A guide to moving to Dubai from the UK

Moving to Dubai from the UK – whether for career progression or other reasons – can be a thrilling experience. As a popular destination for British expats, Dubai offers a high standard of living, along with excellent career, salary and networking opportunities. The logistics of any move to Dubai can be overwhelming but careful planning can help make the most of your time overseas.

Living as an expat in Dubai

Over 240,000 British expats are estimated to live in Dubai and the combination of excellent weather, high salaries, attractive tax regimes and a cosmopolitan lifestyle have made it a popular destination. The lively city offers a clean, safe and modern environment with great shopping, dining and nightlife, and easy access to beaches and outdoor activities. As a predominantly English-speaking environment, it’s an easy area to explore and enjoy. Added to this is Dubai’s status as a global business hub; there are significant career opportunities in a range of sectors, and education is excellent, although school fees have to be paid if you’re not a citizen.

Consider taxes and finances in Dubai

From a financial perspective living in Dubai means you can enjoy a tax-free income, which can significantly boost your earnings. However, the cost of living can be high, and accommodation, healthcare and school fees can be significant, so it will be important to carefully consider and plan your budget. Ahead of a move, you’ll need to review your UK tax position, and advise HMRC that you’ll be living in Dubai. Any move you make is almost certain to happen part-way through a tax year, and so working with a tax expert can help you to reclaim any additional tax you might have paid, or safeguard against any penalties for tax which remains due.

Getting a Visa for Dubai (UAE)

To live and work in Dubai you’ll need a residence visa which is valid for two years if you work within the private sector, and three in the public sector.

You’ll also need to consider local banking arrangements and ensure that you have access to a currency transfer service. It is highly recommended you secure a job offer before moving to Dubai as you will need proof of employment before you are able to open a bank account locally. Whilst in Dubai you may be able to make sizeable contributions to your investment portfolio, and so seeking out a qualified financial planning professional, who has a solid understanding of expat needs, will be worthwhile.

FAQ questions about moving to Dubai

  • Is Dubai (UAE) totally tax free? While Dubai is not totally tax-free, it does offer the advantage of having no personal Income Tax, so you won’t pay any tax on your income.
  • Does Dubai have property taxes? No, however, you may need to pay registration fees or other costs relating to a purchase or sale.

Your property when moving from the UK to Dubai

If you have a property in the UK, you could consider keeping hold of it as part of your overseas move. Maintaining a foothold in the UK can be a good option as part of your investment plans, and especially if you plan to return in the future. And if you rent your property out it can also provide an additional income. If you decide to let a UK property you may need to consider the Non-Resident Landlord Scheme to ensure that any UK taxes are properly calculated and paid.

Other considerations before relocating to Dubai

Moving to Dubai also means you’ll need to consider your pension and retirement plans; ideally you should aim to maintain the same contributions after moving. As a British expat you can generally continue contributing to your UK pension scheme while living abroad, for up to a maximum of five tax years and enjoy tax relief. However, if you stay longer, it’s worth noting that workplace pensions are not a legal requirement in Dubai and so you may need to explore other options such as QROPS. This is a pension scheme for British expats which can be used to transfer your UK pension benefits into a foreign pension scheme, while retaining certain UK tax benefits. You shouldn’t forget about your UK State Pension either; continuing to make voluntary National Insurance contributions will ensure you are entitled to the full amount when it comes to retirement.

Another consideration is Estate planning. At any significant change in your life, it’s worth reviewing your Will and Power of Attorney to ensure that your current position, and any assets, are included. For example, you may need to think about plans for your children, or any other dependents, if the worse should happen to you or your spouse/partner whilst you’re overseas.

Expat communities

With 240,000 UK citizens living and working in Dubai there is a large UK expat community in the city. If you are looking to join an expat community when you arrive, it’s worth exploring the many options available to you. With the majority of expats moving for work you may also want to connect with the British Chamber of Commerce Abu Dhabi and The British Business Group in Dubai.

Financial advice when moving to Dubai

Working with a knowledgeable financial planning professional whilst living and working in Dubai can help you make the most of your expat status, and the advantageous tax regime. The Fry Group has offices in the UK and Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), and many of our team have first-hand experience of making a move between these countries. We can support you with all aspects of your finances – from exiting the UK tax system and sensibly managing any income from a UK property to ensuring that your pension and retirement plans remain on track.

More information about planning an overseas move can be found by downloading our Guide to leaving the UK.

This article has been produced with the aim to provide information. However, this is not intended to form professional advice nor should it be relied upon as such and before taking any particular action, specific and personal advice should be obtained. All levels and basis of, and relief from taxation illustrated here are subject to change.

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