The UAE has been ranked the 11th-best destination for expatriates to live and work, based on the high quality of life it offers and job opportunities, according to a report by global network InterNations.
Mexico topped the global ranking, with Spain and Panama in second and third place, respectively, InterNations said in its annual Expat Insider 2023 report released on Tuesday.
Malaysia and Taiwan were ranked fourth and fifth on the index. Rounding off the top 10 were Thailand, followed by Costa Rica, the Philippines, Bahrain and Portugal.
Some of the worst destinations for expatriates include Norway, South Korea, Germany, South Africa, Italy, Malta, New Zealand and Japan.
Where are the best countries for expats to live?
InterNations polled 12,000 people in 53 nations and territories, asking questions based on five categories: quality of life, ease of settling in, working abroad, personal finance and an expatriate essentials index, which covers digital life, administration topics, housing and language.
High quality of life in the UAE
“Expats enjoy the high quality of life and job opportunities [in the UAE],” said InterNations, which has more than 4.8 million members.
“The UAE even makes it into the top five of three indices – expat essentials [second], working abroad [fourth], and quality of life [fourth].”
Last September, a survey by health insurance company Cigna found that 4 per cent of expatriates around the world wanted to relocate to the UAE because of its progressive policy changes, recent visa reforms and economic rebound after Covid-19.
The UAE, the Arab world’s second-largest economy, has introduced several economic, legal and social reforms in recent years to strengthen its business environment, boost foreign direct investment, attract skilled workers and provide incentives to companies to set up or expand their operations.
In 2019, amendments were introduced to the golden visa initiative to simplify the eligibility criteria and expand the categories of beneficiaries.
The 10-year visa is granted to investors, entrepreneurs and skilled professionals who earn a monthly salary of more than Dh30,000 ($8,167), as well as exceptional talent, scientists and professionals, outstanding students and graduates, property investors, humanitarian pioneers and front-line heroes.
A green visa provides a five-year residency for skilled employees without the need for a sponsor or employer.
The minimum educational level is a bachelor’s degree or equivalent and the salary should not be less than Dh15,000.
Meanwhile, the UAE introduced a one-year digital nomad visa in March 2021 that allows people to live in the Emirates while continuing to work for employers in their home countries.
Dubai also offers a five-year retirement visa for expatriates older than 55.
Where did the UAE rank?
Overall, 68 per cent of foreign workers are happy with their life in the UAE, according to the InterNations survey.
The UAE was ranked second globally in the Expat Essentials Index category, behind Bahrain, with 80 per cent of respondents in the Emirates saying it is easy to obtain a visa when moving here.
Expatriates also said that it was easy to live in the UAE without speaking the local language and were happy about the country's administrative services, InterNations said.
In the digital life subcategory, 84 per cent of expatriates expressed satisfaction with the availability of government services online, while 87 per cent said they found it easy to secure high-speed internet access at home, the survey found.
The UAE was ranked fourth globally in the Quality of Life category and was top in the leisure options sub-category.
Respondents said they enjoyed the culinary variety and dining options, as well as the culture and nightlife.
The country was ranked fifth globally in terms of both these factors but only 22nd when it came to opportunities for recreational sports, the survey found.
While three-quarters of expatriates are satisfied with the availability of public transport in the UAE, the country was first globally in terms of infrastructure for cars.
More than nine in 10 expatriates (93 per cent) were pleased with this factor, compared with 75 per cent globally.
The UAE was ninth in the safety and security category and 10th in terms of health care.
Foreign workers also rated the country's political stability and their personal safety very positively, InterNations said.
Additionally, they said they were happy with the availability and quality of medical care.
Close to three quarters (74 per cent) find it easy to access all kinds of healthcare services they need, the survey found.
The UAE was ranked fourth in InterNations’ Working Abroad category, which covers career prospects, salary and job security. The country was second globally, behind the US, in terms of career prospects.
It also ranked well in the work culture and satisfaction subcategory, even coming first worldwide in terms of thinking outside of the box.
Close to three-quarters (73 per cent) of respondents said the local business culture encourages creativity, the survey revealed.
The UAE fared well (22nd) in the Ease of Settling In segment, and was ranked 41st in the Personal Finance category.