites that can help you.

  1. What to eat

It is generally recognized that prices of food in Dubai are slightly above average when compared to European food prices. But asides that, Dubai has plenty of American restaurants that are loved not just by Americans but locals and expats too.

You will find Shake Shack, The Cheesecake Factory and even a TGI Fridays, and you can also find a lot of American fast food chains. Several restaurants also offer New England style food and Dubai’s popular Nola serves up fare from New Orleans.

If you want something different, you can eat your way around the world in the emirate, with cafes and restaurants serving up food from India, North Korea, South Africa, France and any country you can think of. No matter what food you want, you will find it in Dubai.

If you’re looking for ingredients (or maybe even your favorite cereal from back home) you’re likely to find it in Dubai as well! Supermarkets such as Spinneys and Park n Shop stock international brands, so you don’t have to worry about missing that taste of home.

  1. Education for your kids

Since you relocated to Dubai with your family, you need to be concerned about the school system. You should know that private schooling is the only option you have in the UAE and it can be expensive. Luckily, Dubai’s private schools attract students from across the world, and they offer a great multicultural educational experience for your child.

Some schools stress that they follow the curriculum of a particular country such as the USA or Britain. Some offer GCSEs and some stress International Baccalaureate (IB). The best thing to do is to make a shortlist of the most suitable schools so you can conduct further research on them. Try to talk to other people with similar aged children as they will be a ready source of information.

In terms of school fees in Dubai, this will depend on the curricula you opt for as well as the reputation of the school.

No matter the curricula you choose though, the best schools in Dubai are often over-subscribed, with places filling up fast – no matter the year group. If you have a school-age child and are looking to move to Dubai, it will be a wise decision on your part to do your research and get in touch with your shortlisted schools well before you start moving to the country.

If you are interested in higher education, Dubai has many options – with some American institutions having branches here as well. Some of these include the Rochester Institute of Technology, Michigan State and Hult Business School. The American University Dubai (AUD) is another popular choice for American-style higher learning. If you are looking a little further afield, New York University has a campus in Abu Dhabi.

  1. Finding your way around the city

Dubai has a fantastic public transport network that includes buses, a Dubai Metro, Dubai tram and of course, taxis, all regulated by the RTA.

It is worth keeping in mind, however, that despite the public transport system, you may be some way away from the nearest metro station – although it is likely that there will be a regular feeder bus to the nearest one. For example, you will need to get alternative transport to the metro station from popular areas like Arabian Ranches, Mirdif and Motor City, however, there are plenty of flats for rent near metro stations if you need to rely on the metro to get around.

If you hold a valid USA driving license, you can easily transfer it to a UAE one for a small fee. All you need is an eye test certificate (head to any optician and tell them it’s for a driving license) and a NOC from your sponsor (this is a simple letter typed on company letterhead and stamped), copies of your passport and visa and passport photos. Visit a branch of the RTA, fill in the required application, have your photograph taken and you’re done.

If you are driving around Dubai, you may find that the way roads are laid out may not be what you’re used to, so you may be confused at first.

  1. Know your emergency contacts

For you to live in Dubai, especially if you are coming over with your family, you must intimate yourself with the country’s emergency contacts so you are not left helpless in an emergency.

Here are the important emergency contacts you should know in Dubai:

  • Dial 999 for ambulance and police
  • Dial 997 for fire emergencies
  • For visa issues, dial 8005111 to reach the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs Dubai

Ejike Cynthia

Head of Research / Chief Editor at Profitable Venture Magazine Ltd
Cynthia is a writer and editor with a quirky sense of humor. She has a background in journalism with years of experience in freelance writing, copy editing and business research. Cynthia has a B.sc in Mass Communication and a higher degree in Personnel Mgt.
Ejike Cynthia