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Expat Guide: tips for your move to Abu Dhabi

A popular relocation destination, Abu Dhabi attracts thousands of expats every month. Brought to the UAE by work opportunities, it’s popular with those looking for new experiences in the middle east.

With the hot summer months regularly reaching temperatures of well over 40°C as well as sandstorms, many prefer to move to the emirate in the winter. During winter months the mild weather (around 15°C) can make this the perfect time to move.


Sorting the paperwork

Once you’ve decided on moving to Abu Dhabi it’s important to begin the Visa application process. Which Visa is appropriate for you will be highly dependent on your country of origin. Most visa applications require a sponsor, and it is always best to engage an immigration specialist to help you with this process.

Once a temporary work permit is secured, you can legally work. However, you will need to begin the process of obtaining a residence permit. Information about the processes applicable to your circumstances is available from the Abu Dhabi Embassy or General Directorate of Residence and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA). All supporting official documents required in the Visa process must be translated/provided in Arabic.

For visitors coming to see you, they will need a tourist entry visa. These need to be applied for ahead of time, although some county’s residents can apply on entry. It’s important to check which applies to you ahead of time. Once a tourist visa has been obtained you can stay in Abu Dhabi for 30 days and enjoy exploring the country, and it can be renewed for another 30 days.

Be aware that if your passport has a stamp from travels to Israel, there may be some issues with your application and entry to Abu Dhabi. For this reason, and to prevent any issues, contract your nearest UEA Embassy ahead of time.

Once your visa is secured, you must prioritise getting an Emirates ID card. This is necessary for almost everything in Abu Dhabi, so this should be your priority.


Finding your home in Abu Dhabi

Like most places, the more central you live, the more it costs. You will pay a real premium for city centre living. Because of this, areas like Al Reem outside the centre are increasingly popular. You’ll need to start your home search as soon as you know your moving date and be prepared for a change from what you’re used to.

Getting around in Abu Dhabi is made much easier by the good transport links. Whether you choose to drive yourself, hire a driver or use public transport, there are numerous ways of getting about. Public transport is both affordable and easy to use – there are even specialist form of transport for women and children. So, your choice of home shouldn’t be limited by poor transport links.


Understanding your new home

The Muslim emirate is modern and cosmopolitan, but also conservative. Abu Dhabi’s population is made up of 80% expats despite the 1980’s law that requires employers to favour national workers over hiring foreign workers. Regardless of their country of origin however, all the residents observe the Islamic rules about modesty and decency. This includes dressing in modest clothing with long sleeves and full trousers.

There are also rules about smoking and drinking, which are strictly enforced. It’s important you understand the rules and behaviours of the religion before you move and change your behaviour accordingly so as to not offend.

Arabic is the official language of Abu Dhabi, so you should commit some time to understanding and learning the language. English is also commonly spoken in the workplace and and is the language of teaching at international schools.

International schools are the only option for expats moving to Abu Dhabi with a family. These schools are expensive, so it’s important to consider your renumeration package, and try to negotiate an education allowance before you move.


What next?

For more help with your move to Abu Dhabi, get in touch with our move specialists. We have over 120 years of international move experience. At Santa Fe Relocation we make moving home easy for you.

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