Dreams of a luxurious lifestyle and tax-free salaries continue to attract many expats to work in the UAE, although salaries are less lucrative now than a few years ago, while housing costs have risen disproportionately.
Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the most popular destinations and opportunities abound in a range of sectors, including banking and finance, insurance, construction, retail and services, and the telecoms sector.
Expats should note that Emiratisation – a government policy that aims to increase the number of Emiratis in the workforce – is becoming increasingly prevalent, and with the economic fallout of Covid-19, even more preference may be given to locals in the job market.
Although generous relocation packages are not as common as they used to be, expats will still have plenty of opportunities to both splurge and save. Those in very senior executive positions are likely to still command generous employment benefits such as housing, schooling and transport allowances, and as a minimum, expats offered work in the UAE can expect funding of their initial flights there and a return flight to their home country at least once a year, as well as health insurance. If these benefits aren't forthcoming, we recommend expats negotiate with prospective employers.
Most who move to the UAE do so with a confirmed job offer in place and the employer arranges the logistics and the necessary paperwork for the residence and work permit. Expats considering a move should be aware that career flexibility in the UAE can be limited. Since residence depends upon sponsorship, which is tied to an employment contract, it's not easy to move between companies.
With so many expats living and working in the UAE, the business environment is unlikely to present any major culture shock for new arrivals. However, as the UAE is an Islamic country, Emirati businessmen will still take their mandate from Islam and Arab culture, and expats need to remain patient and flexible and always respect the local traditions and customs.