Working in Abu Dhabi

work in Abu Dhabi
Shutterstock.com
Updated 2021-11-10 08:41

Abu Dhabi may not be as popular as its neighbour emirate of Dubai. However, in recent years, the capital has been receiving more and more attention from the international community: both when it comes to tourism and business.

Moving to Abu Dhabi for work comes with its own pros and cons. On the one hand, you get to gain valuable work and life experience in a vibrant international environment, further your career and explore new professional opportunities. On the other hand, in recent years, Abu Dhabi has become a very expensive city with high rent prices and substantial everyday living expenses. This is why expats moving to Abu Dhabi are advised to carefully consider their financial situation and consider their potential earnings against essential expenses.

Employment opportunities for expats in Abu Dhabi are abundant in the hospitality and service sector (trade, restaurants, hotels, transportation, storage, communication, finance, insurance, real estate, business services, community, social and personal services, entertainment, etc.). Construction and real estate are also promising fields and the tech sector is currently experiencing a lot of growth. 

Work conditions in Abu Dhabi

Taking into account the high cost of living in Abu Dhabi, expats are generally offered rather generous packages. With that, expat salaries have the tendency to remain on the same level in the emirate as prices continue to rise.

So, what can you expect in your Abu Dhabi benefits package?

Naturally, your salary, bonuses, commissions, etc. will be determined by the position you are applying for, your professional expertise and the company hiring you. In a lot of cases, however, expats moving to Abu Dhabi on a work contract are offered company housing (or housing allowance), return tickets to fly home during the holidays, allowance for education for their children and other perks.

Most employers will offer you at least 30 days of annual leave in addition to public holidays. You will also have up to 90 days of sick leave — with 15 days of full pay if you provide a valid medical certificate. Women are entitled to at least 45 days of maternity leave after they've worked for the company for at least a year. For a year and a half after delivery, women are also offered two additional 30-minute breaks for nursing their child.

Important:

Your employer is obligated by law to provide you with health insurance. Some companies will also offer coverage for your dependents — but, in some cases, you will need to purchase medical insurance for your family separately.

Job hunting in Abu Dhabi

One of the great things about the internet is that you can easily start your job hunt from outside the UAE. In fact, getting acquainted with Abu Dhabi's job market is an absolute must prior to arranging your move.

There are lots of online publications (Gulf News, Khaleej Times, or Emarat Al Youm (available in English) that regularly post the most recent job offers. Plus, there are a number of job hunting websites where you can find work listings in Abu Dhabi under different categories.

Check out Bayt, Gulf Talent, Indeed and others.

Another great tool in your job hunt are professional social media — like Linkedin. Keep your profile updated, add a link to your CV and tweak your profile to match the positions you plan to apply for. You may also want to change your Linkedin status to “open to finding a new job” and your location to “Abu Dhabi” so that potential employers and head hunters can easier find your profile.

Experienced professionals may find it more convenient to go through headhunting agencies. In this case, you can get in touch with a recruitment agency directly and describe the position you are looking for. A number of recruitment agencies have their offices in Abu Dhabi — including Michael Page.

If you are already in Abu Dhabi, you can focus on expanding your professional network in the emirate. Attend professional meet-ups, conferences, exhibitions and clubs. You can also check out the National Career Exhibition in the UAE.

To prepare for an active job hunt, have your CV and cover letter ready. There is no specific CV format to keep to when applying for jobs in Abu Dhabi. Expats working here come from all over the globe — and local employers are used to a variety of CV formats and writing styles.

With that, it is important to put your best foot forward and make sure your experience and skills are presented in a clear and favorable way.

There are two popular ways of organizing your CV. One is focused on your work experience and you will be listing the jobs you've recently had in reverse chronological order. The other one is skill-centred. This would be a more preferable option for those who don't yet have much work experience. In this case, you centre your CV around a specific skill set rather than work experience. Alternatively, you can always use a combination of the two formats.

Good to know:

Note that in the UAE, it is customary to include more personal information in your CV than, for instance, in the US. Most CVs will mention age, nationality and include a photo.

Together with your CV, you should also include a cover letter. A cover letter is basically an introduction to your CV and a chance to catch your potential employer's attention by standing out from the crowd. Cover letters shouldn't be over a page long and it's best to keep them succinct and focused. Your cover letter should say why you are applying for this position at this company and what makes you a good candidate for the job.

Important:

Be aware that as an expat you won't have access to welfare programs. This means that if you plan to come to Dubai and search for work on the spot, you will need to make sure that you have enough means to support yourself throughout your job hunt.

Good to know:

In recent years, the UAE has put a strong focus on its Emiratisation strategy. This strategy aims to increase the number of local employees in the job market. You may find that some jobs are only available to Emiratis — and this is particularly true of internships in international companies.

Be prepared that your job hunt in Abu Dhabi may take some time. In the meantime, it may be a good idea to take a language course, attend professional masterclasses, take a class in your field — and more. Basically, anything you can do to improve your chances of landing a job in Abu Dhabi is a good idea.

Work visa in the United Arab Emirates

Work permits are issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) of the United Arab Emirates, sponsored by your employer. Without it, working in the UAE is illegal. With this work permit, you can enter the UAE for employment. The validity of the work permit is two months after the date of issue.

The necessary formalities such as medical testing, obtaining an Emirates ID card, a Labour Card are sponsored by the employer, and the work residency permit stamped on your passport within 60 days. The work residency permit is issued by the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) from the emirate where you will be employed.

You are not eligible to sponsor any of your family members unless your work visa is completed. If you enter Abu Dhabi on a tourist visa, you should check before how many days you are allowed to stay in Abu Dhabi, as there is a limit for some countries.

If you're outside of the United Arab Emirates, you can contact Visa Service centres in various parts of the world. These have been set up by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Their goal is to explain rules and regulations between employee and employer.

Important:

To be eligible to work in Abu Dhabi, you must be sponsored by an employer. Working on a tourist or visit visa is illegal.

Your passport should be valid for at least six months after the date of entry in the UAE if you are to apply for a work permit.

Taxes in Abu Dhabi

We've mentioned at the beginning of this article that Abu Dhabi is known for its high cost of living. With that, you will be happy to know that there is no income tax in Abu Dhabi — and the rest of the UAE. This means that you will be able to enjoy a tax-free salary while earning income from the UAE. The only thing to take into account here would be the taxes in your home country. If your country of citizenship has a double taxation agreement with the UAE, you won't have to pay any taxes. In most cases, in order to not pay taxes, you will need to register as a non-resident in your home country.

If your home country doesn't have double taxation treaties with the UAE, you will probably need to file taxes at home.

To learn about double taxation treaties in the UAE, check the UAE Ministry of Finance for updates.

For more information on taxes in the UAE, refer to our guide on the tax system in the United Arab Emirates.

Qualifications for working in the Abu Dhabi

Occupations in the UAE are generally divided into five skill levels. Jobs in levels from one to three are white-collar jobs (in business, medicine, marketing, finance, etc.) — to qualify for these positions, you will need related degrees and certificates that prove your expertise in the field. Most companies will accept a degree from your home country — in fact, international qualifications are typically very well received in the UAE. Note that you may be asked to get your degree evaluated at the Ministry of Education.

When it comes to language, you will need a good command of English for most positions. Knowledge of Arabic will definitely give you an edge over other applicants and making an effort to learn the language will be very appreciated by your employer.

Working freelance in the UAE

Compared to Dubai, Abu Dhabi may not be quite as open to freelancing and remote work. However, such opportunities definitely exist in the emirate — especially, in specific fields like IT, content creation, design and more.

To work freelance in Abu Dhabi, you will need to go through a few formalities. To get a freelance license, you will need to provide the following documents:

  • A copy of your passport
  • Degrees and certificates proving your qualifications in the field you will be freelancing in
  • And a reference letter from a bank

Additional documents may be required depending on your field of work, qualifications, etc.

As a freelancer, you won't be able to hire employees or sponsor visas for your family members in order for them to come to the UAE. If your freelance income exceeds AED 375,000 per year, you will need to register for VAT.

If you decide to start a company in Abu Dhabi, you will be able to benefit from the UAE's business-friendly taxation system: there is no corporate tax in the UAE.

Useful links:

The Official Portal of the United Arab Emirates Government

UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Visas

UAE Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratisation

Job hunting websites

Bayt

Gulf Talent

Indeed

Glassdoor

Caterer Global

Hosco

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.