Getting Started

Welcome to Dubai! Here's what you need to do to get your new life started

Get residency

Through your company You need residency to open a bank account, rent a home and get a local driving licence. Most companies will organise a visa for you. All you have to do is take the medical; a blood test for HIV and a chest scan for TB. You should then get your visa within three months (if you’re with a company based in a Free Zone, it could be two weeks). If you leave your job in the first year, your company may charge you for the visa costs.

Arranging your own visa

Go to the visa section of The Department of Naturalisation and Residence. You will need to provide: an application form (available on site); your passport; three passport-sized photographs; your original entry permit, if you have one (those from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and many EU countries would not have needed an entry permit); your original medical check-up document; a copy of the valid commercial licence, a copy of the valid establishment card and an original receipt from the Ministry of Labour (get these from your work). You’ll need to pay a Dhs300 residency fee for a three-year visa. See for more info.

Get medical

Those on a visit visa are entitled to free emergency medical care at Al Wasl Hospital (04 324 1111), Dubai Hospital (04 271 4444) and Rashid Hospital (04 337 4000). Those on a residency visa need a government medical card. Your employer should provide this, otherwise, get an application form from the Iranian (04 344 0250), Al Barah (04 271 0000), Maktoum (04 222 1211) or Rashid (04 337 4000) hospitals.

Get mobile

For a long time, Etisalat was the only supplier of a mobile phone network, landline and internet connection. However, three-year-old company du now offers a few more possibilities. To decide which one’s best for you, visit and Generally, du charges per second, which can work out cheaper, but its coverage is not as good as Etisalat’s. Internet censorship remains the same for both.

You can buy a pay-as-you-go sim card from mobile phone stores across the city, put it in your current phone and start using it almost straight away. You will need a copy of your passport, a letter from your employer and a salary certificate. An Etisalat card costs Dhs165, a du card is Dhs55. Both include Dhs10 of calls, and you have to renew every year for Dhs100.

If you want to set up a cheaper ‘contract’ arrangement (known as ‘postpaid mobile’), then you will need to have your residency visa, plus the above documents. You may find your company can handle getting a contract sim card for you. If not, then you’ll need to head down to an Etisalat office (check website for locations), fill in a form, wait in line and pay the fee. Or you can buy online with du (you will need to supply the relevant document numbers and a form of identification to the courier). At the time of going to press, it cost Dhs125 to set up a phone contract (with du you receive Dhs124 back as credit), and you pay a monthly line-rental fee of Dhs20 for Etisalat, Dhs30 for du. Tariffs vary so check their websites for more info. Paying your bill is simple: you can either set up a direct debit, pay by cash at one of the phone companies’ offices or at one of the payment machines, which you’ll find in most malls across the city.

Get banking

Opening a bank account here is similar to most other countries. Check out banks comparisons of rates and any hidden charges. If you call in advance, banks will often send out a representative to your workplace to go through the inevitable paperwork there.

Get ID

The UAE has introduced an ID card system, without which you cannot claim state services. Technical hitches have pushed the deadline to 2010, but this may change. To apply, buy the special envelope (Dhs40) from a post office and complete the form. You’ll then be posted a date to visit the EID centre to have your fingerprints taken and collect your card. See or call 600 523 432 for more.

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