FAQ: Working in Healthcare in Abu Dhabi & Dubai, UAE

How long are the employment contracts?

Contracts are typically one year in duration and are renewable onsite.

What happens if I don't like living in the UAE and don't feel I can complete my contract?

If after much thought you feel that you do not want to stay, you are free to return home. But if, at a later date you decide to re-apply, it will be very difficult to get another position in UAE. Depending on employer policy, you may have to repay some money extended to you (e.g., relocation allowances).

What is the pay like?

Generally, the compensation for expatriates is based on the compensation of the country in which you are currently working. Canadians and Americans are paid the highest, but generally it is less than the compensation being earned in North America. However, because the income is tax-free and healthcare is provided, individual's take home their entire pay check. This allows them to save many times what they do back home.

Can I bring my family?

This depends on contract and employer.

On a single-status contract, accommodations, air tickets, and medical coverage are provided for the employee only.

Can I bring a pet?

People on single-status contracts who are in shared accommodations cannot bring any pets.

People on married-status contracts in unshared accommodations MAY be able to bring a pet, depending on the rules of the housing complex, and depending on the type of animal, but the couple would be responsible for all expenses and arrangements for its transportation to the UAE and any damages the pet may cause.

Where will I live?

Depending on employer and contract, expatriate staff may be housed in hospital-provided accommodations or may be given a housing allowance. Note that housing allowances do not always cover the costs of one's chosen accommodations.

Do I have to share my apartment/house?

Physicians and most senior administrative positions are entitled to non-shared housing. All other contracts typically receive shared accommodations, with a maximum of one other housemate. A person with a housing allowance may also choose to share, since it is more economical.

What kind of healthcare coverage am I entitled to?

In a full-service hospital, typically hospital employees, and their contractually eligible dependents, are treated at that hospital free-of-charge. However, employees (and eligible dependents) may not be covered for services that are not offered at their hospital.

In Abu Dhabi specifically, employers are now required to provide health insurance for their employees. The level of insurance coverage (full coverage; 80-20% split; minimal coverage) varies depending on employer.

In the case of non-eligible dependents which may accompany an employee, the employee must pay for health insurance for these non-eligible dependents before the dependents will be granted residency. We have been told insurance is quite expensive.

What is the currency in the UAE?

The currency in the United Arab Emirates is the Dirham, commonly referred to as the Dh. The Dh is pegged to the US dollar, and the US exchange rate is fixed at US$1 = Dh 3.67.

What does "tax-free income" mean?

There is no income tax deducted in UAE. (As of 2018, there is a 5% VAT on some goods and services.) However, your foreign income may be taxed in your home country:

  • Americans are excluded from paying taxes on any amount up to US$120,000 (tax year 2023), if the person was out of the country for at least 330 full days out of 365 days of a consecutive 12-month period. Exclusion amounts are subject to change, so please refer to: Internal Revenue Service; especially see "Publication 54."
  • Canadians have a more complicated situation which involves severing residential ties to Canada (e.g., spouse, dependent children, non-investment property, etc.). For information, please refer to: Canada Revenue Agency's page on Non-Residents of Canada

How am I paid?

You are paid monthly by direct deposit into a local UAE bank.

How easy is it to open a bank account?

The hospital will help you open a bank account soon after you arrive. Money in this account, however, does not earn interest, so you should transfer your money to an account outside UAE. Islamic law prohibits earning interest on money; Islamic banking; however, provides another method for making your money work for you without violating Islamic law.

What should I do with my money then?

Since no interest is paid on accounts in UAE, most people keep only basic spending money in their UAE bank account. Instead, people transfer most of their savings to offshore accounts. Also, many large foreign banks (e.g., Barclays, Citi, Royal Bank of Canada, HSBC, etc.) have branches in the UAE. Internet banking is common.

Can I use my ATM card?

Yes. Most ATM machines accept cards from all over the world via systems like Cirrus and Plus. You can also get an ATM card for your local bank account.

Can I use credit cards in the UAE?

UAE is generally a cash society, but credit cards are accepted in most major department stores, restaurants, and in the gold souks (markets). Generally, mini-marts, other outdoor souks, etc., do not accept credit cards.

What television channels can I get in the UAE?

Depending on housing, a TV package may be included or you may have to pay for your own satellite TV; packages typically include stations such as ESPN, CNN, BBC, the Movie Channel, etc. The cost of the cable packages varies on the type of package purchased.

What is the voltage in the UAE?

The voltage is 220 volts, so most North American appliances will require transformers, while small electronics will just require adaptors. It is therefore recommended, if you are going into accommodations that require appliances, that you buy large appliances in UAE, and not ship them from home.

Is internet available? Should I bring my own computer?

Yes. Housing may provide internet access, but if not, a person can apply to an ISP for internet access from home once s/he has obtained residency status and obtained a personal phone line. There are also internet cafes in the cities and computers at the hospital. All internet traffic in the UAE is processed through centralized servers that filter content that is contrary to Islamic values, so some sites will not be available, such as those with sexually explicit content, some entertainment sites, etc.

Licensing and Visa

What is HZA's recruitment process?

To apply for a position you can call us, sign up on our website, or email us a copy your resume, and one of our recruiters will be in touch to discuss the details of our positions.

The recruitment process varies depending on the hospital to which you apply, your profession, and the visa/licensing rules of the country.

Are interviews required?

Yes! We will interview you via Zoom, WhatsApp, FaceTime, Skype, or Microsoft Teams. Additionally, an interview with the hospital in the UAE is required.

Why do you ask so many personal questions?

During our introductory call, you will discover that we ask some extremely personal questions. The reason is: we don't want to put you through the lengthy application process if some personal factors may later exclude you from an employment visa in the Middle East.

Do I need a visa to go to the UAE?

Individuals from several Western countries (including Canada and the United States) do not require a visa to enter the UAE to visit.

However, employees relocating on a one- or two-year contract are required to enter the country on an employment visa/work permit. These are sponsored by the hospital. As your recruitment company, Helen Ziegler & Associates will request your visa from the hospital. After being approved for a position at one of our client hospitals in UAE, it can take up to 3 months to obtain immigration clearance for an employment visa/work permit. You will be given a copy of your employment visa/work permit prior to your departure for Abu Dhabi.

How long will it take to get my residency status?

Like many other things in the UAE, obtaining your residency status will require plenty of paperwork and typically takes 10-15 business days. You will also be required to undergo medical screening as soon as you arrive in UAE, which will be organized by your employer.

I read somewhere that I will have to relinquish my passport to the hospital once I arrive in UAE, which makes me very nervous — why do I have to do this?

The hospital will need your passport to apply for your residency permit and it will be returned to you once your residency permit has been issued. This process typically take 10-15 business days. There is no reason to be anxious about relinquishing your passport to the hospital since it is standard procedure. However, as an added precaution, we recommend that you keep a photocopy of your passport on-hand, and either register in advance with the US State Department's Smart Traveler Enrolment Program or the Government of Canada's Registration of Canadians Abroad Program.

You can also register in person at the embassy in Abu Dhabi, or the consulate in Dubai.

I have friends and family members not listed in my contract who would like to visit me while I am overseas – how can they get visas?

The hospital is not responsible for family members and friends who are not listed in your contract. Citizens of most Western countries do not have to apply for a visitor's visa to enter UAE. These individuals will be granted a visitor's visa upon arriving in UAE free-of-charge and can stay in the country for 30 days. (Note: One's passport must be valid for more than six months and one must have a round-trip airline ticket or a ticket to a non-UAE destination.) The visitor's visa may be extended for an additional cost.

Citizens of countries who require a visa in advance, will have to make their own visa arrangements.

Do I have to have a UAE license to work?

You will need to be licensed in the Emirate in which you work, e.g., by the Abu Dhabi Department of Health (DOH, formerly HAAD), the Dubai Health Authority, etc.

Licensing requires that applicants meet both the specific education requirements (e.g., name of degree, length/type of program) and specific experience requirements for the position in which they will be licensed, in addition to meeting the requirements set by the actual hospital.

The credential verification and licensing process will be completed as part of the application process, and can take up to 60 days.

Lifestyle and Day-to-Day Living

What religions are practiced in the UAE?

Islam is the official religion of UAE. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is particularly spectacular, and they welcome visitors for self-tours, and also offer free guided tours, every day except Friday.

In the major cities, there are Roman Catholic, Protestant, and/or Orthodox churches that serve the expatriate community.

In Abu Dhabi, some churches include: St. Joseph's Cathedral Abu Dhabi (Catholic); St. Paul's Church - Mussafah (Catholic); St. Andrew's Church (Anglican); the Evangelical Community Church of Abu Dhabi; St. Stephen's Syrian Orthodox Church; and St. George Orthodox Cathedral.

In Dubai, some churches include: St. Mary's Catholic Church, Dubai; St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Jebel Ali (Catholic); Holy Trinity Church (Anglican); St. Thomas Orthodox Cathedral, Dubai; St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church; the United Christian Church of Dubai (evangelical) and the Arab Evangelical Church of Dubai, which are based at the Dubai Evangelical Church Centre; and the Dubai City Church.

Can I bring a Bible with me to Abu Dhabi?


Will I be safe in the UAE?

There is relatively little crime in UAE. The level of violence is far less than one would find in a city of comparable size in the United States or Canada. Generally, Western people say they feel safe.

How would I contact my country's embassy or consulate in the UAE?

Abu Dhabi is the name of the capital city of the UAE and is one of the seven Emirates of UAE (the other emirates are: Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain, and Ras Al Khaimah).

As the capital city, Abu Dhabi is home to all of the government ministries and foreign embassies, including those of the United States and Canada.

Dubai, as a major city and port of entry, is the site of many consulates, including those of the United States and Canada.

What if I feel that I need to leave due to the international situation?

All of our client hospitals were very concerned for the physical and emotional wellbeing of staff in the wake of September 11. Regular meetings were held to provide staff with updated information. Also, staff members can always contact their embassy or consulate for updates on the international situation and their government's recommended response. Following September 11, the vast majority of employees decided to stay and "wait it out" and those who wanted to leave did so.

What sort of clothing will I wear while I am away from work?

It is recommended that non-Muslim men and women dress in conservative, loose-fitting clothing. And, although occasional Western tourists are seen wearing "short" shorts and sleeveless shirts, this is considered to be disrespectful to Emirati Muslim society. (Note: Shorts can be worn, however, they should be conservative to show respect.) Women do not have to wear an abaya or veil.

Will I be able to wear my bikini bathing suit while I am at the beach?

Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai have public beaches and private beaches. Expatriate women do wear their bathing suits/bikinis at at most beaches in UAE.

In Abu Dhabi, for example, the corniche has several large public beach areas: one is for women only, one for families only (i.e., women can go without families — men can't), and one is mixed (any/all people can go).

What languages are spoken in the UAE?

The official language is Arabic. English is commonly spoken, and Hindi and Urdu are also spoken by many of the expatriates who live there. English is the language of operation of all hospitals and translators are available for communicating with patients who do not speak English.

Can I drive a car?

Both men and women are permitted to drive in UAE. Visitors to the UAE can drive as long as they have an international driver's license and passport. Citizens of certain countries (not the USA or Canada) must also have an International Drivers Permit (IDP).

Those working in the UAE and holding residency status, must apply for a UAE driver's license. To apply for a UAE driver's license, you will also need to present your original driver's license that is issued from the same country as your citizenship; make sure you bring your original driver's license with you as well as several copies of your license. Without it, you will not be able to easily obtain a UAE license — in fact, without it, you may not be able to obtain one at all. Please note, Canadian and American citizens do not need to take a driving test to obtain a UAE driver's license. They are also not required to obtain an International Drivers Permit (IDP).

Uber is also in UAE.

I have tattoos/facial piercings/body piercings. Is this a problem?

At work, tattoos must be covered. In public, if possible, it is also best to cover tattoos, but this is not always possible/necessary (e.g., at the beach). Piercings in non-traditional locations (e.g., the eyebrow, lips) may be frowned upon.

I don't want to appear culturally-insensitive. Other than dress, is there anything else I should be aware of?

Do not take pictures of any government buildings or palaces. Do not take pictures of local women without their permission.

During Ramadan (the annual month of fasting), don't eat or drink amongst Muslims during daylight hours. Typically,
restaurants, cafes, etc., except in major hotels, will be closed during daylight hours during Ramadan.

Women should not offer to shake hands with a Muslim male, unless, of course, the hand of the other person is offered first.

Is smoking cigarettes legal in the UAE?

Smoking is legal in certain places in UAE (except for Sharjah). Since 2008, there have been bans on smoking in enclosed public places (e.g., malls, restaurants, offices, cafeterias, hotel lobbies, etc.). Also, under a January 2010 law, smoking was banned when driving a vehicle in the company of a child under 12 years.

Most workplaces are now smoke-free. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, for example, prohibits the use of any tobacco product on hospital or office property, and also prohibits staff from smoking while wearing any type of apparel which would identify them as working for CCAD.

Where on the internet can I get other information about the UAE?

There are many options, including:

Where can I get additional information about travelling abroad?

Canadians can review Global Affairs Canada's website. This is a useful site, providing a variety of information (in English and French) for Canadians planning to go abroad. Some information includes: passports; travel reports; consular services; regional characteristics.

Americans can contact the website of The Department of State. This site provides information for Americans planning to go abroad, such as: passports; travel and health reports; consular services; regional characteristics; currency exchange; etc.

Is UAE expensive to live in?

It depends on what you are purchasing. Housing rental is expensive and alcohol is expensive; brand names and imports can be expensive, compared to the prices at home (where they may not be imports). The general cost of clothing, food, etc., is not particularly expensive.

Professional Life and Work Matters

What is the official business week in the UAE?

As of January 1, 2022, the official workweek in the UAE is Monday to Friday. The weekend is Saturday and Sunday. (Prior to January 1, 2022, the workweek was from Sunday to Thursday, and the weekend was Friday and Saturday.)

Who are the patients at my hospital?

The patients are UAE nationals, expatriates, and UAE hospital staff and their dependents. You will see all types of patients including heart disease, common cancers, and interesting genetic diseases.

Who are my coworkers?

Your coworkers will be healthcare professionals and support staff from UAE and countries around the world: Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Egypt, Jordan, the Philippines, Sudan, South Africa, etc.

What language is spoken at the hospital?

Although English is the working language at the hospitals, your colleagues come from all over the world, so English may be a second language to many of them. Some patients may speak English, but some speak only Arabic; translators will be available, and patient education materials are available in Arabic. Usually, people quickly pick up basic Arabic phrases related to their jobs.

Will I have to wear a uniform while I am on duty at the hospital?

Whether or not you have to wear a uniform depends on your position. For example, nurses typically wear white uniforms/scrubs, physicians wear lab coats, and administrative staff (e.g., coders, administrative assistants, etc.) do not usually have uniforms, but are expected to wear business attire. If you have to wear a uniform, the hospital will provide it for you. Most hospital require clinical staff to bring their own stethoscope.

If I do not wear a uniform, how should I dress at work?

If you do not wear a uniform the dress is professional clothing.

How am I paid?

You are paid monthly by direct deposit into a local UAE bank.

Will I get an orientation?

All new employees typically attend a hospital and department-specific orientation for 1-2 weeks upon arrival. Staff nurses will typically be assigned a preceptor on the unit.

Social Life

What is the social life like?

There is a large expatriate community, and as a result, people there tend to be highly sociable. Whether in a group or on your own, there is something to satisfy many interests, including art, tennis, mahjong, bridge, reading, walking, shopping, bowling, badminton, horse-racing, beaches, etc. At night, you can also enjoy the clubs of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

What is the distance between the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi?

The drive from downtown Abu Dhabi to downtown Dubai is about 150km (93 miles), so in good traffic, it takes about 1.5 hours ... but it can definitely take longer.

Who makes up the expatriate community?

The expatriate community in the UAE is made up of citizens from around the world: Americans, Canadians, Australians, British, Germans, Irish, Indians, Pakistanis, Filipinos, Egyptians, Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis, Malaysians, South Africans, etc.

Will I be able to play any sports or workout while I'm in the UAE?

UAE offers a wide variety of sports and fitness activities; you'll have plenty to choose from whether you enjoy water sports such as swimming, windsurfing and scuba diving, team sports such as baseball and soccer, or activities such as tennis, running, cycling (see: Letter from Abu Dhabi) and horseback riding. There are even ice rinks for skating and hockey fans! Also, there are several fitness clubs and a number of fitness classes including aerobics, pilates, ballet, and aquafit. One of these is the Zayed Sports City, which includes sports fields, a skating rink, a pool, a bowling alley, tennis facilities, fitness facilities, etc.

Often the housing accommodations provided for expatriate staff have a pool, tennis courts, and/or a small gym.

Is there anywhere to golf in Abu Dhabi & Dubai?

There are a number of golf courses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, including the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club (in Abu Dhabi), the Yas Links Golf Club (in Abu Dhabi), the Abu Dhabi City Golf Club, the Al Ghazal Golf Club (in Abu Dhabi), Dubai Golf Club, the Emirates Golf Club (in Dubai), and the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.

Are there any local English newspapers?

Yes: Gulf News, the Khaleej Times, The Gulf Today, and The National.

And of course one can have online access to news broadcasters such as BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN, or others. One can also easily access one's home newspaper online.

What is available to buy?

Pretty much everything.

  • Alcohol — Although the UAE is a Muslim country, purchasing and drinking alcohol in a licensed club, bar, or restaurant is legal for non-Muslims who are over 21.
    As of Sep 2020, a liquor license is no longer required to purchase alcohol. (While drinking is permitted as described, obviously, being drunk and/or disorderly in public is not permitted, and you will very likely be arrested). Please note, that Sharjah is a "dry emirate," and therefore alcohol is not permitted in this emirate.
  • Pharmacies — Pharmacies are open at convenient times, and as in the West, many pharmaceuticals can be obtained over the counter.
  • Clothing — "Regular" and high-end designer clothing and sportswear is easy to find. (See our video about shopping!)
  • Bathing suits — These are easier to find in the UAE than in Saudi Arabia, but you will want to bring at least one with you.
  • Electronics — Electronics stores abound, selling the latest in computer, audio, and video equipment. Videos and DVDs are also available, but some may have been censored.
  • Jewelry — Jewelry shopping in the gold souqs is so popular with expatriates that most leave with a sizable gold collection.
  • English-Language Books — English reading material can be found at book stores and grocery stores, but the materials are usually more expensive than in one's home country and the selections is not as varied. An e-reader may be your best bet, e.g., you can download to your Amazon Kindle in the major cities of the UAE.

What is the food like?

The UAE has a wide variety of restaurants, allowing expatriates to go on a culinary world tour sampling Arabic (such as tabouleh, hummus, pita, baba ghanoush, etc.), Italian, French, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Filipino, Mexican, Turkish, Indian, etc. cuisine. For a taste of "home," the standard American chains such as McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Dunkin' Donuts, and Dairy Queen are available. Supermarkets provide all sorts of food which you are accustomed to buying at home. Fresh produce is readily available.

Do most restaurants serve alcohol in the UAE?

Hotel restaurants and bars are usually licensed to serve alcohol; most other restaurants are not. The emirate of Sharjah is "dry," so alcohol is not permitted/served.

Can I bring alcohol into the UAE?

Yes. You can bring one bottle of liquor into UAE, except to the state of Sharjah, which is designated as a "dry" emirate.

Most Popular