To work in Dubai, most nationals must be sponsored by an employer. This is especially good news if you’re skilled in boom areas such as construction, finance, conventions and media.

While its citizens are devout Muslims, the city is glitzy, glamorous and remarkably liberal.

Admittedly, the Middle East might not be the first place that springs to mind for a working holiday, but there are plenty of things to like – or even love – about Dubai.

Over the past two decades, thousands of Western professionals have viewed Dubai as an Aladdin’s Cave of riches. This dynamic city-state – part of the United Arab Emirates – has expanded astronomically, creating unprecedented demand for foreign labour. Since the 1980s, foreigners have been lured here by attractive packages, tax-free wages and the chance to live in this exotic Arabian port.

The Hong Kong of the Gulf, Dubai is a freewheeling commercial centre where glass towers rise above bustling spice markets. Restaurants are world-class and the nightlife sizzles like a shwarma grill.

Unlike other Gulf states, Dubai has a diverse economy with a range of sectors including construction, healthcare, media, IT and engineering. Now a popular holiday destination, jobs in hospitality and retail have boomed as hotels and malls soar skyward.

That said, Dubai isn’t the expatriate paradise it used to be. Rents have recently risen and you now need a decent wage to pack away some dirhams (the local currency, linked to the US dollar).

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Two types of expats:

Essentially, there are two types of expats in Dubai. Lower income positions are mostly filled by people from Asia, Russia and the Middle East, while Westerners typically occupy professional posts. To work in Dubai you need a job offer from an employer, who will then organise your work visa. You’ll have to get any educational qualifications certified (see below), so it’s advisable to organise this in advance.

Of course, finding a job isn’t simply a matter of rubbing your magic lamp. There are various recruitment agencies online and the websites of Dubai’s two newspapers, Gulf News and Khaleej Times, are useful resources. Two years’ experience in your field is often necessary.

You can visit Dubai on a three-month tourist visa and look for work yourself, although you won’t be able to work until you secure sponsorship. For visa information, click here.

Some foreigners arrive in Dubai as tourists to search for jobs, an option many expats recommend. Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans can get three-month visitor visas on entry. South Africans must have a hotel booking and organise a visa beforehand. Once you gain employment, you must exit the UAE then re-enter with a work visa.

Unfortunately, work visas bind employees to one employer. If you wish to change jobs, you may have to endure a six-month cooling off period before doing so – a law introduced to prevent job hopping.


Overall, most expats enjoy Dubai and many stay longer than anticipated.

Situated halfway to Australasia, Dubai is a launching pad for exploring Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Many jobs include an annual return flight home, but don’t take this for granted: read the fine print.

Lastly, the booze news; alcohol is heavily taxed in Dubai and is only available in bars in luxury hotels or licensed shops. But once you factor in your tax-free income, the prices lose their sting.

Before you go:

If you’re certain you want to work in Dubai, get your educational qualifications certified by a Public Notary, your country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UAE Embassy in your country of residence. This speeds up the work visa process. Furthermore, if your degree is already attested this makes you a more desirable candidate. For information, contact the UAE Embassy on 0870-005 6984.

Recruitment websites:


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