United Arab Emirates (UAE)

General Information Banking
Business Etiquette Tips Embassy Locations and Registration
Employment-Legal Requirements Entry and Exit Requirements
Intellectual Property Legal and Registration of a Business Entity
Safety and Crime Taxes

General Information

United Arab EmiratesHome to 200 islands, beautiful sandy beaches, mountains, and thrilling archaeological finds, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) combines exciting sightseeing with some of the most luxurious resort hotel accommodations for the business or individual traveler. Long known for its abundant oil and gas production, UAE has also actively and successfully pursued alternative business sectors such as manufacturing (including metal processing, furniture, food processing, and jewelry), tourism, finance, banking, construction, and transportation.

UAE is unique in many ways. It is actually a federation of seven independent states known as the emirates, each with its own ruler and local government. Also, only 20 percent of the total population is native to UAE. Most of the federal government's money (80 percent) comes from Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the two largest and richest of the emirates.

The UAE and the United States have enjoyed friendly relations since 1971. The UAE has been a key partner in the war on terror, and their ports host more U.S. Navy ships than any other port outside of the United States.

There may be political unrest and/or targeted crime against visitors to the country.  Travelers should check with the U.S. State Department Web site for current travel safety information.

Major Cities Capital: Abu Dhabi
Major city: Dubai
Official Currency Dirham (AED)  (It can be difficult exchanging travelers' checks except in big cities, though euro-checks can be exchanged in all banks.)
Time Zone UTC+4 (9 hours ahead of Washington, D.C. during Standard Time)
Language Arabic is the official language, and English is the commercial language. Other languages include Persian, Hindi, and Urdu.

Legal System and Government

Type of Legal System

The UAE legal system is based on a dual system of Shari'a and civil courts. It has not accepted compulsory International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction.

Form of Government

Federation of emirates with specified powers delegated to the UAE federal government and other powers reserved to member emirates.



The UAE has no restrictions or regulations on foreign exchange. Capital, profits, interest, and royalty payments may be repatriated freely.

Available Banking Services

Online banking
Banking in English
Overdraft protection 

Bank Holidays

New Year's Day
El am Hejir New Year
Prophet's Anniversary-Eid-Milad Nnabi
Ascension of Mohammad 
Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Accession Day
Civil Servant's Holiday
End of Ramadan
National Day
Eid-ul-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)
El am Hejir (Feast of the Sacrifice)

U.S. and Other Major Banks in Country

(Note: Addresses and contact information subject to change.)

Standard Chartered
Al Mankhool Road, P.O. Box 999,
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Phone:  (971) 4-352-0455
Fax: (971) 4-352-7523
Web:  https://www.sc.com/ae/

Al Heel
Ground Floor, Al Heel Tower, Street #26
King Abdul Aziz Street
Phone: (971) 2-6672541
Fax: (971) 2-6672563
Web:  http://www.citibank.com/uae/homepage/index.htm


Business Etiquette Tips

Business Attire

Typical business wear is a shirt and slacks during the day and moderate conservative dress for women. It is considered inappropriate for foreigners to wear local dress due to the large number of foreign residents in the country.

Business Negotiations

Again, the large numbers of foreign business people in the UAE make one standard form of business dealing difficult. One is likely to encounter people of all backgrounds, religions, and nationalities in UAE. It is best to observe general business practices common throughout the Middle East in order not to offend such as removal of one's shoes prior to entering a room, or waiting to be invited in (by use of local greetings). 

Public and Social Behavior

Shaking hands is common among men but not among those of the opposite sex. If women are present it is best to follow their lead in greeting one another.

Scheduling Appointments

It is important to note that the work week in UAE begins on Saturday, not on Monday. Most businesses are closed during the afternoons, and daily prayer times are observed. It is recommended that appointments be scheduled for "times of day rather than precise hours" (e.g., in the morning, early evening, etc.). 


Embassy Locations and Registration

Americans living or traveling in the UAE are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department's travel registration Web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the UAE. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the embassy or consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

(Note: Addresses and contact information subject to change.)

U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi
Embassies District
Plot 38, Sector W59-02
Street No. 4,
Abu Dhabi, UAE
Phone: (971) (2) 414-2200
Fax:  (971) (2) 414-2241
Web: http://uae.usembassy.gov

U.S. Consulate General in Dubai
Dubai World Trade Center
21st Floor
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Phone: (971) (4) 311-6000
Fax:  (971) (4) 311-6213
Web: http://dubai.usconsulate.gov

The work week for both the embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Consulate General in Dubai is Sunday through Thursday.

Embassy of the United Arab Emirates
3522 International Court, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037
Phone: (202) 243-2400
Fax:  (202) 243-2595
Web: http://uae-embassy.org/


Employment-Legal Requirements

Workers may be placed on probation for a period not to exceed six months, during which time either the employer or employee may terminate services without repercussions. A worker shall not be placed on probation more than once with the same employer.  Employment contracts that continue beyond the initial expiration date or completion of the initial work agreed upon shall be considered extended on the same conditions except for the term. 

Employment contracts may be for definite or indefinite terms. A definite term contract cannot exceed four years. But it may be renewed by mutual agreement for an equal or a shorter term(s). When a contract is renewed the renewal is considered an extension of the original terms, and it is added on when calculating the worker's total period of service.

Additional employment information can be obtained through the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs

Terminating Employees

Either the employer or the worker may terminate an indefinite-term contract for a valid reason at any time by giving the other party a notice in writing at least 30 days prior to termination.

For workers paid on a daily basis, the notice period is as follows:

If an expatriate abandons his work without a valid reason before the expiration of his definite-term contract or expiration of the statutory period of notice, he may not, even with the employer's consent, take up other employment until one year has elapsed from the date on which he abandoned his work. No other employer may knowingly recruit such a worker or keep him in his service before the lapse of such period.

Severance: A worker who has completed one or more years of continuous service is entitled to severance pay at the end of his employment. For the first five years of service, 21 days of wages is owed per each year of service. And for each additional year beyond five years, 30 days' wages are owed per year not to exceed a maximum of two year's worth of salary. Workers are also entitled to severance pay for any fraction of a year served, provided that one year of continuous service has been completed.

Legally Mandated Benefits and Leave

Annual Leave 2 days per month-paid (Employed more than 6 months, less than 1 year)
Annual Leave/Vacation 30 days paid (Upon completion of 1 year of employment)
Sick Leave 90 days (maximum leave upon completion of one year of employment)
First 15 days-100 percent pay 
Next 30 days-50 percent pay 
Remaining time-Unpaid 
Employee must return following 90 days or risk losing job



Entry and Exit Requirements

A passport is required for entry into any of the United Arab Emirates. For stays of less than 60 days, U.S. citizens holding valid passports may obtain visitor visas at the port of entry for no fee. For a longer stay, travelers should allow six or more weeks to acquire proper forms and approvals. All long-term visitors must possess a visa before arrival in the UAE.

In addition, an HIV/AIDS test is required for work or residence permits. Testing must be performed after arrival. A U.S. HIV/AIDS test is not accepted. 

American citizens intending to reside and work in the UAE may have to obtain personal documents authenticated by the Department of State's Office of Authentications in Washington, D.C. before traveling to the UAE. This can be a complex process involving local, state, and federal offices and requiring several weeks to complete. 

Multiple-entry visas are available to business visitors who have a relationship with either a multinational or other reputable local establishments and who are frequent visitors to the UAE. This type of visa is valid for six months from the date of issue and the duration of each stay can be 30 days. The validity is nonrenewable. Tourists and business people can apply to the UAE embassies in the United States for 1- to 10-year multiple-entry visas. A sponsor is required, however. The maximum duration of stay cannot exceed six months per visit.

Individuals interested in working within the education or health care industries will need to bring validation of their educational credentials. Anyone working in this field should verify which requirements are necessary prior to arrival in the UAE.

Americans intending to bring their families to reside with them in the UAE will need to have their marriage certificate and children's birth certificates, or custody/adoption decrees, if appropriate, authenticated by the Department of State in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Embassy and Consulate General cannot authenticate U.S. local- and state-issued personal, academic, or professional documents. They will only be able to authenticate the final authentication document from the Department of State. Additional information on authentication of documents can be found on the U.S. Department of State Web site.


Intellectual Property 

Nature of Rights and Terms


Copyright registrations are valid for the lifetime of the author and 25 years following the death of the author. The validity period for cinematographic films, works of applied art, works made by corporate bodies, works of art published under pen names, and works published for the first time after the author's death are protected for 25 years only. The validity period of photographic works is 10 years only.


A patent is valid for 15 years and renewable for a period is for up to five years. Patents granted for process inventions relating to drugs and pharmaceuticals are granted for a nonrenewable period of 10 years.

Working of patents in the UAE is an official requirement in order to maintain protection. Owners who do not satisfy the working requirements within four years from the filing date or three years from the grant date of the patent are subject to compulsory licensing.

Industrial Design Patents

A design or industrial model registration is valid for five years and renewable for two additional consecutive five-year periods. Annuities must be paid within the final three months of the protection period, but late payment with a surcharge is possible within 30 days before protection period expires.


Trademark registration is valid for 10 years from the date of filing the application and renewable for similar periods.  Any interested party may request the court to cancel a trademark registration if the owners fail to use such a trademark in the UAE for five consecutive years from the date of registration.


Legal and Registration of a Business Entity

Companies must register with the Trade Register of the Emirate where the company is settled. All Trade Registers are under the control of the Ministry of Economy and Trade. Generally speaking, non-nationals may not hold more than a 49 percent interest in the capital of a local company except in specific situations. 

A foreign company may establish a branch in the UAE, but a local sponsor or agent is required who must be either a citizen of the UAE or a company wholly owned by citizens of the UAE. All branches of foreign companies are required to register with the Ministry of Economy and Commerce, the local Chamber of Commerce, and the proper municipality. Branch offices are not recognized as separate legal entities. A branch office is usually permitted to promote and to market the products of its parent and enter into transactions and offer service to customers in its name.

Registration Formalities (Including Timing)

The World Bank estimates 6 days and seven steps to complete registration of a limited liability office in United Arab Emirates. The steps in streamlined version as listed on the World Bank's Web site include: 

  1. Reserve a company's name and submit the company registration application to the Department of Economic Development (DED).
  2. Notarize the company's Memorandum of Association in DED.
  3. File company documents with the Department for Economic Development (DED) and obtain trade license and the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) membership.
  4. Apply for establishment card at the Ministry of Labor.
  5. Register native workers with the Ministry of Labor.
  6. *Register native workers with the General Authority for Pension and Social Security.

*Takes place simultaneously with another procedure.

(Source:  The World Bank, Doing Business - United Arab Emirates)

More detail on these steps can be located on the World Bank's Web site as well as via one of the resources listed below.

Below are additional resources to assist in establishing an office.

Department of Economic Development http://www.dubaided.gov.ae/main
Investor's Guide to Doing Business http://www.economy.ae/English/InverstorsGuide/Pages/default.aspx
Ministry of Economy http://www.economy.ae/English/Pages/default.aspx
Ministry of Finance  http://www.mofa.gov.ae/
Ministry of Labor http://www.mol.gov.ae/index.aspx
UAE Government Resources http://www.government.ae/gov/en/index.jsp#(Main site)
More Government Resources http://www.government.ae/gov/en/biz/index.jsp (Includes links to starting a business; obtaining licenses, list of fees, labor, and social security information; and additional resources)



Safety and Crime

Americans are advised to maintain a low profile, vary routes and times for all required travel, and treat mail and packages from unfamiliar sources with caution. In addition, U.S. citizens are urged to avoid contact with any suspicious, unfamiliar objects, and to report the presence of the objects to local authorities. 

Taking photographs of potentially sensitive UAE military and civilian sites, or foreign diplomatic missions, including the U.S. embassy, may result in arrest, detention, and/or prosecution by local authorities. In addition, engaging in mapping activities, especially with the use of GPS equipment, without the coordination or approval of the UAE authorities, may have the same consequences.

Crime generally is not a problem for travelers in the UAE. But the U.S. embassy advises U.S. citizens to take normal precautions against theft, such as not leaving a wallet, purse, or credit card unattended.


Drinking or possession of alcohol without a Ministry of Interior liquor permit is illegal and could result in arrest and/or fines and imprisonment. Alcohol is served at bars in most major hotels, but it is intended only for guests of the hotel. Persons who are not guests of the hotel and who consume alcohol in the restaurants and bars technically are required to have their own personal liquor licenses. Liquor licenses are issued only to non-Muslim persons who possess UAE residency permits. Drinking and driving is considered a serious offense. Penalties are assessed according to religious law.


Individuals are free to worship as they choose, but religious proselytizing is not permitted in the UAE.  Persons violating this law, even unknowingly, may be imprisoned or deported.


In order to drive, UAE residents must obtain a UAE driver's license. Foreign driver's licenses are not recognized. Nonresidents can drive, however, if they possess a valid international driver's license issued by the motor vehicle authority of the country whose passport the traveler holds.



The tax year corresponds to the calendar year, January 1st through December 31st.  There are no tax residency requirements or restrictions as the UAE does not levy taxes on individuals. 

Individual and Employee Taxation

Determining Tax Residence

Individuals are not taxed on income in the UAE. But residents are required to contribute to their social security insurance.

Nontax Resident Employees

Individuals are not taxed in the UAE.

Corporate and Employer Tax Obligations

Personal incomes, including all forms of salary and capital gains wherever arising, are not subject to taxation in any of the emirates. All employers are required to contribute towards the Social Security insurance fund for all resident employees.

Corporate Taxation

Currently taxes are applicable primarily to those in the oil and gas or banking/financing industries. Other industries are not assessed taxes upon income or profits. There are certain taxes due upon license renewals, store rentals, and the buying and selling of property.

More information about the tax system of the United Arab Emirates can be found on the Tax rates Web Site for UAE.


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