Oleg Fomin: A Guardian Angel from Faraway Lands

A country of majestic skyscrapers... The United Arab Emirates has long become a "Mecca" for sophisticated tourists, businessmen and connoisseurs of comfort. Thousands of Russians come here on vacation, and some, fascinated by the local luxury and beauty, decide to settle down.

Exclusively for iPremium, Oleg Fomin, Consul General of the Russian Federation in Dubai and Northern Emirates, shares his unique experience of living in Dubai, talks about the recent Expo 2020 and the subtleties of Arabic business.

How did you come to be Consul General and how is it to run the Consulate in Dubai?

O.F: The Arabic language was a very big thing in my family. I love it. After graduating from Lomonosov Moscow State University, where I majored in African and Asian Studies, I got to live and work in a wide array of Arabic countries. So, Dubai became one of these countries, and the assignment turned out to be exciting as always. One and a half years ago, we had to evacuate 25,000 tourists stuck here because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and now we receive thousands of Russians who want to do business in the UAE.

What are the main benefits for expats living in Dubai, and for Russians in general?

O.F: I would say that the main benefit is the absolute security. In other words, there is no criminal activity on the streets, and so on. There's absolute control over all aspects of public life. But there’s obviously a drawback to that - it’s much more expensive than Moscow.

Speaking of business here, Dubai is a tax haven with only 5% VAT. It’s the lowest VAT in the world, and there’s no income tax whatsoever. However, over the next few years, the UAE plans to introduce a corporate tax of 9%, which will impact companies with a turnover of $100,000 or more. So, there will be no consequences for small business, as well as foreign entities and individuals who do not conduct trade or business in the UAE on an ongoing or regular basis. Foreign investors' income from dividends, capital gains, interest, royalties and other investment returns won’t be taxed either. There’s no tax on employees.

Besides, there’s a good standard of living and great infrastructure. Traffic jams are not much of an issue here, even though every family has more than one car. It’s a real paradise for wealthy people, but you need to be ready for the fact that the social support of the state is focused mainly on the native citizens of this country, who make up about 10% of its entire population.

What would you recommend to high-net-worth individuals who want to invest in Dubai’s economy?

O.F: Historically, it’s real estate. Every 5 years, there are certain global political, social or other tsunamis that bring huge risks to entrepreneurs around the world. What’s interesting is that, after every such global disaster, Dubai comes out even stronger than before. Taking the last ten years into account, real estate prices have risen by about 20%. The city will continue to grow as people keep coming here to invest. A certain sum of investment in real estate here grants a person resident status, which allows you to open a bank account, to enrol your children into local schools, and so on. If you get your hands on a really upscale building, you can receive a golden visa that allows you to stay in Dubai for 10 years. This is a safe option for those who are not really advanced in the business sector. But if you are an experienced entrepreneur and not afraid of taking risks, I would definitely recommend opening your own business. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that you can’t open a company without obtaining the necessary education to match your company’s operational field. For example, a baker can’t open an IT company without having a degree in Computer Science or IT Management. IT is pretty popular here, by the way. Perhaps because IT-sector employees in Dubai earn more than any of their colleagues in other countries, after programmers from New York and Silicon Valley, and they are in great demand.

What if an ordinary Russian wants to get a job here, do they need a special invitation from a local company?

O.F: Yes, they will need an invitation from the company they are planning to work for. At the same time, according to the relevant intergovernmental agreement, you can legally stay in the country for up to three months. For long-term stays, your employer must arrange and sponsor an appropriate work visa for you.

How do you ensure that Russians in Dubai live their life to the fullest and overcome their nostalgia?

O.F: The UAE’s rich cultural life makes it different from other Arab countries. From assorted concerts to opera, Russian citizens enjoy a wide variety of entertainment events, with world-famous artists like Spivakov or Comedy Club coming here pretty frequently. Besides, there are places like Russian karaoke bars, where our citizens can come, sing songs, and party with their fellow Russians like they never left the country. Unfortunately, there is no alternative to traditional Russian theatre. In terms of our activity, we organise events as well.

As for consular activity, its main goal is to protect the rights and interests of Russian citizens and legal entities in the UAE. We also hold various events for our fellow citizens. Every year we celebrate Russian national holidays, take an active part in organising and holding gala concerts of Russian artists. Another pride of ours is the annual children's Christmas tree with Ded Moroz and Snegurochka, as well as gifts from Russia.

Could you tell us about the Russian Pavilion at Expo Dubai?

O.F: It really boosted the image of the country. According to our information, about 15 million people have visited Expo so far, even though nobody expected it because of Covid. Out of that 15 million, about 1.5 million people visited our pavilion. Since there’s over 150 countries represented at the Dubai Expo, that’s a pretty good number of visitors. Honestly, I like our pavilion: it’s beautiful; it tells the history of Russia from a new, scientific point of view; and it features interactive brains. Although there were many sceptics who doubted the Russian pavilion’s architecture, it turned out to be great. Recently, a foreign minister came to visit the pavilion and he loved it as well. It really positively influenced our relations with Emirati citizens. For the UAE, the target of this Expo was to lure foreign investors into local real estate and, safe to say, this target was achieved as people, mainly from Israel, have rushed to buy new apartments, houses, and mansions.

What do you think will happen to the Expo buildings afterwards?

O.F: I’ve heard that Dubai plans to turn them into a city of the future with restaurants, offices, apartment buildings and no-car zones. I suppose the big pavilions will remain in place for upcoming conferences, exhibitions, and forums. Perhaps part of the area will be given over to the organisation of various technoparks and free economic zones.

Were there any interesting support projects that really stood out to you?

O.F: Not long ago, some people came to us with a project called “Just Like Home”. The goal of the project was to help people access the support they need in Dubai, like finding necessary services without using Arabic or another foreign language. For example, book an appointment with a doctor, reserve a place in a restaurant, or schedule a tour without knowing a foreign language.

You mentioned that nobody expected such a huge turnaround at Expo Dubai 2020 due to Covid-19 related issues. Could you tell us a bit more about Covid in Dubai?

O.F: The local government had a very wise approach towards the pandemic here. Although it was a real struggle, they didn’t make it very burdensome for residents. Abu Dhabi was on lockdown, but Dubai decided to remain open while implementing strict rules, from frequent testing to ubiquitous mask wearing, social distance, and a curfew. But local authorities showed themselves to be extremely friendly, helping tourists from different countries take flights back home when it was almost impossible.

Recently, the requirement to wear masks outdoors has been lifted. PCR tests upon arrival have also been cancelled for those fully vaccinated with two shots and a booster. In Abu Dhabi, the ban is gradually being lifted as well. Tying the Covid topic to work, Dubai helped many people live here while working remotely for their companies.

So, when the whole world closed down and started working remotely, Dubai started a campaign, inviting people to work remotely from here, where it’s almost always warm and sunny. So people came from other countries and spent money here. This really influenced the local economy, and now there’s a boom in real estate prices, great tourism and business activity, as well as large exhibitions that, according to recent statistics, will soon surpass those in Europe and America.


Want to live in an Arab country that repeatedly ranks top 10 in quality of life? you've come to the right place. Besides, the UAE has its own Minister of State for Happiness. In recent years, the Emirates has developed a new approach to social politics, prioritising healthy lifestyle, mental health, and education.