Working in Dubai can be a brilliant opportunity for many skilled expats to advance their careers, accumulate personal wealth and have a taste of a different culture and a different country. How do you go about finding a job in Dubai?
This vibrant and ambitious city is trying to reinvent itself and set to become the world’s innovation hub in sectors such as green energy, healthcare, education, technology, etc.
The emirate has also a lot to offer in terms of an amazing lifestyle, it’s also worth noting that Dubai is tax-free, or nearly tax-free, so there are opportunities to explore there.
Why working in Dubai can be great for you
In Dubai personal salaries are earned tax-free – this is a leading draw for many considering going to the UAE to work.
If you think that tax isn’t such a big deal, look at our list of 10 best countries to work in to make money and see for yourself how the top ten leaders change after the tax is deducted from the average expat salary. It’s exactly why Dubai is such an attractive destination.
Employment packages are also often very appealing – with the best employers offering everything from an accommodation allowance to flights home, and even money for an employee’s children’s education.
The lifestyle in Dubai is as good as you can find anywhere in the world – assuming you can afford it!
There are beach clubs, shopping malls, a ski slope, cinemas, concerts, waterparks, museums, golf courses, riding schools, a grand prix circuit, public parks, mosques, temples, canals, a zoo and of course many of the world’s most stunning buildings and luxurious hotels.
If you like to work hard and play hard then Dubai could be a brilliant choice for your next career move.
The only downside that you really need to keep in mind is that the lifestyle can also be very expensive. Your tax-free salary can be eroded by the cost of housing, and certainly, if you have children because the cost of schools in Dubai is phenomenal.
If you want to work in Dubai, make sure you look carefully at salaries, and whether your likely salary will afford you the lifestyle you aspire to.
Types of jobs available in Dubai
If you’re a skilled worker it’s likely that Dubai wants and needs you. Top sectors that are employing in Dubai right now range from construction to medicine, from hospitality to education.
The UAE wants to come off oil and start mining the IT sector
Many middle-east countries are desperate to diversify and reduce their oil dependency, hence the emphasis on developing service industries.
Currently and in the foreseeable future, IT is the hottest sector in the region pushing back even banking and e-retail.
The governments see the future in technology and are frenziedly competing for foreign investors, technology companies, start-ups, and skilled professionals from all over the world.
No doubt, the UAE is a perfect location for a tech company. It boasts a highly developed internet infrastructure and connectivity, making it ideal for connected start-ups.
There are funds and initiatives to support start-ups developing all kinds of innovations in technology including alternative energy, robotics and space exploration.
Top paying jobs in Dubai
These are the skills that are most in-demand in the region:
1. Statistical analysis and data mining
2. Public policy and international relations
3. Algorithm design
4. Web architecture and development framework
5. SEO/SEM marketing
6. Middleware and integration software
7. User interface design
8. Renewable and sustainable energy
9. Mining and commodities
10. Corporate law and governance
IT and innovation jobs are dominating the list, and that’s not the end of the good news. Professionals working in these industries can expect to get paid more compared to the previous years.
Popular expat employment sectors in Dubai
To determine where there are likely to be jobs in Dubai that can interest you, why not look more closely at the Free Trade Zones. It’s where the majority of international companies operate and most international employers are concentrated.
You have Dubai Internet City where most jobs are ICT related, Dubai Media City which incorporates companies and therefore jobs in the broadcasting, advertising, publishing and production sectors.
DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre) is home to banking, finance and insurance type companies and jobs.
Dubai Maritime City is a service centre for the maritime industry.
The Airport Free Zone is where there’s everything from straight airline-related jobs to companies specialising in import and export.
Also, what about the Jebel Ali Free Zone which is the oldest of all the FTZs, the Biotechnology and Research Park, Healthcare City, Logistics City or Knowledge Village.
All of these free zones house companies employing expatriates in everything from management to engineering, construction to finance, education to healthcare, information technology to consultancy.
There are even jobs in the tourism industry, there are opportunities for those who teach English as a foreign language, and if you set your mind to it and look more objectively at your own skill and experience set, you will probably find an employment sector that could benefit from your valuable self.
Working in Dubai – where to start
In many locations popular with expats around the world it’s quite easy to turn up and look for work – this is absolutely not the case in Dubai.
You need a visa to be legal and working in Dubai. The consequences for not having one are so harsh they aren’t even worth thinking about with extradition being the least of your worries.
So, the best way to find jobs in Dubai is to apply before even travelling to the emirate.
Update your CV, contact recruiters, look at firms in your sector with a presence in the emirate and contact their HR department directly to find out who to send your CV to.
Look on Linkedin and even online at the local papers in the UAE such as gulfnews.com and Khaleej Times to find jobs in Dubai.
Follow up any application made with phone calls to ensure your application has been received, and by the right person.
Please note: don’t ever pay a recruitment company to find you a job.
It’s worth doing background information on any company you apply to, to make sure your CV and covering letter are correctly targeted to the company in question.
A one size fits all CV won’t work – and a one size covering letter will be a disaster.
You can travel to Dubai if you want to and do some on the ground research and networking on a visit visa, but be ready to fly home again and actually apply for jobs from your own home country.
Even if you were lucky enough to find a job whilst visiting Dubai, the law requires you to leave the UAE and apply for your employment visa from abroad.
Tips on job hunting in Dubai
It takes time and effort to secure a well-paying job in Dubai and you might find it harder than many people think.
Here is what you need to keep in mind while you are looking for your dream job in Dubai:
1. The job market in Dubai is saturated
You are not an exception in your pursuit of a professional career in Dubai. Thousands of professionals are trying to get a job there. As a result, there is an oversupply of candidates in some industries. Many of the candidates are prepared to accept lower salaries to win the bid for the job.
The competition is especially high and fierce especially for those working in Finance, IT, HR and Administration.
It can be a bit easier for those skilled professionals working in Healthcare, Education, Consumer & Industrial Products and Engineering & Construction.
2. Make yourself stand out
Make it easier for your potential employer to choose you over other candidates. Make sure you advertise your skills and experience that differentiate you from the masses of other applicants.
Your chances of getting a job will improve greatly if you speak multiple languages, have worked for big multi-national companies, have had the experience of working outside of your home country and have acknowledged qualifications or certifications.
3. Your CV is important
Your CV should be honed to perfection: no bad formatted, spelling or grammar errors or irrelevant information. It should be professional, correct and to the point.
Look for online resources to help you craft a good CV. Also if you have a professional agent helping you to find a job in Dubai, they usually consult on CVs and cover letters.
4. One step at a time
Many Dubai employers will prefer somebody with job experience in the Middle East (especially in Dubai) over a candidate who has never worked in Dubai. Or they will offer such candidates a lower salary.
Accepting a lower salary for your first job in Dubai is ok. Consider it the first step in your career in Dubai. It will help you to get a better job offer in future.
5. Use job portals
Check out and sign up for major regional job portals. The ones worth trying are Dubai Task, Naukrigulf, Khaleej Times Jobs, Dubizzle, Gulftalent, Efinancial Careers, and don’t forget Indeed.
6. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date?
Make sure your LinkedIn profile states your country of residence, your visa status especially if you have a valid work visa, all major info about you and your skills.
Be active on Linkedin. Check the recruitment pages of Dubai companies. Approach the right people in the right way. If you send a Linkedin request it has more chance to get accepted when you send it with a personal note. You can mention your skills, visa status, etc. in the note.
7. Try recruitment agencies
It’s worth sending your CV to as many recruitment agencies as possible. Your best chance is those recruitment companies that have strong track records in the Middle East and are specialised in your industry.
Here are some of them:
- Jivaro Partners (marketing and communications jobs)
- Education 1st Recruitment (eduction jobs)
- ESP International (conferences, events, hospitality)
- MCG & Associates (PR, publishing, marketing and communications jobs)
- Robbert Murray (development, construction, engineering and public sector jobs)
- Robert Half UAE (finance, law, technology )
- BAC Middle East (engineering, marketing and management jobs)
The important thing to remember when looking for a job through an agency is to find companies that take a commission on the employer’s end, not yours. Be wary of recruiters that collect high fees from job-seekers: these tend to be scams.
8. Check Dubai major companies’ websites
Visit the websites of the major companies in Dubai and check their vacancies pages. If you find a suitable vacancy, it’s worth applying directly through a company’s website.
You’ve been offered a job in Dubai. What’s next?
Next is an all-important visa. You will need a visa to start working in Dubai, and it’s your employer’s responsibility to sponsor your work permit and residency permit.
Do everything in the right order: get a secure job offer first. It is not advisable to travel to the emirate on a visit visa and speculatively start seeking work, before taking up a job and trying to get an employment visa.
Employment visas and sponsors in Dubai
As mentioned above, you have to have an employment visa to work in Dubai, you also have to be sponsored by your employer.
When you have a firm job offer, your employer becomes your sponsor and sorts out your employment visa.
The sponsorship approach in Dubai is effectively a means of controlling immigration.
Your sponsor is responsible for you and gets in trouble if you contravene any regulations. It’s their job to check that you’re reliable and trustworthy.
Your sponsor will also try to ensure that you don’t inadvertently step out of line. For this reason, your sponsor is an important source of help and advice and a valuable ally.
Contrary to popular misconception, however, your employer should not hold your passport while you are working in Dubai – this is illegal.
Note, in the past, some people have been advised to work on a visit visa for the short-term whilst an employment contract and visa are finalized – do not take this risk. If caught you risk immediate deportation and being banned from re-entering the UAE.
Instead, your employer should issue you with an employment visa which is valid for 30 days. This will enable you to enter Dubai and begin the application process for your work permit and then your residency permit.
Your employer will advise you about the documents required to obtain your work permit, and you will need to undergo a medical examination.
Obtaining residency permit in Dubai
Everything happens in this order: you get a job offer, obtain your entry permit from your employer, enter Dubai, obtain a work permit with your employer’s help, and then you go to a government hospital or medical clinic for a health check.
You will undergo a blood test and chest X-ray and be screened for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, leprosy, and syphilis. Note: if your results for any of these tests come back positive you will be deported, (with the exception of syphilis for which treatment is available).
You then return to the residency department with your passport, medical test results, and if required, other documents such as a salary certificate etc. Ideally, your employer will assist you with all this as there are often additional paperwork requirements revealed at the last minute!
At the residency department, or DNRD (which stands for Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department – which has been superseded by the name General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs Dubai but which still gets referred to as DNRD) you go to the typing office and obtain your application form and hand over required fees.
Eventually, you will be asked to return to collect your passport with your resident’s visa stamped in it. If your employer employs someone to do the running for you, ensure you get your passport back, it is not acceptable for your employer to retain it.
Sponsoring your family to live in Dubai
It’s common for a sponsored expat who is working in Dubai to then be able to sponsor their spouse and children to join them. Most of the time the expat who sponsors the spouse will be the male of the partnership.
It is almost unheard of for female expats to be the main employee in the household and to sponsor their husband to join them. Exceptions in high-level professional roles do apparently exist.
So once you have your residency permit you can sponsor your family to live in Dubai with you.
Each sponsored individual will also have to undergo a health check as described above. Once again the DNRD will process your application.
Negotiating your employment contract
Because of the global economic climate at the current time, you may think that if you get any offer of a job you should be grateful and quickly commit.
However, when it comes to living and working in Dubai, you need to be prepared to negotiate hard to get the right terms in place for your employment contract.
For a start, the cost of living in Dubai is high. It’s pushed up by the likes of accommodation costs, schooling and healthcare fees. So, you need to negotiate some form of compensation into your contract to cover such elements.
Here’s a list of points that expatriates negotiate on when it comes to their employment contract. These are a guide for you to know what is typically offered by an employer, it will be up to you to know how far and how hard you can negotiate:
- Housing – some employers offer expat workers an allowance, you can then top this up if you want to live somewhere even more expensive.
- Estate agent fees – they may charge for finding you a rental property in Dubai, sometimes employers refund this.
- Car/fuel – you will need a car in Dubai for getting around because aside from anything else, it’s too hot to walk most of the time! Some employers have car schemes and offer fuel cards
- Annual leave ticket – many expats are given the cost of their flights home once a year, and they take the ticket during the summer months when the weather is unbearably hot
- Education and school fees – getting your childern in a good school in Dubai is just a part of the problem, affording the schools fees is the other part; costs are exorbitant, but standards across some institutions are excellent, your employer may help you afford the best
- Medical insurance – employers have company schemes for their staff, but not obliged to insure dependents, try to negotiate your family health insurance in Dubai
- Notice period and severance pay – it is critical that you negotiate this point carefully. Defaulting on debt in Dubai is illegal, so you need a decent notice period and severance pay agreement in place, to give you the time and means to find another job so that you can continue to meet the likes of rental and car costs in the emirate in the event that you lose your job
- Relocation/repatriation – if you’re being headhunted aggressively to work in Dubai you’re in a good position to negotiate on these points, otherwise, you’ll struggle.
Changing jobs in Dubai
As your sponsor is your employer, and you have to be sponsored to remain in Dubai, changing jobs can be a bit stressful.
If you’re made redundant suddenly you may need to leave the emirate as your sponsored status will be revoked – be ready to leave and apply for a new job and a new sponsor from overseas.
Don’t risk remaining in the emirate without the right visa and sponsorship status. If discovered you may be fined, deported and never be allowed back.
If you’re unhappy with your work and want to change your job, or if your contract has a fixed term and you want to continue living and working in Dubai after its conclusion, you need to find a new employer willing to take over sponsorship.
It may be easier for you to leave your job, leave the emirate, apply for a new job and start working in Dubai with your new sponsor, believe it or not. However, you may have to remain outside the emirate for 6 months before re-entering.
Otherwise, be prepared for a lot of hard work on your part negotiating a change of sponsor.
In theory, you can transfer to a new employer if your old employer gives you the go-ahead in the form of a NOC – that’s a ‘no objection certificate.’
If you’re going to work for a competitor you’re less likely to be given a NOC of course.
However, you can try negotiating and pointing out that the alternative to a NOC at the end of your contract is that your employer has to pay for you to return to your original home country. A NOC will be cheaper.
Ultimately try and stay on good terms with your employer, negotiate a good salary and benefits package at the very outset, spending as much time as needed to get this right, bearing in mind how hard it is to change job and even renegotiate terms once you’re living and working in Dubai.
Finally, spend time online on forums and social media finding out what it’s like living in Dubai from fellow expats. You will be given the most up to date tips and tricks, and can even begin your networking from afar in this way. Good luck!
You might find useful:
- Living In Dubai – a complete guide to relocating and settling down in Dubai;
- Dubai Income Tax & Taxation Advantages For Expats;
- Health Insurance In Dubai: Essential Benefits Plan
- Visit our Dubai Guides page for more information on living in Dubai.