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The bilateral relationship between the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates is growing progressively stronger, particularly with regards to economic and cultural ties. Currently, there are over 100,000 British citizens living and working in the UAE, and another one million Britons visit the region annually as tourists. Thousands of Emirati nationals travel to the UK every year as tourists or to study. There are currently no restrictions limiting the exchange of the British pound for the Emirati dirham and it is fairly easy to transfer money from the UK to the UAE.
British nationals can visit and stay in the UAE for at up to 30 days. A visa will be granted upon arrival at no cost. This visa can then be extended for another 30 days, after an application is submitted to the local consulate. Overstaying a visa can result in a fine. Diplomats and holders of official documents, inclusive of the Queen’s Messenger, do not need to have a visa to enter and stay in the UAE.
To qualify for a visa, British visitors must have valid return travel documents as well as a passport that is valid for at least six months after the time of their arrival. In order to qualify for a resident visa or work permit, an application must be submitted by a prospective employer.
A long stay visa costs GBP £200 and permits the holder to remain in the UAE for 90 days. Multiple entry visas are popular with business travelers who frequent the UAE. These visas cost GBP £400 and are valid for six months and allow travelers to stay in the UAE for up to 14 days per visit.
The UAE’s anti-money laundering legislation has strict guidelines for reporting on international money transfers that exceed AED 100,000. Anyone entering the country with over AED 100,000 must declare to the relevant authorities. Although the UAE is well known for its openness to foreign direct investment, local authorities still favor domestic investments over those from foreign entities, especially where it concerns ownership of stock in UAE firms and land.
While the UK has a relatively free environment for remitting funds from dividends, royalties, interests, profits, patent fees, etc., those suspected of tax evasion may experience difficulties executing money transfers. Each UK bank has a department dedicated to anti-money laundering and is watchful of any transactions that exceed GBP £10,000.
There are several UK-based banks operating in the UAE. Barclay’s, Standard Chartered, HSBC, and RBS all offer personal and corporate financial services in the UAE. Opening a bank account in the UAE is a fairly simple and straightforward process. UK expats will have to present a residence visa. Fees for banking services vary widely although the Central Bank is working to standardize these across the banking sector. Most banks offer credit and debit cards, as well as savings accounts and car loans. Internet banking is accessible but can be a bit rudimentary in some cases. Cheques are widely accepted and quite popular in the UAE.
Banks in the UAE are open every day except Friday. This can be quite convenient as most transactions have to be carried out at the bank’s branch. International banks such as HSBC can be helpful in opening off-shore bank accounts which are good options if you want to transfer money from the UK to the UAE.
The UAE is well known for being a tax-free area. There is no VAT, GST, or personal income tax. There are, however, taxes applied to liquor bought in particular restaurants or directly from outlets. Import duty is also applied to some items. The UK has no double taxation treaty with the UAE, and depending on the length of time spent in each country during the tax year, Britons working in the UAE may be subject to pay taxes on income earned in both countries.
The UK and UAE enjoy a strong trade relationship. The UAE is the UK’s 12th largest trading partner in the world, with bilateral trade totaling GBP £12bn in 2013, according to UKTI. There are at least 4000 UK-owned businesses operating in the UAE, including firms such as HSBC, Barclay’s Capital, Norton Rose, Thomson Reuters, Serco and Clifford Chance.
The UAE is the UK’s 14th largest market for exports. In 2009, exports to the UAE from the UK amounted to over GBP £3.2bn, while imports from the UAE were valued at more than GBP £1bn. Power generating equipment, transportation equipment, electrical goods, non-metallic mineral manufacture, telecommunications, interior and retail goods are some of the major goods exported from the UK to the UAE.
The Armed Forces of the UK and UAE work closely to maintain peace in the Arabian Peninsula. Both countries signed a Defense Cooperation Accord in 1996. A Memorandum of Understanding signed by the two countries allows for UK forces to make use of air bases in the UAE. Several UK servicemen work with UAE armed forces to help in training or advisory capacities.
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