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Expats Relocating with Families and Pets in the United Arab Emirates

Submitted: March 2014

Relocation with Families

Relocating to the UAE with your family can be an exciting adventure for all family members. However, make sure to familiarise yourself with the local culture in advance and start planning early as it is can be a lengthy process to sort out the required paperwork and find appropriate schooling/childcare.

First of all, you should look into entry requirements. Normally, you will have to obtain a visa and work permit for yourself first before you can apply for a visa for your children and/or spouse. It is recommendable to approach the UAE Embassy in your country to obtain more information on the application process. If you are moving to Dubai you may also wish to consult the website of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs – Dubai and if you are moving to Abu Dhabi have a look at the Abu Dhabi Website on Citizenship and Residency. You can also read about the different visa types in the Expat Briefing articles on Immigration in the UAE.

In the UAE, life quality differs significantly from one area to another, so it is essential to invest ample time into finding a family-friendly area to live. You should look for an area that has adequate facilities for children and access to good medical care and schooling. For this purpose, have a look at the respective municipality websites, for example Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Sharjah. It is also a good idea to consult online blogs and forums for first-hand information. See for example the Expat Briefing Forum.

Another important step is to look into schooling options. Keep in mind that in the UAE expat children normally cannot be admitted to state-funded schools, so you will have to look into private schooling options. Luckily, there is a growing number of good private schools. However, you will have to start planning well in advance as certain international schools have long waiting lists. Finding a school can be a pricey undertaking as most schools require you to pay a non-refundable application fee. Also, when finally admitted, expats should expect to pay relatively high tuition fees, therefore in recent years, many expats have been opting for home-schooling.

To search for schools you can, for example, have a look at the List of Schools provided by UAE Interact. If you are looking for schools in Dubai or Sharjah, it is also useful to look at the Dubai School List and Tuition article by Expat Woman. For more detailed information on schooling options in the UAE see Education in the UAE. To read more on childcare, see Family life and Childcare in the UAE.

Finally, make sure to prepare your children for the move. If approached the right way, the move will be an exciting new start for your children. Tell them about the UAE and teach them about the local culture prior to departure already. It is also a good idea to enrol them into a language school if they do not speak Arabic or English. For further guidance on preparing children for relocation, see Kids’ Relocation Issues.


Relocation with Pets

Expats relocating to the UAE are generally allowed to import two pets per person as long as the animals are older than 4 months and meet the strict import regulations. However, note that certain dog breeds may not be imported, for example Pit Bull, American Bulldog, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Argentinian Fighting Dog, Brazilian Fighting Dog or Neapolitan Mastiff. Also keep in mind that certain Emirates, in particular Abu Dhabi, ban certain pets from public areas.

To avoid any misunderstandings, it is recommendable to hire a professional pet relocation service to acquaint you with the regulations and carry out the pet relocation on your behalf. Not only do these companies have suitable travel containers for pets, they also take care of the complicated paperwork. This way you will have one less thing to worry about.

Examples of companies offering pet relocation services to the UAE include:

Note that when importing cats and dogs into the UAE, you will have to send them as cargo on the most direct route to the UAE. You will also have to provide the following documentation:

Finally, you will also have to obtain an import certificate prior to relocation. To apply for the certificate go to UAE Ministry of Environment of Water website where you can submit the application and pay the application fee of AED200 per animal.

For further information see the website of the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water and the guidance provided by Pet Relocation.



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