Everyone needs a visa to enter the United Arab Emirates, regardless of whether you intend to work or if you’re just visiting for a holiday. The great news for anyone with a Western passport – that is anyone from Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, the USA and Canada – is that you can get a 30-day visit visa on arrival at Dubai International airport. If you have a passport issued by another country, however, you will need to secure a visa prior to travelling.
If you decide that Dubai really is the City of Gold and you’d like to live there, you will need to obtain a work permit (aka labour card) and residency visa and the only way you can do that is by being sponsored by your employer, which of course means you have to get a job.
The visas generally last three years and allow you to work as well as live in the country. Before your visa is approved, you will be required to have blood tests to prove you do not have HIV/AIDS or hepatitis and you will also need to have chest x-rays to show that you aren’t infected with tuberculosis. Word on the street is that the authorities also test for drugs (which are highly illegal in the UAE) during the blood tests, however this isn’t confirmed.
Despite it being against the law, some companies don’t secure visas for their employees and expect them to do illegal visa runs to neighbouring Oman every month to have their passport stamped. If you are found working without a valid work permit, you can be fined, jailed and deported, so it’s best not to accept work from companies that won’t organise your visa.
It is compulsory for your employer to not only organise your visa, but to pay for it and your health tests as well, so be wary of companies that expect you to foot the bill. Because of the costs associated, many employers will make you pay the costs of your visa if you leave within a certain timeframe, usually one year however some will insist on two.