Living in the Middle East / Saudi Arabia

Arrangements to be made Prior to Arrival

Date Posted: March 9, 2016      
Arrangements to be made Prior to Arrival

Preparing for your relocation is a huge undertaking, however, neither should it cause unnecessary worry. Starting your preparations early, ensuring that you have thought through the points and have appropriate support will help the transition go smoothly. We have highlighted below the key issues that you should keep in mind while planning your relocation, and offered some tips for an easy and efficient move.

1. Property

If you are a homeowner you will need to consider whether to sell, rent out or keep your property unoccupied. As your home is likely to be your primary asset, and rental or sale may take some time this is an issue that you should seek to resolve early on in your planning process. If you plan on renting out your property, consider assigning it to an agency who will deal with the tenant in your absence, as it could be a challenge committing to the requirements of a tenant from abroad.

2. Banking

Any charges incurred on your bank or credit abroad may be deemed ‘unusual activity’ by your bank resulting in your account being frozen. We suggest that you contact your banks and credit card companies to notify them that you are moving abroad. You should also confirm foreign transaction fees as it is likely that you will need to access your home account prior to setting up a bank account in Saudi Arabia or the UAE. Furthermore, you may wish to set up direct debits for any bills that you will regularly incur while abroad, such as your mortgage, credit card bills and loan repayments. It’s much easier to do this while you’re still based in your home country than trying to organize it over the phone when you’re trying to settle into your new life.

3. Taxes

Depending on your home country, taxes can be a challenge to sort out for those moving abroad. Accordingly, we suggest that you meet with a professional accountant/tax advisor who can advise you with regards to putting your financial affairs in order in the most tax efficient way together with paying your taxes while living abroad. Also, check if you have to keep up with other contributions to ensure that you still qualify for state pensions when you return to your home country.

You will be pleased to hear that from a Saudi Arabia and UAE perspective, no income taxes are payable and therefore you shall receive your full salary into your bank account (minus any agreed deductions).

4. Power of Attorney and Wills

You should consider having a power of attorney drawn up in favor of a trusted friend, lawyer or family member. In the event that any issues arise that need your attention this document may save you from having to make an emergency flight home.

It is also advisable (if you do not already have one in place already) to draft a will prior to leaving your home country to protect your financial assets and to outline your wishes with regards guardianship of children if the very worst should happen. Once you have arrived in the GCC, we suggest that you also visit a lawyer specializing in expatriate wills who can advise you on the inheritance laws of Saudi Arabia and the UAE and whether you need to have any further documentation in place to ensure that your wishes are protected.

5. Mobile phones

If you wish to maintain your home mobile phone number, you should contact your mobile phone provider in order to obtain advice on the most appropriate contract to put in place in light of your estimated home mobile phone usage while abroad. This is a small point but one that is often overlooked resulting in expatriates incurring heavy phone bills after the move.

6. Passport

To avoid any delays with regards to obtaining your residence visa and work permit, please ensure that your passport (and those passports of your family who will live with you) will remain valid for at least twelve months and has two clear visa pages.

You may also have to obtain a new passport if it contains Israeli entry/exit stamps as a visa will not be granted by the Saudi Arabian or UAE embassies in this case.

7. Passport photographs

While you are getting set up in Saudi Arabia or the UAE you will have to make numerous applications including, for example, driving licenses and visas. The authorities invariably require passport photographs and passport copies to be submitted as part of the application processes. It is best to have many to hand in order to avoid wasting time by arranging them in country at short notice. We recommend that you print at least 20 – 30 passport photographs and passport copies (in respect of you and your family members) before you arrive. Believe it or not, you will use them up very quickly.

8. Pets

Understandably, you may not wish to leave your family pets behind in your home country and it is possible for your pets to join you in Saudi Arabia or the UAE. Entry requirements will differ depending on the type of animal that you wish to transport and which country you are moving from. There are companies specializing in pet relocation who will be able to advise you on the exact protocols and processes.

Before planning to relocate your pets you should check that your tenancy contract allows animals on the premises. In addition, if your pet requires outdoor exercise you should keep in mind that many beaches and parks may be out of bounds for animals. The heat is a consideration for pet-owners, as during summer months pets would have to be kept inside in the air conditioning, and only exercised during the early morning or late evening when the temperature has dropped a little. There are very few green spaces and parks where dogs will be allowed, so you may be limited to walking your dog on a lead around your compound, or for longer runs, taking them out to the desert.

Bringing a Pet into Saudi Arabia

All dogs need to be classified as ‘working dogs’ (i.e. guard dog, watch dog, hunting dog) regardless of their size or breed or they cannot be kept as pets. There is also a list of banned breeds of dogs that are considered dangerous that will not be granted permission to enter the country, and unusually some toy breeds – Yorkshire Terriers, Pomeranians and Chihuahuas are also prohibited.

To enter Saudi Arabia, your pet must first be microchipped with an ISO 11784/11785 pet microchip that is a 15 digit and non-encrypted. If your pet’s microchip is not ISO 11784/11785 compliant, you can bring your own microchip scanner. You will need to obtain a permit from the Ministry of Agriculture to import your dog or cat into Saudi Arabia, and provide proof that they have been vaccinated against rabies within the last year along with a recently validated health certificate. After the formalities are undertaken to bring a pet into the country, and through customs, there are no further requirements for registration.

9. Relocation services and removal companies

It can take around 6-8 weeks for shipping containers to arrive in the GCC, so it’s a good idea to start looking for a removal company well in advance of your move. Get between 3-4 quotes from companies specializing in international relocation, most of these will include in their price a complete packing and unpacking service, and may even offer additional relocation services that help you choose schools, pinpoint potential areas you’d like to live and help you with other admin involved in moving.

10. Making the move a success

Try to visit your new location to familiarize yourself with the culture, view schools and potential areas to live. Join expatriate forums, Facebook groups and read blogs of other expatriates in your new location, these can be a great resource to ask questions, meet like-minded new friends and set up a network of play dates for children as soon as you arrive. To help your child transition, be transparent with your travel plans and dates and include them as much as possible in the planning to prepare them for the move. Show them pictures of their new school, any fun activities you’re going to do there and ensure they have familiar things around them in their new surroundings.

Be prepared for the unexpected. It takes about six months for an expatriate to feel settled, but it is much easier and quicker to make your new home feel like home if you embrace your new life fully.

11. Vaccinations and health

UK health authorities advise people going to the GCC to vaccinate against yellow fever, diphtheria (three months before travel), Hepatitis A and B, rabies (in some cases) tetanus and – for those at risk – typhoid. Diseases not preventable by vaccine but by other means include malaria, schistosomiasis and dengue fever, but none of these are compulsory for residents or visitors to Saudi Arabia or the UAE.

12. Register with embassy

There is no mandatory requirement to register your presence in either Saudi Arabia or the UAE with the embassy of your home country, although it is recommended that you visit the website of your embassy to check on their specific guidelines, which may differ from country to country. US Citizens, for instance, who move to Saudi Arabia are encouraged to enroll in the Smart Traveller Enrollment Program (STEP) which enables the US embassy to contact you in the case of an emergency, and provides you with security-related updates and announcements.