Just arrived in the UAE? Emirates ID, sim card, housing and banking

Now you're here, this is what you need to know to get your new life started

Passengers arrive at Dubai International Airport. Pawan Singh / The National
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Welcome to the UAE – you made it!

After making your way to your temporary accommodation, you are probably unpacking and wondering what your new life will be like in the Emirates.

Whether you have arrived solo or with your family, with a job lined up or in the hope of securing a new one, The National can walk you through what you need to know in those first few days in your new home.

The weather

It may seem like an obvious one to point out, but anyone arriving between May and October will notice that it's hot!

Summer in the UAE needs to be taken seriously as finding yourself in a broken-down car without water in the middle of the day is no laughing matter, so always be prepared.

Proper sun protection also needs to be taken into account, as part of the draw to this part of the world are the year-round beaches and pool facilities.

Humidity in the Emirates can also reach 100 per cent, which means that it can feel even hotter than it really is, so make sure you are always prepared with loose clothing and water, and reduce your time spent outside if you're not used to the heat.

Emirates ID card

Every resident in the UAE must have an Emirates ID. It is a universally accepted form of identification and also replaces the UAE residency visa page in your passport. It also helps you access government services, healthcare and banking as well as get a new phone.

If you already have a job lined up, your employer will send you forms to complete, and you will need to complete a medical check. Then you just need to wait about five business days for your ID card to arrive.

If you have entered the country on a jobseeker's visa, then you will need to do the same once you have secured employment.

For more complicated scenarios, such as if you wish to freelance or be self-employed, it may be worth paying for a professional to guide you through the process of obtaining your residence visa and Emirates ID.

Here's how to get your Emirates ID after moving to the UAE

Here's how to get your Emirates ID after moving to the UAE

Sim card

A sim card is a must-have for new arrivals in the UAE – there's only so long you can survive on the hotel Wi-Fi!

Choose between prepaid sims (where you top up your credit) and postpaid sims (where you pay a monthly bill) on four networks: du, Etisalat by e&, Swyp and Virgin.

Du and e& are the two telecom providers that can offer phone contracts, internet services and television packages. Here's our guide to getting the best mobile phone package deal.

How to rent accommodation in the UAE

How to rent accommodation in the UAE

Finding somewhere to live

Choosing where to live in a new country is a big decision, and there are many factors to consider.

A good starting place is our guide to how to rent an apartment for every budget.

How much rent you are willing to pay is obviously a key consideration. Rent is typically paid by the year in a series of up to 12 post dated cheques, and prices can be negotiated. From then on, tenants have rights to protect them from overly ambitious rent increases by landlords.

Abu Dhabi has many options for middle-income earners, as does Dubai. For cheaper rents but a longer commute you may want to look at the Northern Emirates.

There are plenty of other factors to consider other than rent, and The National has a wide range of guides for everything you need. Are you looking for a family home in Dubai? Not sure of your budget and want to look at a range of properties? Want expert insights into what's next for the Dubai property market?

Whatever you decide, just remember to take the following into consideration:

  • Rental payments – how many cheques are required, or are digital payments an option?
  • Do they allow pets if you have one?
  • Which locations suit your budget?
  • Can you move in straight away? Many places go fast!
  • Does it have pool, tennis court, gym etc?
  • How well is it maintained?
  • Do you like the sense of community of the area, do you feel at home?
  • Is it easy to get to school, work, playgrounds, restaurants?
  • Is it a safe location?
  • Does it offer suitable parking options?

Opening a bank account

Before you choose which bank to open an account with, use a financial comparison site to check the eligibility criteria, interest rates, fees and charges for bank accounts, loans and credit cards.

As a new expat in the UAE, opening a current account will require a residence visa and an Emirates ID. Without them, you will only be able to open a basic savings account with specific banks.

Employers in Dubai must cover their workers' health insurance costs, while in Abu Dhabi, the employer must provide medical insurance for the employee and their family (spouse and up to three children).

Provided you have a residence visa and ID card, plus a regular salary, you are eligible for credit from your bank soon after opening an account. Some credit agreements, whether for a credit card or another loan, are subject to salary payments being made to the lending bank.

You may want to consider having accounts with two different banks in case one freezes your account if you go on to switch jobs.

For certain loans, such as for cars, or mortgages, banks often require a down payment or collateral as security.

New UAE residents can use their home country credit histories when applying for financial services under a new partnership between the Al Etihad Credit Bureau and US-based cross-border credit bureau Nova Credit.

How to open a bank account in the UAE

How to open a bank account in the UAE

Starting work

If you have arrived with a job in hand then your employer will send you a list of documents you need to submit, fill out and return, plus arrange for you to complete a medical test which they will pay for. They are most likely used to onboarding people from abroad and will walk you through the process.

If you want to start out by yourself, make sure you have a freelance remote working visa. For creatives in Dubai, the talent pass is an option.

If you are looking for an employer, then networking is often the best option, or you can search sites such as LinkedIn for available positions in your field.

See you next time...

We hope this has helped you take your first few steps into your new home, make sure to check out our next guide: Living in the UAE: Your First Month

Previous guide: Before Moving to the UAE

Updated: September 11, 2023, 12:57 PM