Moving to UAE – the laws you need to know

Moving to a new country, particularly outside of the European Union, means residing somewhere that may have very different laws to the UK. It’s important to know what these laws are and how they could affect things like finances, inheritance, guardianship and so on.
The United Arab Emirates is a popular location for UK expatriates looking to progress their career, thanks to the number of business opportunities and the chance to increase wage growth and savings. However, the culture and the ways of the country can be very different to the West in some circumstances.
Here are some of the key laws that any expat should be aware of.
Guardianship laws
It’s one of those things that no one wants to think about, but it is imperative to have, should the worst happen. Because of the succession laws in the UAE, a will drawn up in the UK might not cover all of the necessarily conditions and will need updating. The law determines how an estate should be distributed, as well as the guardianship procedure for children left behind.
Should one parent pass away, it’s is not automatic that the other parent has guardianship. Under Islamic law, children are orphans after losing one parent. Under Sharia Law, if the father dies, the mother is not the first custodian of her children – that falls to the oldest living blood male relative on the father’s side. However, it is unusual for a mother not to be recognised as guardian for her children. Sharia Law also dictates that a women should be available in the home to care for children, which can be a problem if it is the mother who passes away.
For peace of mind, it’s key to have a guardianship document in place that expresses the clear wishes of both parents. This document should also nominate two residents based in the UAE who would be appointed temporary guardians in the event that both parents die, while the formalities are dealt with and permanent guardians are appointed. We recommend getting legal advice on drawing up a guardianship document to ensure that the process is completed correctly.
There are many laws and rules that apply to daily life and behaviour in the UAE. When residing in the country, it is wise to follow local customs and respect the traditions to better integrate into the region. There is a large expat community and it can be easy to forget that the UAE is an Islamic country where Sharia Law is applicable. Only drink alcohol in places that have a licence, and don’t forget to apply for a licence to be able to buy alcohol to drink in the home. There is a zero-tolerance policy on drink driving, and smoking is limited to designated areas.
Public decency laws forbid public displays of affection, even within a married couple (it is also illegal to live with a member of the opposite sex who is not a relation or spouse), dancing in public is frowned upon, as is any form of aggressive or offensive behaviour. The majority of the rules won’t affect those who are unlikely to take part in this kind of misconduct, but it is best to be aware.
Daily practicalities
The working week is different in the UAE to the UK. The first working day of the week is Sunday, and the weekend falls on a Friday and Saturday instead. Some companies will take a long (3-4 hours) lunch break over the peak of the day and open later in the evening, although many will have more standard, Westernised hours.
Cheques are commonplace in the UAE and are treated as cash. Post-dated cheques are often used to secure things like loans and credit cards, and for security payments when renting cars, for example. As such, bouncing a cheque is serious and can lead to a jail sentence.
This is just a brief overview of some of the laws in the UAE and there are plenty more to be aware of, so it’s important to research thoroughly before relocating.