30 March 2004


Before we arrived in Dubai we read about the horrendous bureaucracy (left over from the British colonial times) that could make life difficult.  There is even a book has been published for new arrivals that tells step by step how to arrange everything.

Well, we have been here a month now and our experience is that it is much easier than expected.  This is partly due to the fact that Stuart’s company has arranged a lot of things, and these things were done quickly as his company is part of the Government of Dubai!

Everything here depends on the residence permit.  This is the root document which is needed for just about everything (except a pay-as-you-go mobile which only needs a copy of your passport).  Stuart got his residence visa within a week of arriving due to the lightning-speed efficiency of the company. To get it he needed to have a blood test at the public hospital. He was taken there by the company driver who then just pushed his way to the front of the large queue and he got done within minutes.

With the residence visa we were able to sign the lease for the flat (a simple one page document – quite a shock after UK leases.  There is only one restriction on what you can do - nailing things to the tiled floor.  What happens here is that the landlord, once you leave the property, gets in decorators to fill holes in the walls and repaints).

We could also get the water and electricity put on (the same company does both and you can even do it over the Internet!), get a medical card, a driving licence (which you actually need just to buy and register a car here), and a bank account.

The bank account opening was interesting.  You call a bank you are interested in and they send a man round the same day with all the documents you need.  He then comes back as necessary to help with anything and you are set up in one day and the cheque books are ready in 3 days.  At the bank itself, if you are an expatriate of reasonable means (i.e. all Westerners) you have a named individual as your account manager.  When you visit her, if you want to make a deposit of cash you give it to her and she calls a man who then stands in the queue at the desk for you and pays the money in.  What is scary for him is, if the amount he pays in disagrees with what your account manager thinks, he has the amount deducted from his salary.  As these salaries are very low, there have been cases of a person losing over a month’s salary.  This does not seem a good system.

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