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Preparation Steps Before Going to UAE

Embarking on a journey to the United Arab Emirates UAE is an exciting endeavor, filled with new opportunities and experiences. However, ensuring a smooth transition and a fulfilling stay requires careful preparation.

From logistical arrangements to cultural considerations, taking the time to adequately plan before your departure can significantly enhance your experience.

In this guide, we will explore the essential steps to take before heading to the UAE from the USA, ensuring that you are well-equipped to embrace all that this remarkable destination has to offer.

1. Research

Research the UAE culture and customs and make sure you are familiar with the laws and regulations of the country.

In this blessed deen of Al Islam, we are taught that knowledge proceeds statements, and actions. This is why we emphasize the importance of learning about the UAE prior to visiting, especially if you intend to have a lengthy stay.

Throughout this banner we aim to provide enough insight and resources that will empower you to make well informed decisions.

The following resources are trustworthy, tried, and tested contacts and sources that Americans on the ground have collected over the decades of residing in the UAE.

Although it is intended to be a before you depart guide for Muslim Americans, much of the information contained herein may be beneficial for all visitors especially traveling from the west.

  1. The United Arab Emirates Government Portal: https://government.ae/en
  2. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation: https://www.mofaic.gov.ae/en
  3. The National Legal Portal: https://www.uaeportal.ae/en
  4. Dubai Government Portal: https://www.dm.gov.ae/en
  5. Abu Dhabi Government Portal: https://government.abudhabi.ae/en
  6. Sharjah Government Portal: https://www.sharjah.gov.ae/en/Pages/default.aspx
  7. Ajman Government Portal: https://www.ajman.gov.ae/en/Pages/default.aspx
  8. Umm Al Quwain Government Portal: https://www.uaq.gov.ae/en/Pages/default.aspx
  9. Ras Al Khaimah Government Portal: https://www.rak.ae/en/Pages/default.aspx
  10. Fujairah Government Portal: https://www.fujairah.ae/en/Pages/default.aspx
  11. CIA – World Fact Book: https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/united-arab-emirates/

As Americans we love our rights, so let’s make sure we get it right.

Ask and research, prior to executing any plan you may have. UAE has its own laws, and in many cases American laws and procedures do not apply.

2. Visa / Residence Permit

Secure a valid visa and residence permit.

​​There aren’t any hijra (migration) visas offered.
There are seven emirates, for the sake of comparison let’s consider them states.

Similar to the United States, each emirate has its own regulations and guidelines that are used to govern it. The emirate that you choose to reside in may affect the visa renewal process.

Some may have been led to believe that Americans do not need a visa to enter the UAE; this is FALSE information. On the contrary, everyone who is not a gulf citizen requires a visa to enter. Some nationalities may obtain a visa at immigration in the airport. US citizens do not need a visa to travel to the UAE, but they cannot leave the airport until they obtain their visa.

In the event you decide to just show up, these entry visas have recently been increased to 60-day visit visas. This means that you are a tourist, and are limited to the access granted to tourists. Residency privileges such as tenancy rental contracts, mobile phone accounts and banking privileges are heavily restricted.
Once the 60 day tourist visa expires, you should’ve solidified a student visa, employment for a work visa, or established a business for an investment visa (see other visa types); otherwise, you would need to renew your visit visa. This could be done by applying for an extension at a fee of approximately $200. The other option would be to exit the country and return, restarting the process all over again.

Historically, visitors would take this opportunity to explore neighboring Oman; however, the recent pandemic exposed the vulnerability of such a plan. Also, remember you are expecting your visa at immigration and it isn’t guaranteed. Some horror stories include loved ones i.e., spouses or children being stranded in Oman. Please consider the risk in such practices and don’t allow anyone to convince you that it is a healthy long-term option. However, please note that entry visas upon arrival are free, whereas applying in advance comes with a cost.
As a visitor, you are in the clear. However, if you are trying to obtain an employment/residence visa, some emirates may require you to have insurance first. The capital, Abu Dhabi, definitely considers this mandatory. You may contact the UAE based insurance companies while you are in the states and obtain a policy. Some of the popular insurance companies include:

Whether you are ready to apply for your visa or you are simply inquiring, one of the most useful and trustworthy brothers that may be able to assist is Abu Unays: qadr.byitravel@gmail.com

Although it is widely advertised, even in many local newspapers, purchasing a visa under false pretenses of employment is illegal. Do not allow anyone to persuade you into buying a visa under a company that you are not actually employed under; it is the obligation of any legitimate employer to provide the residency visa for their employees.

Perhaps registering with some of the recruitments agencies will safeguard from the pitfalls of committing fraud out of desperation. We have taken the liberty of listing a few known agency to aid in your search for employment in the UAE.

Head Medical: https://www.headmedical.com/search-jobs.aspx
Global Medical Recruiting: https://gmrecruiting.com/
Pulse Jobs: https://www.pulsejobs.com/clients/international-recruitment/

Robert Walters: https://www.robertwalters.ae/
Hays: https://www.hays.ae/enhance-your-career
Michael Page: https://www.michaelpage.ae
Gulf talent: https://www.gulftalent.com/uae/jobs
Man Power: https://www.manpowergroup.ae/jobs
Randstad employment: https://www.randstad.com/jobs/united-arab-emirates/
Aviation job Search: https://www.aviation/jobs-in-abu-dhabi-emirate

Our final recommendation on this point at this time is, do not burn any bridges stateside!

You are an American visiting. That’s why you were allowed to enter the UAE with some ease. Do not leave the states without maintaining a stateside address etc. For example, when completing residency visa applications, passport applications, and banking formalities, you are required to provide a stateside address.

So many Americans had left the states and totally disassociated themselves from essential parts of the American culture; simple things like applying for newborns’ social security cards; even though, we all know that these numbers are directly tied to US citizen perks and resources. Furthermore, social security numbers are required to renew all passports at the US embassies abroad.

In this section, we mentioned arriving at the airport, which is outside the scope of this banner, but it was necessary to give an idea about the visa options.

3. Valid Documents

Make sure to have a valid passport and any necessary medical documents and vaccinations.

Your driver’s license or stateside identity cards lose almost all value once you leave US air-space, and your passport may become your only accepted form of identification.

Anything can happen during travel, which is why you should make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months – the longer the better.

Even though it is possible to visit the US embassy and get passport services; for example, new passport book, notary services etc.; adding pages to the passport is no longer an option, so when ordering your passport be sure to check the option for the largest book. The Embassy operates on an appointment system that is subject to availability.

​Even if a slot is available, the new passport book process takes between 2 – 6 weeks in some cases. In the meanwhile, you may be subject to over stay penalties and fines.

So, before you travel, check the expiration dates on all passports, and check the condition of the passport book. A damaged book may be scrutinized, draw suspicion, and result in rejection of a visa/entry.
This rule also applies to medical documents and updated proof of the necessary vaccination records.

It is good practice to have a medical consultation prior to your departure. Inform your care provider that you intend to travel abroad and that you will need documentation regarding your medications. It is very common for medication to differ in name, or may even be banned in the UAE. We cannot urge you enough to be transparent and to enquire about the brand labels your medicine may be under in the UAE.
Some medication may not be available at all ex. Cannabis, whilst legal in the UK and other western countries it is strictly prohibited in the UAE.

The laws evolve just as fast as the country itself, but as of January 2023: You could be fined as much as $1,400 USD, just for wearing a cannabis shirt. (Click here – Cannabis clothes fines)
Click the following links to see a list of medications that have been banned in the UAE:
https://dubaiofw.com/banned-medicines-in-uae/
https://u.ae/en/information-and-services/health-and-fitness/drugs-and-controlled-medicines/controlled-medicines-

Your driver’s license or stateside identity cards lose almost all value once you leave US air-space, and your passport may become your only accepted form of identification. Anything can happen during travel, which is why you should make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months – the longer the better.

Even though it is possible to visit the US embassy and get passport services; for example, new passport book, notary services etc.; adding pages to the passport is no longer an option, so when ordering your passport be sure to check the option for the largest book. The Embassy operates on an appointment system that is subject to availability.

Even if a slot is available, the new passport book process takes between 2 – 6 weeks in some cases. In the meanwhile, you may be subject to over stay penalties and fines.

4. Banking System

Make sure to familiarize yourself with local banking system.

​Banks in the UAE share Americans’ banking details with the IRS. Some banks may deny Americans the ability to open an account due to the documentation required.

Establishing your bank account stateside will aid in the transfers of funds. This is particularly useful for retirees and other government issued funds.

However, be sure to check with the bank to ensure that there is a direct relation with the banks in the UAE. Sometimes, the only relationship is the name. Ask for the branch details in the UAE, because if the banks aren’t integrated, the data bases will not communicate and it will be as if it’s a totally different bank.

Your Paypal, Venmo, CashApp, Square etc., may lose features and block services once you are here, so have alternative means to access your funds.
​​
​As much as we all may loath credit cards; a major credit card may be the way to transcend some the perils of international trade. Bank cards are unreliable and often unrecognized in certain regions. You will definitely want to inform your bank that you will be traveling to the UAE; otherwise, you risk having your account flagged and frozen due to suspicion of fraud or irregular banking transactions. Many institutions and establishments will neither recognize nor trust a domestic bank card, but major credit-cards such as Visa and Master Card are insured and trusted internationally. This may make access to the temporary amenities such as hotel rooms, rental cars, dining or supermarket transactions easier until you have established access to funds within the country.

If you don’t have one already, you may want to apply for one prior to coming to the UAE long term. If possible, the card should be from the list of banks that are connected to the UAE. Below is a list of popular banks here that claims to have branches stateside.
I. Emirates NBD Bank USA: https://www.emiratesnbd.com/en-us/
II. Emirates Islamic Bank USA: https://www.emiratesislamic.ae/en/USA/

A. New York City, New York: 20 Exchange Place, Suite 1100, New York, NY 10005
Here are some banks that are listed at this location alone:

  1. Emirates NBD Bank USA
  2. Emirates Islamic Bank USA
  3. ABN AMRO Bank USA
  4. Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank USA
  5. Citi Private Bank USA
  6. Deutsche Bank USA
  7. HSBC Bank USA
  8. JP Morgan Chase Bank USA
  9. Morgan Stanley Bank USA
  10. National Bank of Ras Al Khaimah USA

B. Houston, Texas: 1000 Main Street, Suite 2200, Houston, TX 77002
C. Los Angeles, California: 10250 Constellation Blvd., Suite 1000, Los Angeles, CA 90067
D. Atlanta, Georgia: 3344 Peachtree Road, Suite 1600, Atlanta, GA 30326
E. Chicago, Illinois: 500 West Madison Street, Suite 1250, Chicago, IL 60661
F. San Francisco, California: 505 Montgomery Street, Suite 700, San Francisco, CA 94111
G. Miami, Florida: 701 Brickell Avenue, Suite 900, Miami, FL 33131

III. Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank USA: https://www.adib.ae/en/usa
IV. First Abu Dhabi Bank USA: https://www.fadb.com/en-us/Pages/default.aspx
V. National Bank of Ras Al Khaimah USA: https://www.nbrak.com/en-us/Pages/default.aspx

We will close this topic of banking with advice on money transactions in general. Do not get into the habit of doing currency conversions. For example, you see a Coca-Cola for six Emirati dirhams and you think to yourself “hey, that’s not even two dollars.” Be that as it may, you aren’t in the states. Just as the stateside laws doesn’t apply, currency value shouldn’t apply. If the values were the same, we wouldn’t need to convert.
If you were state side and thought that $6 USD for a can of Coca-Cola was too much, that goes the same for 6 AED over in the UAE.

In the UAE, Dirhams are the new Dollars.

5. Contacts

Familiarize yourself with contacts already stationed in the country.

All praise belongs to Allah; we are in an era that enables us to communicate globally with relative ease.

Now, we can do research from the tons of sites and the various videos available online, but nothing matches to the comfort of having a pen pal or companion on the ground. Hopefully, your friend will be able to pave the way for your arrival.

​Unless you get thrills from reinventing wheels, it is best to ask your friends on the ground about the daily routines and protocols of moving to that place. We must remember tourists’ pamphlets and videos are designed to attract you, but if you are serious about relocating to a new land, you’re not concerned with being a tourist. Some things may be a great place to start like in an Airbnb, but ask yourself, would you live long term in an Airbnb in your state? That would be impractical for most people, and that’s how your friend on the ground sees it.

Having someone to introduce you to the way they maintain can be the difference between you settling in or returning home. Granted, you may determine that their lifestyle differs from yours tremendously, and you resort to a method that works best for you. That’s great, that is the objective after all. The important thing is to learn the norm, after you have become familiar with the basics, you can be extraordinary.

6. Transportation

Make sure to arrange for transportation.

The UAE has an extensive reliable transport system that consists of trains, buses, taxi/limousine services, trams and in some emirates, public rental scooters.

However, those are usually accessible in the central parts of the cities; neither are these comforts available in every emirate.

Consider where you plan to reside and research your transportation needs.

Let’s present a scenario. You have chosen to reside in Fujairah, an emirate that known for the UAE tradition, culture, natural beauty and the only emirate that boarders the ocean. However, you need to go to the US embassy. You heavily rely on the public transport of Fujairah; so, you will take the bus and then a taxi. There aren’t any embassies in Fujairah, in fact, the closest US embassy is in Dubai.

No, there is no direct bus from Fujairah City station to Dubai. However, there are services departing from Fujairah Bus Station and arriving at Global Village 1 via Rashidiya Bus Station Gate 5. The journey, including transfers, takes approximately 3h 16m, and you still hadn’t reached the embassy.
The above scenario did not factor traffic conditions, and bus schedule etc. It is a part time job to travel using public transport interstate. After the exhausting embassy visit, you will probably dread the idea of spending another 4 hours on the bus back.

If you are accustomed to driving and wish to do so in the UAE, transferring your valid US driver’s license over to a UAE license is fairly easy, but requires a residence visa. As a tourist, you will need to use rental car services. If you are staying long-term, then we strongly advise that you obtain the AAA license prior to arrival. It is very easy to apply for and recognized. This would help you avoid the awkwardness of being rejected because one establishment or another, for some odd reason, doesn’t accept the state license. (Click here – AAA details)

Consider the above scenario if you are planning to live in an affordable accommodation but work in a separate emirate.
Again, we went into an imaginary scenario that wasn’t focused on the things that can be done before departure. We felt this section was important as it gives perspective on the importance of selecting an emirate that suits your needs, or at least adequate transportation.

7. Attestation & Accreditations

Make sure to bring attested/accredited documents.

If you’re reading this then you are probably considering a long-term stay in the UAE. Perhaps, you have accepted the position for a post at a UAE based company, or you wish to enjoy the safe and thriving community of progressive expats in the region.

Whatever the case may be, staying long term requires renewal of visas, proof of identity and in most cases employment.

It is imperative that you have all of the essential documents attested. Attestation is a procedure to confirm validity of the seal and signature on documents issued in the UAE or abroad.

​Let’s remember that the UAE government officials cannot verify if your document is authentic; therefore, they require you to have it attested. The documents are stamped at the institution level, then notarized, followed by the seal at the state level. The state stamped documents are then stamped at the state department level; once that is done, it is to be notarized by the UAE embassy in the United States. It gets returned to the UAE side and the UAE Ministry of foreign Affairs notarize the UAE embassy stamp. These documents include birth certificates, marriage certificates, and educational documents i.e. diplomas, degrees and transcripts.
If you are relocating as a family this includes the children’s documents and school records.
There are services here that will attest your documents in the UAE, but they take time, are very costly and you jeopardize losing your original documents in the process. (Click here attestation services)

We would like take this opportunity to note that employers may hire you, arrange for transport to the UAE, initiate the visa process and enable you to start work before requesting your attested documents; however, whenever they request it, you will be obliged to provide the attested versions or face termination. Many expats had committed to residing in the UAE only to realize that their documentation was rejected due to it not being attested.

8. Education & Islamic Affairs

​​Before leaving the states, comprehend that this place is the Islamic authority.

As Americans, we are accustomed to establishing the Islamic presence from scratch, without state or government assistance.

We ask Allah to grant a tremendous reward for all of our brothers and sisters that contributed and maintained the Islamic presence stateside over the decades.

We are used to planning, funding and implementing everything it takes to cultivate Al-Islam in our communities; consequently, it may be a challenge to relinquish so much responsibility, and we may be familiar with doing things a certain way that seems foreign here.
​The United Arab Emirates established a union in 1971, but they had been Muslim long before that. The nation has a rich history of cultural values solidified in Islamic teachings and principles. They have generations that were raised on those Islamic principles. They have established institutions and systems that are professional at preserving and educating their society on those principals.

We sometimes forget that we are guests and overstep in our zealousness to aid and contribute to the good. The advice we would like to share here is to make yourself a service to the already established entities as oppose to independently promoting the faith. The institution that is responsible for the education and promotion of these principles and values is the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments; known as AWQAF. (Click Here – AWQAF details)

If anything, take advantage of the Arabic classes prior to leaving, because they have Arabic courses for non-native speakers available in Dubai but until you can comprehend the Arabic, you will be restricted.

The AWQAF has regularly scheduled weekly lessons throughout the country. For example, lessons based on Quran, Sunnah and the Methodology of the righteous predecessors are held by Shaykh Muhammad Ghalib in Dubai; Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Ghaith, Shaykh Ibrahim Al Mazrouei in Abu Dhabi, and other than them. In addition, the scholars from the neighboring Kingdom of Saudi Arabia frequent to participate in conferences.

Regarding secular education, private schools are available to all nationalities. The common systems throughout the country are based upon the British Curriculum, The American Curriculum, The Indian Curriculum, and the International Curriculum. These systems are English based with an Arabic, and Quran class. Home schooling is also an option, but it has its own set of challenges. By general consensus, the schools fees in the Northern Emirates are very competitive when compared to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Considering a Move to the UAE: Reflecting on Acceptance, Appreciation, and Practical Considerations

Alhamdulillah, we are aware that paradise will not be offered now, so anywhere we go, there will be room for improvement. Currently, as Muslim Americans, UAE is very accommodating and offers a lifestyle (with amenities) that is fairly familiar, as oppose to some harsh environments.
UAE has opened its doors, offered to share its opportunities, and we as Americans are invited.

But before we accept the invite, let’s reflect on this:
If we were invited into a home for supper and your host has a table spread of your best dishes, desserts and drinks; but they have hideous window curtains. Do you find fault with the curtains and get thrown out, or do you enjoy your meal? Keep in mind that you weren’t invited to redecorate!

This banner was intend to offer you an insight on some things you may want to consider stateside prior to relocating to UAE. We ask Allah to make this information a benefit to all exposed to it.