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International Relocation for Expats in the United Arab Emirates

Submitted: March 2014

As exciting as the prospect of moving to a new location is, when it comes to the actual move, there are few who look with excitement at packing boxes, dealing with immigration authorities and completing seemingly endless forms. It can indeed be wearisome dealing with bureaucracy in two countries and trying to arrange everything on time. However, the key is to familiarise yourself with the requirements and start planning well in advance! In this respect, our Expat Briefing articles on UAE offer a great starting point. 


Moving your belongings

An essential step is to decide how to best move your belongings to the UAE. Most airline companies will only allow one or two pieces of personal luggage. Sending items via post or express delivery services such as DHL or UPS is only recommendable for lesser quantities. For larger quantities it is best to choose one of the specialised relocation companies and opt for a good insurance.

Many such companies are more than just mere shipment companies. While they do organise the move of your personal and household belongings, they also offer guidance on administrative and immigration procedures during and after relocation. Some even assist with job and housing searches. However, as the array of offered services and the applicable prices vary greatly from company to company, it is crucial to do thorough research before committing to one. In this respect, online reviews and expat forums are a valuable resource!

Companies offering relocation services to UAE include:

  1. Allied Pickfords
  2. Crown Relocation
  3. InTouch Relocations
  4. Santa Fe – Dubai or Santa Fe – Abu Dhabi
  5. Sterling Relocation


Importing personal possessions

If you have already obtained a valid UAE Residence Visa, you will be permitted to import your personal possessions and household items to the UAE. However, remember that once the goods arrive, you will have to be present at Customs clearance in person. All goods will be inspected, so make sure to label everything clearly and prepare a detailed packing list. Items that have been in your possession for at least 12 months prior to the move will be imported duty free, whereas brand new items will incur a 5% Customs duty.

You will have to present the following documentation at Customs clearance:

  1. Passport copy
  2. UAE Residence Visa copy
  3. Detailed packing list
  4. Shipment documentation

Note that you may not import any tobacco, alcohol or firearms into the UAE.

On how to relocate to the UAE with pets see Relocation with Families and Pets for Expats to the UAE.


Importing vehicles

Expats who have obtained a UAE Residence Visa are normally allowed to import one car and one motorbike per person. However, there are few things to keep in mind. The vehicle must be a left-hand drive car and should generally not be older than 5 years. Cars with tinted windows may not be imported. Note also that all car imports are subject to a duty at 5% of the Customs assessed value.

Expats will be required to provide at least the following documentation:

  1. Original purchase invoice
  2. Car registration documents from the county of origin, showing the make, model, chassis number, colour and type of car
  3. Proof of ownership
  4. Insurance policy from the country of origin
  5. Passport copy
  6. UAE Residence Visa copy
  7. Shipment documentation

For further information contact one of the specialised shipment companies listed above or get in touch with the Customs Department of the respective Emirate, for example Dubai Customs or Abu Dhabi General Directorate of Customs.

Once imported, you will have to approach the transport authority of the respective Emirate, for example the Road and Transport Authority (RTA) Dubai or the Abu Dhabi Vehicle Licensing Department, for an obligatory car inspection. If the transport authority finds that your car complies with the UAE road and safety requirements, you will be permitted to register your car and receive UAE licence plates.

To read more on driving in the UAE in general see Driving and Public Transport for Expats.



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