Expatriates in the United Arab Emirates

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There are a considerable number of expatriates in the United Arab Emirates, with most residing in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Expatriates are primarily attracted by the employment and investment opportunities of the United Arab Emirates. Many expats settled in the country prior to independence.


The United Arab Emirates requires the services provided by immigrants from all over the world, mainly because UAE locals consider many private sector jobs to be below them.[1] They would also rather get welfare benefits from the government than find work.[2] The country's relatively liberal society compared to its some of its neighbours has resulted in mass immigration from all over the world, including people from western nations.[3] This is one of the reasons why Emirati locals are outnumbered in their own country at a ratio of 9 to 1. Under Article 8 of UAE Federal Law no. 17, an expatriate can apply for UAE citizenship after residing in the country for 20 years, providing that person has never been convicted of a crime and can speak fluent Arabic.[4] The other way is through marriage or influence. However, these days citizenship is not given that easily, with many people living in the country as stateless person (see Bidoon). The issue is also present in other Arab States of the Persian Gulf.

Arab League populations[edit]


There are an estimated 10,000 Algerians living in the UAE.[5] They form one of the largest communities of non-citizens from the Arab world in the UAE. Most of Algerians are based in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.


There are an estimated 300,000 Egyptians living in the UAE[6] and form the largest community of non-citizens from the Arab world in the UAE.


Iraqis in the UAE have a population exceeding 100,000[7] and form one of the largest community of non-citizens from the Arab world in the UAE. Most Iraqis are recent immigrants who have fled instability back home; while Syria, Jordan, Iran and Lebanon were ultimate destinations for most refugees, a large influx sought the United Arab Emirates. In addition, an increasing number of Iraqi students seeking education and career opportunities opted for the country in light of its relatively reputable institutions across the Middle East.


As of 2009, their population was estimated at 250,000,[8] an increase from 80,000 in 2003,[9] making them one of the largest Jordanian diaspora communities both worldwide and in the Persian Gulf region and also form the second largest community of non-citizens from the Arab world in the UAE after the Egyptians. The UAE remains a popular touring destination for many Jordanians.[citation needed]


There are an estimated 80,000[10] Lebanese living in the UAE and form one of the largest community of non-citizens from the Arab world in the UAE, mostly living in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. The UAE remains a popular touring destination for many Lebanese.


There are an estimated 2,000 Libyans living in the UAE. They form one of the smaller communities of non-citizens from the Arab world in the UAE. Currently many Libyans who have lived in exile in UAE for decade decided to return to Libya after the fall of the former Libyan regime.[11]


There are an estimated 2,000 Moroccans living in the UAE. They form one of the smallest communities of non-citizens from the Arab world in the UAE. In recent times, it has become more difficult for Moroccans to come to UAE, especially for Moroccan women.[12]


Omanis consist of expatriates and residents in the United Arab Emirates who hail from Oman. Being a bordering country and sharing cultural links, there are thousands of Omanis who live in the U.A.E. They are predominately Arabs and belong to the Muslim Ibadi sect.

Omanis make a large percentage of the UAE's office corps and also dominate the police forces.[13] Many are originally students pursuing higher education in various institutions across the country. In 2003, their number was estimated at over 9,000.[14] According to the Times of Oman, the United Arab Emirates is the most popular destination for Omani students who choose to study abroad; its close location and sharing of the language and culture makes them more comfortable at places like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and the border town of Al Ain.[15]

Both countries have signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at providing benefits to Omani nationals and citizens in the UAE as well as treating Omani labour and work force at par with the country's nationals.[16] Being a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) (like the UAE) enables Omani nationals to move and work freely within the country and enjoy contrasting residential benefits as compared to expatriates in the UAE from non-GCC states.

In 2003, Omanis in the UAE were allowed to vote for council members in the elections of the Omani Majlis al-Shura. It was the first-ever overseas suffrage in Oman's history.[14]


There are an estimated 100,000[17] Palestinians living in the UAE and form one of the largest community of non-citizens from the Arab world in the UAE.


A total of 4,895 Saudis were living in the UAE in 2007;[18] this number grew when a further 700 entered at the start of 2008.

They are mostly found working in the sectors of commerce and industry as well as medicine, law, insurance and shipping. Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia are Arab states and part of the Gulf Cooperation Council; according to agreements, the citizens of each GCC member can live and work in any of the six countries without visa and other restrictions. The Saudis own a total of 1,357 houses and 1,450 pieces of land in various emirates in the UAE.


There are around 50,000 Somalis in the United Arab Emirates. The Somali Business Council based in Dubai regulates 175 Somali companies.[19] Somali-owned businesses line the streets of Deira, the Dubai city centre,[20] with only Iranians exporting more products from the city at large.[21] Internet cafés, hotels, coffee shops, restaurants and import-export businesses are all testimony to the Somalis' entrepreneurial spirit. Star African Air is also one of three Somali-owned airlines which are based in Dubai.[20]


Sudanese form one of the largest communities of non-citizens from the Arab world in the UAE. Most of them are based mainly in Dubai, with smaller populations in other emirates.[22]


Syrians form one of the largest communities of non-citizens from the Arab world in the UAE.


Tunisians form one of the smallest communities of non-citizens from the Arab world in the UAE.


A community of Yemeni expatriates lives in the UAE. However, their exact numbers are not certain. There are talks to bring Yemen into the GCC and if that happens, then citizens of Yemen will enjoy same rights as the other GCC citizens.

Other populations[edit]


There are about 300,000 Afghans in the United Arab Emirates.[23]

There is an Afghan Business Council of Dubai, which was formed in 2005 by expatriate Afghan businessmen, traders and entrepreneurs residing in the UAE. One of the organisations' purposes is to develop economic, cultural and social relations between Afghanistan and the UAE as well as to promote the interests of the Afghan business community of Dubai.[24]

The Afghan community in the UAE forms the second largest diaspora of Afghans after the United States.


Americans in the United Arab Emirates form one of the largest Western expatriate communities in the UAE. It is estimated that approximately 40,000 United States nationals reside in the UAE.[citation needed]The bulk of these live in Dubai while sizable populations are also found in Abu Dhabi. According to statistics produced in 1999, there were 7,500 United States citizens in Abu Dhabi and as many as 9,000 United States citizens in Dubai.[25]


Argentines in the United Arab Emirates are 2,000 and form the third largest community of Argentines in the Middle East (after Lebanon and Israel) and are mainly expatriates (bankers, pilots, stewards and technicians[citation needed] working with the two main airlines in the country) and professional footballers playing in the UAE Football League. Even the legendary Argentine player Diego Maradona[26] was an expat for a while in UAE.


Azerbaijanis in United Arab Emirates number around 12,000.[27] The Azerbaijanis live mostly in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.


Armenians in United Arab Emirates number around 3,000.[28]


Australians in the United Arab Emirates consist of 7,000 expatriates, half of whom live in the capital of Abu Dhabi (3,500) and the other half of whom live in Dubai. [29]

Australians have been attracted by the lifestyle Dubai offers, including the wealth of outdoor activities for their families.[30] However, their population fell in 2009 due to the downturn in the economy of Dubai, as retrenched Australian expatriates with underwater real-estate loans fled the country to avoid debtor's prison.[31]

In Dubai, Australian and New Zealander expatriates joined together to set up the Australia New Zealand Association, which aims to provide mutual support for their communities in the entire UAE.[32]

The Australian International School in Sharjah is an established international school, catering to much of the Australian community. The school's education system and syllabus is Queensland-curriculum based.[33]


The UAE is home to 1,800 Austrians. There are 36 Austrian companies operating directly in the UAE.[34]


There are over 600,000 Bangladeshis in the UAE.[35] Expatriates from Bangladesh in the United Arab Emirates form one of the largest communities along with others hailing from the Indian subcontinent. They are spread out over the various emirates of the country, with many based in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. A sizeable number of the South Asian labour force in the UAE is from Bangladesh. In the fiscal year 2005-2006, remittances from Bangladeshis were marked up to US$512.6M.[36]

There are a number of Bangladeshi-curriculum schools in the UAE, including the Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Bangladesh Islamia School in Abu Dhabi.


A community of Bosnian expatriates lives in the UAE although the exact numbers are not certain. In 2014, the Bosnian community of Dubai provided humanitarian aid to affectees of floods in Bosnia and also in Serbia.[37]


Brazilians in the United Arab Emirates are the second largest community of Brazilians in the Middle East (after Lebanon) and are mainly expatriates and professional footballers. In 2002, up to 235 Brazilians were reported to be living in the country (Abu Dhabi and Dubai.[38] These figures increased ten-fold, with data disclosed by the embassy of Brazil in Abu Dhabi putting the number as high as 2,000 by 2010.[39] Most immigrants are pilots, stewards and technicians working with the two main airlines in the country, Emirates and Etihad; in the Emirates airline alone, there are over 100 Brazilian pilots and 600 stewards.[39] Brazil also has a large business presence in the UAE, with representative offices established for several construction companies, exporters and banks. Footballers from Brazil top the list of foreigners playing in the UAE Football League.[40] The UAE remains a popular touring destination for many Brazilians and there are air links between both countries.[41]


In 2012, there were an estimated 240,000 Britons living in the country, representing the largest western community in the United Arab Emirates[42] and are made up primarily of English and Scottish expatriates. Prior to 2008, there were 120,000 Brits in the UAE. However after the 2008 UK recession another 120,000 Brits emigrated to the UAE to find work. This doubled the number of Brits to 240,000 within a period of just four years. Most Britons took their entire families with them. Main localities where British nationals are based include Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. A number of Britons working in the UAE are high-salary white-collar job professionals. Britons cannot work in the UAE unless they have a work permit, those who don’t risk deportation, jail and/ or a fine. Probationary work permits are valid for up to three months for Britons.[43] In the 2010 UK general elections, following a drop in sterling, UAE-based British expats were seen taking advantage by sending increased funds back home to the UK, with the number of dirham trades flowing back to the UK rising by over 40 percent in two days.[44]


There are 7,000[45][46] people from Bulgaria making it the largest population of Bulgarian people in the Arab World, mostly living in Dubai.[47][48]


There are 40,000 Canadians in the United Arab Emirates as of 2014.[49][50] There is a Canadian Club in Dubai.[51]


The Caribbean community in UAE numbers around 2,000 as of 2014,[52] which is an increase since 2006 when it barely numbered 100. The majority of them are Jamaicans, and a few dozen Jamaican pilots are presently working for the Emirates airline.[53][54]



Over 500 Croatians are currently living in the UAE, primarily in Dubai. The community is growing. Migration occurred in two waves, with the first wave taking place 15 years ago and the latest and larger wave comprising recent migrants. Croatians can be found working as cooks, stewards, waiters and in white-collar positions.[55]


A small Cuban community is present in Dubai. The population has increased over the years.[56][57] Cuban cigars are popular in the UAE.[58][59] Cuban food and salsa clubs are available in the UAE.[60]


There are up to 1,000 Cypriots in the UAE. They are mainly involved in the construction and trading industry. Others are working as pilots and aeronautical engineers with local airlines.[61]


Danes are a small expatriate community. As of 2010, their number was around 2,000, up from just 400 since 2005.[62] The Danish community of Dubai have founded a cultural organisation known as Danes in Dubai, which aims at fostering relations between Denmark and the UAE.[63]


Currently there is a growing population of Dutch nationals. As of 2011 members of the community number at 4500.[64]


There were 3,000 to 4,000 Eritreans in the UAE as of 2010. 60% of them were women working as baby-sitters.[65]


There are an estimated 100,000 Ethiopian nationals living in the UAE.[66] A large number of them are domestic workers, housemaids or involved in labour.[67][68]


A small Fijian community numbering in the hundreds exists in the UAE, based in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and other places.[69][70] They include both native Fijians and Indo-Fijians. New job opportunities have prompted some Fijians to migrate to the UAE. Most Fijians in the UAE can be found working in retail, tourism and hospitality, as nurses,[71] teachers, hotel workers, sportspeople and in other jobs.[72][73][74][75] The Fijian community in Abu Dhabi convenes celebrations for Fiji Day.[76]


There are an estimated 700,000 expatriates from the Philippines living in the UAE.[77]


Finns in the United Arab Emirates form a community of 900.[78]


There are over 10,000 expatriates from France living in the UAE.[79][80] There are numerous community organisations, schools, restaurants and academies throughout the country. According to various statistics, the French population of UAE has been growing at a rate of 5% each year.[81] France also has an industrial presence; there are close to 300 French enterprises and businesses in the UAE. Roughly half of these are located in Dubai.[81]


Germans in the United Arab Emirates number 10,000,[82] found across major cities of the country.

There are currently three German schools in the UAE:


There are over a thousand Greeks living in the UAE, most of whom are based in Dubai.[83][84] They are predominately professionals in white-collar industry serving in various positions such as executives and businessmen.[83] Many of them have been living in the country for more than 20 years, while every year an increasing number of newcomers are setting up in the UAE.[84] In addition, there are more than 120 Greek companies of different sectors which are currently operating in the country.[84]

The Greek community is organised through social circles; there are two (informal) Greek schools, whose teachers are posted and managed by the Greek Ministry of Education.

The Greek Orthodox Church of the UAE is under the jurisdiction of the Antioch Patriarchate; the current bishop is the Metropolitan of Bagdad and Kuwait Constantine. There is a Greek Orthodox Church of St Nikolaos in Abu Dhabi. Prior to its construction, there existed no Greek church in the UAE and the community had to use other churches for their services.[85]


According to a Hungarian aviation official, "there is a sizeable Hungarian community already working in the UAE" and many Hungarians travel to Dubai for tourism.[86]




Iranians in the UAE number 400,000[87] to half a million[citation needed].


There are over 8,000 Irish expatriates in the UAE.[88][89][90] There is an Abu Dhabi Irish Society and a Dubai Irish Society.[91]


The United Arab Emirates does not recognise Israel due to the Palestine conflict, and therefore Israeli passport-holders cannot legally enter the UAE. Restrictions were tightened against the entry of Israeli citizens following the assassination of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in Dubai which was blamed on Israeli intelligence.[92] However, there are Jewish expatriates in the UAE, and there are Israelis with dual citizenship who are able to live, visit and work in the UAE as citizens of other countries.[93] Some Israeli companies conduct business in the UAE indirectly through third parties.[93]



There are almost 4,000 Japanese people who live in the UAE.[94] Over 2,000 of them are from Dubai, making the city home to the largest Japanese community in the whole of the Arab world.[95] Japan also maintains a sizeable trade presence in the UAE through representative offices of multinational corporations and organisations; as of 2007, there were an estimated 105 Japanese companies operating in the Jebel Ali Free Zone alone.[95]

According to registrations based with local embassies and consulates, the community has been growing at an average of 20 per cent per year, much larger than the population during the 1980s when only a few hundred Japanese expatriates lived in the country.[96] The Japanese have introduced judo in the country. Most immigrants are principally skilled workers employed in white-collar business and industry sectors. Dubai has one Japanese association and there is also a Dubai Japanese School, which is based on Japanese curriculum. The Japanese School in Abu Dhabi also serves Japanese expatriates.


Almost 2,000 Kazakhs lived in the UAE as of 2008, most of them businesspeople.[97] The Kazakhstan Society in UAE is an association of Kazakh expatriates based in the UAE.[98]


Kenyans in the United Arab Emirates had an estimated population numbering 36,000 in 2010. Of these, many work in Dubai in the hospitality and construction industries.[99]


There are approximately 3,100 Koreans in the United Arab Emirates.[100] The United Arab Emirates received a small contingent of Korean migrant workers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but it was never a major destination[101] However, due to rapid growth since 2005, the country has come to have the Arab world's largest Korean population.[100] As of 2008, there were roughly 2,500 South Koreans living in Dubai alone, largely businessmen working at the 90 Korean companies which operated in the country.[102] There were also many flight attendants working for Emirates Airlines; the number of Koreans working for Emirates Airlines increased from 15 in 1998 to 620 as of 2007, mostly based out of Dubai. Dubai has the UAE's largest community of South Koreans.[103] However, a consulate was not opened in Dubai until March 2008.[104]

There are also believed to be roughly 1,300 North Korean workers in the UAE, primarily in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. They earn between US$300 and $500 per month, but have to make so-called "loyalty payments" of $150 to $250 to the North Korean government. This has sparked discontent among the workers; in response, the North Korean government has sent security agents to patrol North Korean work camps and keep an eye out for people making critical comments.[105]

Won Ho Chung is a famous Arabic language comedian of Korean origin who is based in Dubai.[106] In 2010, Chung was appointed goodwill ambassador for the Korea Tourism Organization in the Middle East.[107]


Up to 4,000 Kyrgyz expatriates were residing and working in the UAE as of 2012. There is a Kyrgyz Club in Dubai and the community celebrates events such as the Independence Day of Kyrgyzstan.[108][109]


There are about 300 Latvians in the UAE. To serve the community, Latvia opened its embassy in Abu Dhabi in September 2014, its first diplomatic mission in the Persian Gulf region.[110]


There were 6,000 Malaysians living and working in the United Arab Emirates as of 2010. Most are found in Dubai and can be seen working with foreign and local companies.[111] In addition, there are a small number of Malaysian pilots serving the Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways.[citation needed]


There are approximately 3,000 Mexican citizens living and working in the UAE.[112]


Nepalese in the United Arab Emirates are a large community numbering around 125,258; of these, 75,000 are in Dubai, some 30,000 in Abu Dhabi and the remaining are spread out over the northern emirates. Out of the population, half are labour migrants working in the construction sector while others work in hospitality and security services (as security guards); Nepalese security guards are popular in the UAE for their trustworthiness.[113] There are also some skilled professionals.

As part of curbing illegal migration, the UAE made new amendments to visit visa regulations in 2008. According to experts, the changes were likely to affect Nepalese the most, along with Indians and Pakistanis.[114]

New Zealanders[edit]

New Zealanders in the UAE number around 4,000,[115] the overwhelming majority of whom are based in Dubai. A number of entrepreneurs from New Zealand are attracted towards the work and business opportunities offered in the UAE.[116] In 2007, more than 700 New Zealanders moved to the UAE permanently or for long term.[117]

The New Zealand community is involved in numerous cultural events, get-togethers and organisations. In Dubai, expatriate New Zealanders joined Australians to form the Australia New Zealand Association, which aims to provide support to society members and expatriates over the entire country.


A Nigerian community is present in the UAE.[118][119]


There are 1,500-2,000 Norwegians living in the UAE.[120]



There are 2,000 people from Poland making it the largest population of Polish people in the Arab World.[121]


There are 5,000 Romanians live in the UAE.[122] The majority of them are professionals, holding graduate or postgraduate qualifications.[123]


There is a sizable community of Russians in the UAE. They are expatriates who have moved into the country in attraction of good job opportunities and its contrasted all-year-round sunny weather conditions.[citation needed] According to various estimates, as many as 18,000 Russian expatriates and overall above 55,000 Russian speakers from CIS (former Soviet Republics) countries live throughout the country, with the majority having made Dubai and Northern Emirates their home.[124] The UAE is also a popular visiting destination, with above 1,000,000 tourists from Russia & CIS visiting the country each year.[124] There are a number of business and cultural groups and organizations dedicated within the community, such as Russian Business Council in Dubai and Northern Emirates, operating under the umbrella of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Russian Cultural Club in the American University of Sharjah; Russian Women Union “Rossiyanka” to name a few. The Dubai Russian Private School is a secondary school using a curriculum approved by the Russian Ministry of Education and is designed to cater to the Russian speaking community needs. There are also a number of Russian-language publications in the country: Russian Emirates magazine (dedicated to the luxury lifestyle and fashion), Business Emirates magazine (dedicate to the property, business and investments; the official publication of the Russian Business Council), as well as East Sprigs UAE Travel Guide book for Russian speaking tourists and visitors of the UAE, printed & published by the Russian Emirates Publishing House and actively promoted and circulated. There is a “Russian Radio – A Worldwide Network” broadcasting on 96.3FM all over the UAE. Dubai has often been described as a playground for Russian VIPs, where large portions of property are bought. Some locals insist that as much as half of the Palm Jumeirah, the first of the city's scheduled three man-made islands, which is already handed over, eventually owned by Russian speakers. In a playful reference to the extremely popular bi-monthly publication, the news agency Russia Today has unanimously referred to the UAE as the "Russian Emirates”.[124]


A very few number of Samoans are present in the UAE. Most Samoans actively play rugby.[125] New Zealand-born Samoan rugby player Apollo Perelini has been based in the UAE for a couple of years, where he coaches at the Elite Sporting Academy in Repton School Dubai.[126]


There are 15,000 Serbs in the city of Dubai, which makes the city the 9th largest in the world in terms of the Serb population.[127]


There is a small community of Singaporeans in UAE numbering around 2,100, the largest Singaporean community in the Middle East.[128] The community includes Singaporean Malays, Chinese Singaporeans and Indian Singaporeans. Dubai has three Singaporean expatriate clubs: the Singapore Business Council (SBC), Singapore Malay-Muslim Group (SMG) and the Singapore Women’s Group (SWG).[128] Many Singaporeans visit the UAE for tourism or transit through its airports.

South Africans[edit]

South Sudanese[edit]

A South Sudanese community is present in the UAE. They are mainly Christians. They were treated as part of the Sudanese community; however, after South Sudan achieved independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudanese expatriates living in the UAE were required to apply for new South Sudanese passports.[129] The UAE airline flydubai operates several flights a week from Dubai to Juba.[130]


There are about 12,000 Spanish expatriates in the UAE. A Spanish Business Council has been formed by the expatriate community.[131] The majority of them live in Dubai, followed by Abu Dhabi.[132]

Sri Lankans[edit]

Sri Lankans in the United Arab Emirates have grown to a population of over 300,000;[133][134] they mostly form the country's large foreign labour force. In 2009, community members were urged to register themselves. A lack of community data has often resulted in difficulties in reaching out to the community at the time of major announcements, rules and regulation.[134] Most expatriates from Sri Lanka, along with other immigrants from the Indian subcontinent, tend to be found in Dubai, although sizeable communities are existent in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Al-Ain and Ras al-Khaimah.


Swedes in the United Arab Emirates number at over 3,000 with a growing population.[135]


Ethnic Tajiks living in the UAE hail from Tajikistan and Afghanistan. They celebrate cultural events including Nowruz.[136]


Thais in the United Arab Emirates are based predominantly in Abu Dhabi and Dubai; there are smaller populations also in the northern emirates. A significant number of Thais are workers providing labour for the construction sector. In 2006, there were some 3,500 Thai workers in Dubai alone. This figure jumped to 6,500 in 2007 and recent numbers are predicted to be as high as 8,000.[137] The UAE and Thailand have signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at protecting the rights of Thai workers living and working in the UAE.


Turks in the United Arab Emirates are Turkish citizens who live in the United Arab Emirates. In 2014, the population was said to be 10,000 and increasing.[138][139] [140]


A small number of Ugandans live in Dubai. There is a Ugandans in Dubai Association.[141][142]


In 2006 the Ukrainian population was listed at 2,000.[143]


There are a small number of Uzbeks living and working in the UAE. They celebrate cultural events such as Nowruz.[136][144][145]


There are 2,500 people living in the UAE that have Venezuelan roots.[146]

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