Rebecca Thompson Doha, UAE, Dubai...
Recruitment Consultant, Rebekah Allen, focuses on the Middle East market. The following FAQ’s are what Rebekah is asked on a regular basis by perspective candidates who are thinking about progressing their legal career in the Middle East.
1. Do I need a VISA to work in the Middle East?
Most candidates will qualify for an initial tourist VISA which can be obtained upon entry to the UAE and lasts for up to 30 days. Your new employer will then be able to arrange a working or residency VISA to be issued to you. The same process can be applied to Qatar, although there are further restrictions on certain nationalities which can make it more complicated to obtain a residency permit.
2. Is it really tax-free in UAE?
Yes. UAE is largely a tax-free region and does not impose income tax on earnings. However, if you go over to work for a short period of time e.g. 6 months, and remain a tax resident in the UK, then you are likely to be subject to taxation in the UK. In short, if you move permanently to the UAE and are not employed in the UK for more than 1 tax year, your earnings will not be taxed.
3. What are the salaries like?
Probably the most commonly asked question and one that is very difficult to answer! Salary, as in all jurisdictions will vary by firm but as a rule of thumb, salaries in Dubai are generous, thus if you are coming from the UK, you will see a pay increase, whether this is due to a higher base pay or tax-free earnings.
International firms will generally be able to offer a higher salary package but a few of the larger regional firms will come close to matching this.
Location also plays a factor in what salary you will be offered – locations such as Riyadh or Jeddah will often pay more as there are less candidates looking to move there.
4. Are there any specific requirements for a move to the region?
No. The Middle East is a great expat location because there are no strict requirements for entry and often you will not require prior UAE experience. Many firms – including internationals – will consider lawyers who are qualified outside of the UK/AUS/US. The exception to this is most often seen with dispute resolution roles, which will sometimes require fluent Arabic.
5. Is it easier to secure a position if I am based in the region?
It can be. However, the majority of firms will be open to relocating lawyers from overseas. This can vary between practice areas, you may find that for areas such as real estate or employment law, which can differ from region to region, will require prior experience in the UAE market. Areas such as corporate or disputes will usually not require a knowledge of the region beforehand. If you are in the area it can be easier to set up meetings/interviews, however it is also perfectly viable and common to conduct interviews via VC or Skype.