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Working in Dubai

Expats working in Dubai make up roughly 80% of the emirate’s population. Want to join their ranks? Then make sure to get a good idea of what Dubai’s business world is like! Our InterNations article on working in Dubai can help you with info on the economy, job search, and a lot more.
Dubai's wealth and modern business atmosphere don't go unnoticed.
  • Local businesses often prefer to hire UAE nationals so look into international corporations.
  • New laws, such as the laws introduced in 2016 which outline contract regulations, inform expats of their working rights and protect them.  
  • Free Trade Zones give international businesses 100% ownership. 

Dubai has more than recovered from the financial crisis of 2009. The property and construction sector went into decline, but the tourism, retail, and trade sectors remained decent. To re-stabilize the local economy, the Dubai government kept up attempts to make the emirate an attractive location for its citizens, international businesses, and expats working in Dubai, and now the economy’s stronger than ever. In 2020, it will host the World Expo and there was uncertainty over the economic value of the event. In total, it is estimated to cost Dubai around 7 billion USD but the opportunity has proved itself to be invaluable for Dubai’s infrastructure projects. This will include the construction of a new district, in the area now separating Dubai from its neighbor Abu Dhabi. Though Dubai seems to have come out the other side of the financial crisis slump, there are signs to the contrary with rising living costs and an overheating property market.

Dubai also lets you experience a multicultural, yet traditional society with over 200 nationalities living side by side. Those who are interested in working in Dubai will find not only a close-knit expatriate community but also employment opportunities and tax-free salaries.

Dubai’s Thriving Economy

Dubai’s economy has grown significantly in the past 10 years, creating new job opportunities for people working in Dubai. Small and medium-sized businesses in particular receive a lot of support from the government. Dubai’s ideal location between the European and Asian markets offers particular advantages.

While in the past, Dubai’s biggest source of income used to be exports of oil and gas, the government is now making efforts to become more independent from this sector, investing in a variety of industries and services. The tourist industry in particular has experienced a huge boost in the recent years as new jobs for Emiratis and foreigners working in Dubai have been created. Many expats have found positions in trade or the service sector, especially in finance.

Dubai’s free trade zones attract investments from abroad. In these areas, the laws concerning ownership have been slightly changed. While in the rest of Dubai at least 51% of all businesses have to be under Emirati ownership, in the free trade zones, 100% of business ownership can be in foreign hands. Expats working in Dubai are often employed by international companies in the free trade zones, falling under a different set of labor laws than their UAE colleagues.

Finding a Job in Dubai: Sponsors and Agencies

You need a sponsor in order to receive a work permit. This sponsor can be a company or an individual assisting them with their paperwork. For most international employees, their company is their sponsor.

Expats in Dubai are often working on a certain project or in an UAE branch office. Those who come to Dubai looking for work on their own may stand a good chance of finding the right job by checking the classifieds section in local newspapers.

Contacting recruitment agencies is another possibility when it comes to looking for a job in Dubai. However, it is important to make sure that you choose registered agencies which do not overcharge their clients. As an individual, you should not have to pay any fee, and companies are only charged in case of a successful placement.


The disadvantage of working in Dubai for an Emirati company (or one outside the free trade zones) is that your job may fall prey to “Emiratisation”. Emirati nationals are placed in professional and leadership positions for important projects, a measure supported by the government to increase the number of UAE nationals in top positions.

In the course of Emiratisation, expats may be entirely replaced by Emiratis and hence lose their jobs (and their visa with it). Therefore, expats will probably have more luck finding steady employment in international or globalized companies when working in Dubai.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Peter B. Krehmer

"There are so many expats in the UAE, but the InterNations Dubai Ramadan dinners brought some wonderful guests together. "

Suzanne Payne

"Dubai is such an overwhelming mixture of tradition and modernity that I was very grateful for all the support from other expats. "

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