As most expats leave Dubai after a few years, either to return to a home county, or to move to another country altogether, I have put together a brief guide to some of the issues you need to consider before moving.
Ideally a move should be planned as far ahead as possible, particularly if there are potential tax issues to consider, but even if it happens with little notice there are still steps to take to ensure your move is as painless as possible.
A move to another country is one of those times when you really need to make lists and be organised. The process can seem a bit daunting but this article will give you an overview of most of the issues that you may need to consider.
- Get quotes from several removal companies. The costs will vary and cheapest isn’t always best and you must read the fine print to ensure your goods are properly insured and to establish exactly what is included. Be sure that the volume specified is sufficient as exceeding it can be costly.
- Be aware of the customs regulations of the country you are moving too. Certain items may be taxable or even banned. Ensure you keep a full inventory of your possessions.
- Make sure you are aware of all rules when transporting your pets to another country. It is important to keep their vaccination records up to date as some need to be done ahead of time. Rules and regulations change frequently and the process is quite complex so you may wish to use a pet relocation specialist. (See link at end.)
- If you have children you will need to notify the school of his/her last day and advise that they will not be returning. The school should issue final report cards, education and immunisation certificates. These will be required when registering for a new school.
- You can request copies of your medical and dental records and this may be useful in the future.
UAE specific issues
- If you want to break a tenancy early, you will need to negotiate with your landlord unless you have pre-agreed break clauses in your tenancy agreement. Many contracts specify a penalty for leaving early which will be deducted from any refund.
- Residency visas should be properly cancelled before departure. Dubai visas are handled by the Department of Naturalisation and Residency Dubai (DNRD). An employer’s PRO should handle this but you may need to deal with dependents’ visas yourself although these can be cancelled easily at the DNRD office at the Al Manara Centre, usually taking just 30 minutes. There is a 30 day grace period after visa cancellation to exit the UAE, although if you hold a passport that permits a visa on arrival, you will have the option to do a “visa run”.
- Close utility and phone accounts. In order to get your DEWA deposit back your account needs to be closed and disconnection and settling a final bill usually takes two to three days. Be aware that your account can be cancelled within just a couple of hours of the request to cancel. Once you have received the SMS confirming the process is completed you go to the DEWA office to collect your deposit refund.
- If you don’t want to take furniture or other items with you, there is the option to donate to charities and numerous places to sell unwanted goods. This can take time so best to plan ahead.
- Be aware of the Ejari cancellation requirement which was introduced in October 2015. The registration used to expire automatically but this is no longer the case. The fee is just AED 30 but there is a process to be followed. Ideally the landlord should deal with this but if they don’t (or won’t) you will need a NOC from your landlord plus the tenancy contract, Ejari, title deed, tenant’s passport and visa copy, landlord’s passport and EID copy. I understand that this must be done at the Dubai Land Department. You should get a SMS the following day confirming cancellation.
- If you employ any domestic staff they must be given notice and you need to cancel their sponsorship. You need to visit Immigration and both the sponsor and maid must have their original passports with them along with other relevant paperwork. A new sponsor can employ the individual at this time.
- For anyone who has their own company in the UAE and wants to close it down there are steps they need to take to cancel the licence. The exact requirements depend on the nature of the company and where it is registered but expect to pay substantial fees.
- Review your investments to ensure you will not end up with tax liabilities in your new country of residence. The profits on certain plans may be taxable elsewhere and steps need to be taken in respect of certain bonds to avoid tax charges.
- For life cover you need to notify the insurance company of a new address for cover to remain valid.
- Do you need to close your bank accounts? It is not essential but if you are breaking all ties then you should probably do so. Emptying your account is not the same as closing it and could leave you with ongoing charges that can build up and cause problems on re-entering the UAE. Ensure that you get written confirmation from your bank that there are no further liabilities. I have dealt with many cases where the unwary have been caught out so best to close all accounts properly on leaving., especially as it can be nigh on impossible to close accounts when out of the UAE.
- If moving money to another currency, you can get better rates by using a currency exchange broker in place of your bank’s online service. See this article Cost effective & secure currency transfers and contact me for more details and an introduction to a fully regulated currency exchange company.
- If you are selling a car and have an outstanding loan it is a bit more complicated than a simple transfer of ownership. The remaining loan has to be cleared at the time of sale and you contact your bank to arrange to do this. The process can take time so allow up to two weeks
- Don’t forget to cancel your Salik tag and pay any outstanding traffic fines.
- Keep copies of all documentation, including bank statements, and back this up by saving copies to an email account you can access from anywhere. You never know when you might need something and soft copies with information will often suffice.
- Find out if you need to register with the tax authorities in your new country of residence. British nationals returning to the UK no longer need to complete a specific form and generally someone moving to the UK will be treated as an “arriver” under the Statutory Residency Test. You can find out more here: UK Statutory Residency Test
- If you are a British national, returning home, I can provide individual advice in respect of personal tax liabilities. Getting this wrong can be costly so it is best to have the facts as they relate to you. (See end of article for more.)
No doubt we all know of people who have ‘done a runner’ but this is neither prudent nor ethical as any debts will not just disappear. Expatriates who abscond and/or leave debts could be blacklisted from re-entering the country for years to come, if not permanently. Any time that person is in a UAE airport, even in transit, they run the risk of having serious problems with the local authorities.
With all the jobs you need to do at the last minute it can be useful to stay in a hotel or serviced apartment for a few days so you are able to deal with the return of your DEWA deposit and other issues before you depart.
For people moving to the UK – I provide an exit planning service that includes bespoke advice on UK tax issues to ensure you don’t leave yourself open to paying UK tax when the right steps will legally minimise liabilities. Advice also given on offshore investments and a host of other issues relating to moving country. See here for what you might have missed.
Moving from the UAE to the UK? Do you have a proper financial plan?
To arrange a discussion on any aspect of your personal financial planning, please email me at email@example.com I run my own set-up under the Holborn Assets umbrella.
I am a highly-qualified and experienced Independent Financial Adviser with over 25 years of experience, the last 14 in the UAE and prior to that in the UK. I provide a fee-based personal financial planning service to expatriates resident in the GCC as well as commenting on these issues in The National newspaper and on Capital Radio UAE every week where I answer reader and listener questions. My business motto is proper advice for nice people.
Please take a look at the many other useful articles on this website.
This is a useful article with information about relocating your pets: A step by step guide on how to relocate your pet abroad
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