The United Arab Emirates is formed by the seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Kaimah, Sharjah, and Umm Al Quwain. Of its 9.8 million residents, 88% of the population consists of expatriates and immigrants while 12% of the population is Emirati. The UAE has many opportunities for international healthcare providers. Medical care is provided and communicated in English, and Americans physicians are highly valued. Here we highlight the process of transitioning to working in the United Arab Emirates including medical registration, finding a job, immigration, and the work culture.
The UAE accepts American training inclusive of medical school, residency and fellowship. You need to be a graduate of an allopathic medical school listed in the Avicenna Directory of Medical Schools published by the WHO, or the International Medical Education Directory. You will also need a valid state medical license and American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) Certification. Osteopathic graduates are eligible for licensure if they are board certified in their specialty. No additional examinations are required.
Each Emirate has its own medical licensing board, similar to our individual state medical boards. You need to be licensed in the Emirate you choose to work in. Hence you will register with the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi, Dubai Health Authority (which provides a self-assessment tool to help you decide if you meet criteria for registration), or the other emirates. In addition to providing proof of credentials such as medical school and training diplomas, letters of good standing, proof of work experience, surgeons need to provide a case log for the past 2 years. When you apply for medical registration, the data gathered will determine whether you can take a position as a Specialist or a Consultant. A specialist requires only ABMS board certification, while a Consultant position requires ABMS board certification and clinical experience in your specialty for the past 2 years.
Obtaining a medical license is contingent on having a job offer.
Finding a Job
American-trained physicians are highly sought after. You can find jobs in your specialty through word of mouth, emailing hospitals, networking with colleagues, searching job boards such as NaukriGulf, Bayt, GulfTalent, or Dubai Health Care City, and also by connecting with recruitment agencies.
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Head Medical is a leading specialist in international medical recruitment, having helped 1,000s of physicians find new roles in amazing locations including UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, China, the Gulf, Canada and Caribbean. So, if you think you might be interested in a new challenge and a change of scene, please get in touch for a chat with one of their recruitment specialists. Their expert team will support you with your licensing and immigration paperwork and provide practical advice to ensure your relocation goes as smoothly as possible.
Immigration is also contingent on having a job offer. Your employer will apply for and cover the cost of a work permit which allows you to enter and work in the UAE for two months. Once you are in the UAE, you will undergo a health screening at an approved center where you are screened for communicable diseases including HIV, TB, leprosy, and hepatitis B/C. You must have negative tests for the employer to finalize the residency permit, which is typically valid for 1-2 years depending on the terms of your contract.
Once you have a residence permit, you can sponsor your family for residence. Since Immigration and residence status is contingent on having a job, if you lose your job you also lose your residency permit. Foreigners can obtain status to live in the UAE through retirement and investment schemes.
Salary & Work Culture
Salary is based on your country of training and your nationality, with American physicians being better paid than other foreign physicians. Salary is typically based on productivity, and compensation packages can include benefits such as housing allowance, schooling or travel allowance. The employer is required to provide health insurance by law. For reference, a surgeon can expect a monthly salary of 80,000-90,000 Dirhams while a general internist can expect a monthly salary of 60,000-75,000 Dirhams. The average yearly physician salary is 565,000 AED (153,827 USD at current exchange rate of 1AED = 0.27 USD), which varies by specialty, and does not include the compensation package. Notably, there is no personal income tax.
The public healthcare system is free to Emiratis only. Foreigners are required to have private health insurance to access private healthcare. Many physicians are recruited from the US, UK, and EU, making for a very international set of colleagues. The rounding culture is similar to the US though you will not find as many residents or trainees – most local medical trainees pursue postgraduate medical education outside the UAE. That said there are some hospitals with university affiliated residency programs and even some fellowship programs.
Malpractice litigation is not a significant a part of the healthcare culture and malpractice insurance is inexpensive. The Ministry of Health deals with complaints directly. Few people litigate and few people receive settlements.
For physicians with children, there are many American as well as British, Australian, and Canadian curriculum schools. The tuition tends to be expensive though the employer may pay a certain percentage of the tuition. Within the traditional patriarchal society, women physicians are treated well and can wear clothing of their choice. Non-Muslims can drink alcohol and eat pork; but if you are Muslim or your name is indicative of Muslim ancestry, then you are expected to follow Muslim traditions. All non-heterosexual activities are illegal.
Emiratis are generally seen as hosts to the large expat population and are welcoming towards their expat guests.
The process of transitioning to the UAE is straightforward since American training and credentials are accepted, and no additional examinations are needed. Find a job first – the entire process from medical registration to immigration and your ability reside in the UAE is contingent on a job offer.
Feeling overwhelmed or stuck and want to talk to someone who has relocated abroad? Check out our Guidance Service where we offer one-on-one personalized guidance to help you live your dream life abroad!
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Dr. Humeira Badsha is an American Board-certified Rheumatologist. She trained at UCLA and moved for her first expat adventure to Singapore before returning to work in Massachusetts. For the last 15 years she has practiced in Dubai and raised her two sons.
Jobs for Doctors in the Middle East
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