Many expats live together in Dubai without being married, but it’s very important expats understand the rules
17 January 2018| Last updated on 28 October 2019
If you are planning on moving to Dubai with your boyfriend or girlfriend, it’s extremely important that as expatriates you understand the rules surrounding couples living together while unmarried in Dubai and the UAE.
In the Middle East, where Islamic laws prevail, strictly speaking the cohabitation of unmarried couples of the opposite sex in Dubai and the UAE is against the law.
There’s no denying that many unmarried couples do live together in Dubai and the UAE without resulting in problems with the authorities. However, while they may cast a blind eye to non-Muslim expatriates living together in Dubai, if there is ever a reason the Dubai Police should need to investigate – because of a noise disturbance complaint, or another breach of the peace – criminal sanctions could follow.
What Sharia Law and Dubai Rules state
Strictly speaking, individuals should only live together with a member of the opposite sex if a) you are married to them, or b) they are a family member.
The rules in place in Dubai and the UAE are based on something called ‘the Tawajed clause’, which states that people of the opposite sex cannot be alone together unless they’re married or family… And this also applies, in theory, to sharing hotel rooms.
This goes for house-sharing, also; it’s not uncommon for Western expatriates to share an apartment or villa with friends in Dubai, and members of the opposite sex. But by living this way, or as an unmarried couple in Dubai, expats are taking their chances with the law and should perhaps consider alternative solutions to avoid any situation turning sour.
What are the penalties of living unmarried in Dubai?
Under Article 356 of the UAE Penal Code, it is stated that any individual convicted of engaging in consensual sex outside of marriage in Dubai, and if caught under these circumstances, are likely to be punished by a minimum sentence of 1 year in jail, followed by deportation.
Can unmarried couples sponsor each other’s visas in Dubai?
No. If you are sponsored by your company, and you wish to sponsor your partner, you must be married. Only wife/husband visas are available for married expatriates.
However, that doesn’t mean your partner can’t be sponsored by their own company, too.
What is the safest solution?
As expatriates and an unmarried couple moving to Dubai, it is advisable to get married before moving here. This is not uncommon, with many expatriates having a quick ‘paper marriage’ to cover the legalities and ensure their legal safety here… They then still plan their wedding day at a later date.