UAE Real Estate & Mortgage

How to settle down in Dubai as a foreigner


Kata Hahn


17 February 2023


Learn about how to settle into life in Dubai as an expat, whether you’re planning a move to Dubai or have recently relocated.

Visa requirements

Entry permit

The first step to take care of is getting an entry permit for the UAE. You’ll have to take different steps to enter the UAE depending on your citizenship. 

All Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) citizens can easily apply online for a UAE entry visa. This includes citizens of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. All applicants must have a passport that is valid for at least 3 months from their date of entry and must have a valid passport and residence permit from a GCC country. This visa allows them to stay in the country for 30 days and is only extendable if they provide an extension letter and have a UAE resident sponsor. 

All other foreigners entering the UAE must have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months past the date of entry. 

Some foreigners are eligible for visas that are issued upon arrival in Dubai. These on-arrival visas are stamped into your passport at the airport and don’t need to be pre-arranged. The table below shows which citizens are eligible and under what conditions.
Types of on-arrival visas
90-day visa on arrival 30-day visa on arrival 14-day visa on arrival 180-day visa on arrival
Citizenship Citizens of 48 countries* Citizens of 19 countries* Indian citizens with a US visitor visa or green card, or a residency visa from the UK or EU Mexican citizens
Cost None None AED 120 None
Length 90 days 30 days 14 days 180 days
Type of entry Multiple-entry Single-entry Single-entry Multiple-entry
Extension / additional cost Non-extendable Extendable for 30 days with a 10-day grace period for AED 1,000 (70 days total) Extendable for 14 days for AED 250 (28 days total) Non-extendable
Addtional info Valid for 6 months from issue. A new visa is issued every time the individual exits and enters the country. There is no annual limit. Valid for 6 months from issue.
* Check if you qualify for a 30-day or 90-day visa on arrival based on your citizenship. 

If you aren’t eligible for one of these on-arrival visa types, you’ll have to arrange an entry permit into the UAE in advance and may need someone to sponsor you. Depending on the purpose of your visit, you can apply for a tourist, visit, transit, or work entry permit. You can be sponsored by an Emirati, expat resident with a valid residency permit, a UAE-based airline, a UAE-based hotel or tour agency, a government entity, or a company in the private sector or free zones. These entry permits may have varying conditions regarding the sponsor and different costs depending on the length of time and if it’s a multiple or single-entry permit. 

A tourist visa is available to citizens from all countries that don’t qualify for one of the on-arrival visas described above. This is a multiple-entry 5-year tourist visa that lets foreigners stay in the UAE for 90 days at a time (extra 90-day extension possible) and is self-sponsored. To qualify, you must have a bank balance of $4,000 (or the equivalent in another currency) during the last 6 months, a valid health insurance policy applicable in the UAE, and proof of stay (hotel or residence). 

There are other more specific visitor visas for job seekers, those exploring investment opportunities, and those seeking patient care in the UAE. Each of these will have its own unique conditions, requirements, and documentation. 
An Emirates airplane flying with the Dubai skyline behind.

Residency visa

You now know the different ways you can get an entry permit or a short-term visa depending on your citizenship and circumstances. However, to stay in the UAE for a longer period of time, you’ll have to apply for a residency visa. 

There are multiple types of residency visas, including:
  • Employment visa - for an employee working in the private sector or a free zone (for a company registered in Dubai). Usually a 2-year visa.
  • Student visa - for a student sponsored by an accredited university/college. 1-year renewable visa.
  • Investor visa- for expats investing in a UAE company, either by buying shares in an existing company or establishing a company with an investment of AED 72,000 ($19,600) or more.
  • Property owner visa- for real estate investors that own a property equal to or more than AED 750,000 ($204,190). 2-year renewable visa.
  • Dependent visa- for expat residents to sponsor their spouse or children (can also sponsor parents with some restrictions). Must have a minimum salary of AED 4,000 ($1,090) or AED 3,000 ($815) with accommodation. Typically 2-3 years depending on the nature of the job and work contract.
  • Retirement visa- for retirees over the age of 55 who own a property with a value of AED 1 million ($272,255), have financial savings of AED 1 million or more, or have a monthly income of AED 15,000 ($4,080).
  • Remote work visa- a newer option for employees that want to relocate and continue working remotely. 1-year visa.
Documents for residence permit application*
Passport A recent personal photo with a white background Emirates ID application receipt
Housing lease contract (certified) or proof of owning a residence A medical fitness certificate Entry permit
Medical insurance or health card Signed offer letter / job contract (for work visa) Educational certificates attested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (for work or student visa)
* There may be additional documents required depending on the type of visa. 

For those getting an employment or student visa, the institution will be able to help you apply and make sure you meet the necessary requirements. Families or partners that are relocating typically have to apply for dependent visas. Regardless of their job, employees can sponsor their family members as long as they meet the salary requirements. 

Here are some important notes regarding the dependent visa: 
  • Sponsor must already have residency and apply for dependents’ residence visas within 60 days of their entry
  • All applicants older than 18 years must pass a medical fitness exam
  • Married couples must provide an attested marriage certificate in Arabic or duly translated into Arabic by a certified translator
  • Wives can sponsor their husband and/or children if they earn more than AED 10,000 ($2,723) and get special permission from Dubai authorities
  • Children
  • All daughters, regardless of age, can be sponsored if they are unmarried
  • Sons can be sponsored until the age of 25 (unless they have special needs). Sons 18 years and older can only be sponsored on a yearly basis.
  • Parents
  • Eligible for sponsorship on a yearly basis 
  • Sponsor must make a payment as a guarantee
  • Sponsor must be the parents’ main support, with a minimum salary of AED 20,000 ($5,445)
  • Both parents are sponsored together (unless widowed)

Emirates ID card

The Emirates ID application is one of the documents needed to apply for a residency permit and is also the essential first step in getting an Emirates ID card. This is the main identification card for all UAE residents, issued by the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship and linked to your valid residence permit. You can submit an Emirates ID application via the Smart Services System (an online application) or by visiting a typing center or customer happiness center. The cost is typically around AED 100 ($27) depending on the period of validity plus some minor service fees (AED 30-50). 

The Emirates ID card includes your basic personal details, photo, and biometric data or fingerprints. Residents can use their card to pay phone, internet, utility bills, and fines, and register vehicles. 
An example of the Emirates ID card.


Bank account

As a resident, it’s pretty easy to open a bank account in the UAE. Most banks require people to be either 18 or 21 years old to open an account and give their clients the option to open an account in Arab Emirates dirham (AED), the UAE’s currency, or a foreign currency (like USD, EUR, or GBP). It’s important to note here the AED is pegged to the US dollar and has a fixed exchange rate (AED 3.67 = $1). 

Banks in the UAE may decide to offer conventional products, Islamic products, or a combination of both. Islamic products are compliant with Sharia'h law, based on the teachings of the Qur'an and the sayings of Prophet Muhammad. Islamic institutions aren't allowed to charge interest on their loans and must find alternative ways to make a profit that are in line with Islam. Anyone can open up a bank account in an Islamic bank, not only Muslims. You’ll just have to keep in mind that their products, terms, and conditions might be significantly different from those that are offered by conventional banks. If you plan to take out a mortgage loan or get financing for a property purchase, it’s best to open an account with the lender you will use since you’ll be required to do this during the mortgage process anyway. 

You can open up a current account or a savings account as a UAE resident. When you open a current account, the bank can issue you a chequebook, which is a very common means of payment in the UAE. With a savings account, you’ll get an ATM card and earn interest on the balance in your account (around 0.1-2% interest depending on the bank). 

Non-residents are only allowed to open a savings account. Non-residents must be present in the UAE to open up a bank account unless they decide to open an account with an international bank (such as HSBC or Standard Chartered) and open an account in person at a local branch. You should expect the process of opening an account to be longer if you’re a non-resident. Some banks may offer other specific non-resident bank accounts. 
Documents to open a bank account
Resident: Non-resident:
Passport Passport
Emirates ID card Bank statements from country of residence for the last 2 months
Tenancy agreement (proof of address) Proof of residential address (utility bill)
Employment contract Written explanation of purpose of opening an account in the UAE
No-objection letter from employer stating job role and salary
Original trade license (if self-employed)
Spouse’s labor card / work ID (if on a dependent visa)

Some UAE banks have income restrictions, such as AED 5,000 ($1,361) per month, or minimum deposit requirements, anywhere from AED 3,000-5,000 ($817-1,361). Banks may also have stricter restrictions and requirements for non-resident customers. 

Chequebooks and manager's cheques

As a resident, you’ll definitely want to get a chequebook that is linked to your current account. Chequebooks are commonly used for making rental payments, buying property or other big-ticket items (like cars), and paying bills, utilities, and fines. 

Additionally, you can use manager’s cheques to make big purchases more secure. The benefit of a manager’s cheque is that the funds must be available for the cheque to be issued. This cheque is certified by the manager or the head of your bank branch and has the seal and signature of the person who issued it. Both residents and non-residents with a bank account can get manager’s cheques issued. All you need to do is contact the bank, provide the recipient’s information, and wait until your funds are verified and the cheque is issued. Learn more about manager’s cheques, such as how they are obtained and issued.

Housing costs

Cost of your accommodation, no matter where you live, is probably one of your largest regular costs to budget for. There are many properties available to rent and buy in Dubai. There are many large-scale residential developments underway across the city including villas, townhouses, and apartments

When it comes to paying rent, it’s common for tenants to write a check for the whole year and then indicate payment dates depending on the rental agreement. Some landlords may ask that rent be paid for the entire year upfront, while others may allow multiple payments via cheques over the course of the year (eg. 2, 4, or 6 payments per year). You might be used to paying rent on a monthly basis, so paying a large sum of money upfront can be an unwelcome surprise, and is something you’ll definitely want to budget for and discuss with your potential landlords.

You’ll also have to complete Ejari registration when renting a property in Dubai. Ejari is a system  launched by the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) to regulate the Dubai rental market and tenancy contracts. Tenants often complete Ejari registration and pay the associated fees themselves. Fees are typically around AED 120 ($33) plus additional fees if registered through a real estate service trustee center. 

Many foreigners are deciding to buy property in Dubai due to high price appreciation and a stable economy. Thanks to a booming construction industry, more and more new property transactions are taking place each year in Dubai. Unless you plan to buy a property in cash with your own funds, you’re going to need to budget for monthly mortgage payments. By using a mortgage calculator you can estimate your monthly mortgage payments, potential rental yield, and upfront costs. 
A screenshot of a mortgage calculator.

Check out our mortgage guides for some of the top banks in the UAE to see what mortgage products and potential rates they offer:


The UAE doesn’t tax residents on income, capital gains, gifts, inheritance, wealth, and luxury. The beneficial tax policies in the UAE are one of the biggest draws for foreigners. However, there are still some taxes you’ll have to pay in the UAE. Foreigners with residence visas automatically become tax residents. 

The UAE has a value-added tax (VAT) of 5% on most goods and services, which may be waived for certain types of purchases or within specific areas (eg. free zones). Some products such as tobacco, carbonated drinks, and alcohol have excise taxes anywhere from 50-100% of the price. As of 2023, the Dubai government just removed the additional 30% sales tax on alcoholic drinks. 

There’s a 5% rental tax (or municipality tax) on the yearly rental value paid by tenants and a 10% tax for commercial properties (typically paid by the owner). For those buying a property in the UAE, you should account for 2 taxes: a transfer fee and a registration fee. The property transfer fee In Dubai is 4% of the property price and the registration fee is AED 2,000-4,000 ($545-1089) depending on if the property is less or more than AED 500,000 ($136,127). Both of these fees are payable to the Dubai Land Department (DLD)

You should also consider if your country of citizenship taxes you on international income (such as the US). You may still be required to file taxes in your home country even if you don’t earn any income there. If your country has a double tax treaty with the UAE (such as India or the UK), you will want to obtain a Taxation Residence Certificate to confirm your tax status. To obtain this certificate, you must have resided in the UAE for at least 180 days and pay a fee of AED 1,000 ($272). 

Settle with your family - the Dubai education system

We’ve already covered dependent visas and how to get a residency permit for your spouse, children, and parents. One of the next most important steps for expat families is finding quality education for their children. In the UAE, schooling is mandatory for students from Grade 1 and up. 

The UAE offers free public education to UAE nationals, holders of UAE passports, GCC citizens, and children of holders of nationality by decrees issued by the UAE's president or vice president. Public schools must follow the Emirati national curriculum as determined by the Ministry of Education (MoE). Expats can attend public schools given that they are approved and pay certain fees; however, it’s important to know that the language of instruction in public schools is Arabic for all subjects with English taught as a second language. 

Most expats opt for private education, among which there are 17 different curricula to choose from, mainly British, American, and Indian. The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) regulates all private education institutions in Dubai. Each year, the KHDA releases school inspection reports detailing the performance and giving each school a standard review (ie. outstanding, good, acceptable, unsatisfactory). Private schools must also offer core programs for non-Arabic speakers, including Islamic education, social studies, and Arabic as a second language. 
The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) building in Dubai.

The academic schedule is set by the MoE and is very similar for both public and private schools. The academic year consists of 3 trimesters and there must be at least 182 days of instruction. For the majority of schools, the academic year is from September through June and begins at the end of August. Typically, winter break is 2-3 weeks in December, spring break is 2-3 weeks, and summer break can be no longer than 8.2 weeks. On the other hand, Indian, Pakistani, and Japanese schools hold the school year from April to March. The UAE government also mandated a 4.5-day school week (and work week for government staff), from Monday-Friday with a half-day on Friday ending no later than 12 pm. 

You should start looking at private schools in Dubai for your children as soon as possible. Private schools manage enrollment and registration themselves. You can often apply online via their website, but some schools may make you complete the registration in person. Most schools have rolling admissions, but schools fill up fast and wait times can be long due to high demand. There is typically a fee of around AED 500 ($136) to start the registration process and students may also be required to participate in an assessment (with an associated fee). Annual private school fees typically range from AED 12,723 ($3,464) to AED 64,093 ($17,449) yearly, not accounting for additional fees, transportation, school uniforms, or books. The average fees increase depending on the school year, with an average cost of AED 28,050 ($7,637) for the first year of kindergarten and AED 46,453 ($12,647) for grade 12. 

For school registration, you will likely need to provide: 
  • Copy of the child’s and the parents’ passports, residence visas, and Emirates ID (or Emirates ID application if in progress)
  • Child’s birth certificate*
  • 8 passport-size photographs
  • Immunization records
  • Attested certificates and/or a transfer certificate*
* All certificates must be in Arabic or English, or otherwise translated and authenticated by a legal translator.

The KHDA introduced a Parent-School contract to ensure that both schools and parents are aware of their duties and responsibilities towards each other and their children. This contract includes multiple sections: admission, curriculum and education programs, fees, communication, attendance and punctuality, attitudes and behavior, health and safety, transportation, appeal process, and declaration. The Parent-School contract should be carefully reviewed. Once it’s completed and signed, the student is fully registered within the KHDA school system. 

Overall, when deciding on a school for your children, you’ll want to consider proximity to your home, the latest ratings from the KHDA, curricula, and cost. 

Find a good community

Since 90% of Dubai residents are expats, you’re likely to find many foreigners wherever you decide to live. However, some neighborhoods continue to be particularly popular among the expat community. 

Popular expat neighborhoods in Dubai include:
  • Dubai Marina - waterfront apartments, popular among young couples and singles.
  • Downtown Dubai- villas and apartments in the city center.
  • Mirdif- apartments and villas near the airport and shopping malls, affordable prices.
  • Arabian Ranches - peaceful villa community in the suburbs, near schools, clinics, shops, and restaurants, expensive prices.
  • Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT) - a business hub with lakes, nature, and parks.
  • Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) - high-rise apartments along the beach near cafes and shops.
  • Emirates Hills - luxury villa community near an 18-hole golf course.
  • Business Bay - near the business center, expensive prices.
  • Al Barsha - a newer residential community near schools and sports complexes.
  • Dubai Sports City - near sports complexes/stadiums/arenas, affordable prices.
  • Deira - an older neighborhood close to Downtown Dubai with good metro connections, affordable prices.
  • Palm Jumeirah - an artificial island with beachfront properties, near hotels and restaurants, expensive prices.
Waterfront villas on Palm Jumeirah.

Regardless of where you live, there are many Facebook groups geared towards expats in Dubai. These groups seek to create an intentional space for asking questions about the region, connecting with other expats, and learning about what’s happening in the community.  

Follow laws and respect customs

Since the UAE is mostly Muslim, the official system of law is Sharia’h. Islamic law is known to be strict but is also likely responsible for the low crime rates in the UAE. When settling into life in Dubai, you’ll want to be careful to follow laws and respect local customs. 

Most Muslims don’t consume alcohol and there are additional alcohol restrictions that affect all residents in the UAE. It’s illegal to be drunk in public and to drive while drunk no matter how much alcohol is in your system. 

Also importantly, the sale and consumption of alcohol are limited to designated, licensed areas such as hotels, bars, and some restaurants. As long as you are 21 years old, you can drink alcohol in these designated locations. To purchase alcohol at the store and drink it at home, you must get an alcohol license. As of January 1st, 2023, it’s much easier for foreigners to get a personal alcohol license. As a resident, all you have to do is bring your Emirates ID and go to a Maritime and Mercantile International (MMI) or Africa + Eastern store to register, free of charge. It typically takes a few days to get approved with a card issued within 2-3 weeks. The license is valid for 12 months and can be renewed indefinitely. As a non-resident, you can register for a 30-day alcohol license by bringing your passport (with a Dubai entry stamp) to the same stores mentioned above. It’s also possible for tourists to get a license from the Dubai International Airport or a hotel restaurant or bar. 
An upscale bar overlooking the Burj Khalifa.

It’s best practice to dress modestly in public (covering your knees and shoulders) and avoid significant PDA. Sexual relations outside of marriage are also punishable under UAE law. While these laws may not be as enforced as they used to be, especially in Dubai, you could still face fines, restrictions, or jail time depending on the severity of your offense.

Get help from professionals

Settling into a new country comes with a lot of challenges, paperwork, and time. There can also be unexpected costs since you’re not familiar with the legal processes and procedures. Getting professional help can drastically reduce the stress and pressure that typically comes with moving. 

When it comes to finding, buying, and financing a property in the UAE, we’ve got you covered at Kredium. We offer real estate and mortgage broker services to help you find your dream home, with over 5,000 Dubai property listings. Our experts can help UAE nationals, expat residents, and non-residents get personalized mortgage loans from the most reputable banks in the UAE while looking out for your best interest. We also have a variety of blogs about real estate and mortgages in the UAE and Dubai to help you become informed and prepared to enter the property market. During this overwhelming process, you can contact us or fill out our short application to get more information.
Photo credits:

Expats in Dubai

Expats in the UAE

Settle down in Dubai

Move to Dubai

Foreigner in Dubai

Foreigner in the UAE

Expat resident in Dubai

UAE entry permit

UAE residency visa

Emirates ID

Emirates ID application

UAE bank account

UAE chequebook

UAE manager's cheque

UAE rental cheques

UAE mortgage payments

UAE mortgage calculator

Dubai taxes


Settle in Dubai with family

Private schools in Dubai

Dubai academic schedule

School registration in Dubai

Parent-School contract in Dubai

Dubai expat communities

Dubai expat neighborhoods

Dubai expat groups

Dubai laws

Dubai customs

Alcohol license in Dubai