Surviving the job hunting in the UAE – tips and guidelines


Do you have a Filipino friend or family member who’s planning to come to the UAE on visit visa who would eventually look for work?

Here is a detailed guide for the Filipino visitor to the UAE hoping to land a job. If you have the patience to read on, and have some inputs and comments, please leave them below so we could update the blog post as necessary.

Some lines may not apply to everyone, so please exercise judgement. The contexts are not ultimate, and this only serves as a guide. Any amount or procedure mentioned here may change anytime so confirm with the concerned offices for the current applicable amount or procedure.

“Where and how do I start”

Prepare way ahead BEFORE boarding the plane to the UAE, consider the following:

1. Do lots and lots of online research regarding staying and working as an expat in the UAE to mentally prepare you on the challenges and expectations. Be mindful of your sources and the type of information you read. Verify them.

2. Understand how much it will cost you:

First, the visit visa (from a travel agency), airfare, affidavit of support, courier. The variation in the costs usually is on the airfare driven  by the off-peak or peak season of travel. Below is just an approximate cost considering a month visa. Take time to check on the actual costs at a given time.

AED 2350  – one month visit visa, airfare, affidavit of support, courier.

And then, there’s your monthly cost. At a tipid mode, let’s say:

AED 700   –  Monthly Accommodation and Utilities
AED 1000   –  Monthly cost of living and moving around
Hence AED 1700  – Total monthly allowance

Your expenses depend how much you plan to spend and how much you have. Above accommodation is for a bedspace only. Renting your own studio flat will probably cost you approx AED 5000 on monthly rental plus costs for room and kitchen furnishings.

Apart from the above, you would also have other expenses, as example we say:

AED 500 settling costs as you arrive – beddings, sim card, eating utensils
AED 1000 visa extension – in case you had one month visa and still need another month of extension
AED  3000 approximate cost to exit and re-enter (tipid food, accommodation, one month reentry visa to UAE, airfare)  in case you exhaust your first visit visa and needs to exit to nearby Oman or Iran for one month before re-entering again,

Please note that these are approximate costs and may materially vary on your actual expense depending on your spending practice, your location in the UAE, support you can get from friends or family members (eg, they accommodate you for free in their houses, they drive you to your interviews, etc..)

3. Understand your financial purpose. How much is your savings expectation? Savings being = Salary Expectation less Planned or Expected Expenses. Ask around how much is the average salary in the UAE in line with your credentials and work experiences. For the same position, say a secretary, the salary could range from AED 1,500 up to say AED 10,000, with many factors coming into play (type of company and owners, your personal capacity and qualifications, etc) . Most of the times, the higher salary is the most competitive because one is up against UAE experienced candidates.

While you want the best salary you could get, keep in mind your visa time factor, as well as how much money/ allowance you have. People with less money usually takes less risk, and usually takes on the job immediately found so that they avoid the visa extension/ exit costs.

4. Understand your visit visa status. How long is your visit visa? Usually, you have a window of two months maximum if sponsored by a travel agency or three months max if sponsored by a relative (Please refer to visa rules at the time of reading this. Rules can change anytime)  before you should exit. Re-entry on another visit visa would be only after a month  from date of exit, unless an employer would secure for you an employment visa that will allow you to re-enter immediately (please refer to current rules applicable, it changes from time to time).

5. Have your school records authenticated up to the UAE Embassy, so as to have it ready in case required to process your residence visa later.

6. Prepare your detailed resume’/ curriculum vitae. The earlier the better about at least one month before your flight so you will have time to realize any editing needed. If you are multi-skilled, consider preparing multiple resume-s which emphasize a skill or type of job at a time. Eg, you plan to apply either of a secretarial, office administration or sales position because you had work experiences at these three fields, you could prepare three resume-s highlighting each job at a time. Unlike in the Philippines that applying to a job entails a thick set of documents, in the UAE, most of the job applications are done online and only the resume is sent out. Those school records and training certificates are not usually sent out (but keep them ready only when asked for later). Do not fabricate your resume’, the impact of being caught will only be worse.

7. Communicate with your UAE-based friends and relatives. Ask all your questions. Ask from as many people based here. The replies you will get will differ from each person, depending on their length of stay, the type of companies they worked with, their other environmental factors, etc. So some may discourage you and others will motivate you. It would be great to look up at inspiring individuals given that you also have the “I can do it” attitude.

8. Search for jobs and send your CVs online some two weeks before your flight. This is will save you time within your visa period. As you do this, you need a phone number in your CV. Speak to your friend/ relative if you could use a temporary active number at the moment. Upload your CVs into job seeker databases and into emails indicated by prospective employers. Keep a list of where you are registering your CVs. This may not guarantee immediate response, but at least it gives you a feel of how to float your CV online. Do not entertain offers to help you find a job but you have to pay a fee. Check some job sites HERE.


8. Pack lots of determination, courage, inspiration, motivation, strength. You are leaving your comfort zone behind, and starting out in a new place might be overwhelming for you, but having these will help you cope up the quickest, and succeed.

9. Prepare your flight documents and your travelling bag. Check what documents you need to present as per Manila’s immigration rules (eg, original visa, affidavit of support, additional attachments as needed like certificates showing your relationship whoever signed in your affidavit of support. Speak with your host regarding new rules on documentation. The travel agency might likely know by experience). Understand and comply with airline regulations for check-in and hand-carry baggages. Many find the biggest challenge happens when passing through the Philippine Immigration counters especially if the affidavit of support was signed by someone other than a family member. Ask advice from your contact here in the UAE who can most likely ask from the travel agency who sponsored you (they would know the current trend of how to deal Phil Immigration officials at the current time from their clients). But every one else will tell you to act confidently, do not be nervous.

When in the UAE

1. Which airport is your plane landing? Agree how you will be met at the airport as you arrive. If you are flight have stop-overs, inform your contact in the UAE, if you can, of any delays so they could adjust their expectations accordingly, although this seldom happens.

2. Buy your start-up essentials
– If based in Dubai or will be travelling within Dubai, buy an RTA NOL card. This is for your public transport — using the buses and trains.
– Phone sim card and load- decide between using Du or Etisalat, ask your friends/ family which they could recommend, or check the specific websites to understand whose call/ data package would later suit you.

3. Understand the UAE culture, laws, rules especially in the Emirate you are in, know the do’s and don’ts to avoid getting into trouble. For example, drinking alcohol in public is a no-no. Respect the Quran and the Islam faith at all times. Do not say bad words. Never engage in a physical fight.

4. Practice using public transport. While your host will most likely drive you around, there will be instances, or most instances, you will be on your own. Know how to reload your NOL card. Ride the metro trains from end-to-end. Switch between the red line and green line. Familiarise yourself with the name of the stations. Apart from the metro, ride also a bus. Understand the bus schedules, most of which are posted at the bus stops. We dont say “para!” for the bus to stop, instead the stop button is pressed 🙂 .  Understand the train and bus policies, there are penalties to violations. One of the basic rules is that males cannot seat of female-designated areas. Ride a taxi.

5. Speak with your host regarding having your resume’ printed so you have it ready when needed.

6. Develop a job hunting strategy. Your strategy could depend on what job you are looking for. But some techniques are:

– Walk-ins. Some bring resume’s with them and walk from office to office to ask for any possible vacancy. Most buildings will not allow job seekers to roam around the building without specific invitation from one of the tenants. With visiting places, you get a feel of what kind of companies there are in that part of the Emirate you are in. Also, you are familiarizing yourself of the place, so that in case you have a later interview there, you already know a bit of going around the place. Usually, higher positions does not get hired this way, but at least you get to know places.

Networking. Chatting with your housemates, with fellow Pinoys in the train or buses, or approaching them at the malls or the sidewalks, joining organization activities, going to Church. Find your schoolmates or former colleagues who’ve been here ahead. Be sincere with your intention, and just stick to asking help for job opportunities. You will realise how helpful most Kabayans will be. On the other hand, you will know how some could decline you when you look like begging for alms. which is not allowed in the UAE anyway. Networking means knowing a job opening straight from people connected to their organizations who has vacancies, and benefitting from referals. Some will say, this is one of the most effective way to land a job.

– Continuously uploading your resume’ online to career sites or to recruitment emails provided. Set a target, say 100 emails a day. You will expect the recruiting party to receive as many emails, and the tendency is many applications will actually get skipped or ignored. Some says, the timing of when to apply plays a role as to getting noticed. Say, to get on top of the receiving end’s emails when he/ she comes to work early in the morning, you’ll best send your application early in the morning.

7. Familiarise yourself of places you expect to frequent. Get a map where you can. Or if your phone is capable, use Google maps on your laptop are easy to navigate too when trying to learn locations.

8. Attend trainings where you can. Personal development trainings (eg, Toastmasters meetings, consulate-sponsored training) will help you build your confidence, while other skills training could be double purpose — gaining additional knowledge, and networking — gaining new friends during the training. Ask from the embassy or the consulate when they know some. Or you could even join Filipino-dominated MLM companies for that positivity / passion mindset building.

9. Be nice. You might be sharing rooms with others, observe the rules. It could be as simple as taking your turn to clean, and using the bathroom when no one is scheduled to use it. Also, most hosts appreciate if you take extra time to take some home chores off them when you are free, like cooking or doing the dishes. Being nice begets some nice bonus for you too 🙂

10. Understand the multicultural environment. Get used to pronunciation, accent and tone of the major nationalities in the community so you don’t keep a count on how many times you say, “Pardon?”, “Sorry?”. Major ones to know are Arabs, Indians, the British slang.

Job hunting is at most times a matter of BEING AT THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME, and BEING PREPARED.


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