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How to invest in US ETFs in the UAE: An expat’s guide

As an expat or a high net worth individual living in the United Arab Emirates, learning how to purchase US ETFs in the UAE is a great step to benefiting from some of the top firms in the world.

The United States stock market is still the largest in the world and is home to several of the largest and most successful corporations, like Apple, Alphabet (Google), Amazon, and Meta (Facebook).

Even with 2022 being a difficult year, 2023 promises to be a wonderful opportunity to enter the market and benefit from reduced pricing on US stocks—no matter where you are.

Because of this, investors who want to grow their wealth should always pay attention to the US stock market.

It is possible—even recommended—to purchase US shares even if you are a resident of the UAE, despite the fact that the stock markets are governed by US law. Foreign nationals are free to invest in US exchanges like the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq.

In this article, we will be going over how to purchase US stocks in the UAE and so participate in the earnings of the biggest and most prosperous businesses on the planet, as well as offer tips in developing a wise investment portfolio.

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as financial or investment advice. Individuals should conduct their own research and consult with a professional financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

If you want to invest as an expat or high-net-worth individual, you can email me (advice@adamfayed.com) or use these contact options.

This article is here for informational purposes only, and doesn’t constitute formal advice.

What are ETFs and why should you invest in them?

ETFs, or Exchange-Traded Funds, are a popular type of mutual fund due to its low barrier to entry and adaptability. The acronym “ETF” stands for “exchange-traded fund,” which is a specific type of investment fund.

Similar to an index fund, their goal is to duplicate the performance of a specified market sector, commodity, or asset class. However, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) trade just like any other stock on the market.

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are sometimes compared to a “basket” of assets due to their structure. They function similarly to mutual funds, but with more flexibility and lower trading minimums.

By doing so, investors can gain broad exposure to a market or industry without having to buy every stock or asset in that field.

Buying an exchange-traded fund (ETF) is like purchasing a fraction of a well-balanced portfolio. The stocks, bonds, commodities, or a combination thereof could make up the ETF’s underlying assets.

If you buy in multiple stocks or bonds, you spread out your financial risks and increase your potential for profit.

How do they work?

Exchange-traded funds are distinguished in part by the fact that they are passively managed. To put it another way, the ETF’s goal is to mirror the performance of a given index or industry group without requiring the fund manager to make any active trading choices.

An S&P 500 ETF, for instance, would have the same companies in the same weightings as the S&P 500 index in an effort to replicate the index’s performance.

ETFs are more cost-effective than other investment options because of their passive management methodology, which results in lower operating expenditures.

Several factors have contributed to the meteoric rise in ETF popularity among investors, including the fact that their value grows and decreases in unison with that of the index or industry it tracks.

When you buy an exchange-traded fund (ETF), you are essentially purchasing a fraction of a diversified portfolio. The stocks, bonds, commodities, or a combination thereof could make up the ETF’s underlying assets.

Diversifying your holdings across a variety of markets, firms, or asset classes can help mitigate your risk in any one sector.

Each exchange-traded fund (ETF) includes a diverse portfolio of underlying assets, so investing in one is a quick way to diversify your portfolio. This means that the underperformance of a single asset within the ETF may be mitigated by the success of other assets within the fund.

Similar to the trading of individual stocks, ETFs can be bought and sold at any moment throughout the trading day.

Mutual funds, on the other hand, can only be bought and sold at the end of each trading day, and only at the NAV (net asset value) of the fund. As a result, investors can adjust to new market conditions more rapidly.

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are another easy way to put money to work. They are good for inexperienced investors because they do not need a lot of money to get going.

You can buy as few as one share of an ETF from some brokers, and in other cases even a fraction of a share. This means that you can begin investing in ETFs with a relatively modest sum.

How do you invest in ETFs?

  • Investing in ETFs is a simple process. The following is the bare bones outline:
  • Create an Investment Account: The first step is to open a brokerage account. This can only be done through the use of a web-based broker or trading platform. When you are ready to invest, you will need to fund your account.
  • Invest in Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) The next thing to do is to decide on a handful of ETFs. Your favored industries or markets, your risk tolerance, and your investment goals will all play a role.
  • Complete the Deal by Saying Choose the exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that you want to acquire, and then do so through your brokerage account. To acquire shares of an ETF, you will need to provide the ticker symbol for it and the quantity you would like to purchase.
  • Keep an Eye on Your Money: After making a purchase of an ETF, it is crucial to track its performance and make any necessary adjustments to your investing strategy.

Keep in mind that the share price and your own financial circumstances will have a major impact on how many shares you decide to purchase. It is also important to remember that brokers’ fees can range from low to nonexistent, so it is important to shop around.

To get the most out of your ETF investments and reduce your exposure to risk, it is essential to follow some standard procedures.

Knowing the underlying assets of an ETF is essential before making a purchase. This involves familiarizing oneself with the ETF’s underlying index or sector, its holdings, and its investment philosophy.

Fees for ETFs may be lower than those for mutual funds, but they still exist. Expense ratios (the annual fee payable by the fund) and brokerage fees associated with buying and selling the ETF fall into this category.

While investing in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) can help spread your risk across multiple companies in a given market, it is still necessary to diversify your portfolio as a whole. This may involve buying shares of multiple ETFs, or adding ETFs to a broader portfolio.

Review your holdings in ETFs on a regular basis and make necessary modifications, just like you would with any other investment. You can use this to keep moving forward with your financial plans.

What are the drawbacks?

While exchange-traded funds (ETFs) provide many upsides, there are certain risks to think about as well. For instance, as most ETFs are passively managed, their returns are often limited to those of the underlying index or industry. This means that the ETF will suffer the same fate as the index or sector if it does poorly.

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are sometimes compared to a "basket" of assets due to their structure. They function similarly to mutual funds, but with more flexibility and lower trading minimums.
Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are sometimes compared to a basket of assets due to their structure. They function similarly to mutual funds, but with more flexibility and lower trading minimums.

Moreover, not all ETFs are diversified, despite the fact that ETFs in general offer diversification. Investors in these ETFs may be at a higher risk if the market or the individual sector being tracked experiences poor performance.

Finally, unlike stocks, ETFs can be purchased and sold during the day, which might increase the price’s volatility. If the ETF is sold during a market downturn, it could result in a loss.

This means that, despite the potential for high returns, there are better places to put your money. Listed on major stock exchanges, ETFs are created to mimic the price movements of an underlying index or industry.

Although exchange-traded funds (ETFs) provide several perks like low fees and fast diversification, they also have some drawbacks.

The lack of suitability for high-risk, high-reward investments is a major shortcoming of ETFs. Since ETFs offer widespread market exposure, they are not as likely to produce extraordinary returns as niche investment vehicles.

Moreover, ETFs are vulnerable to market fluctuations and do not offer the opportunity for rapid development that may be found in other types of investments.

Alternatives that may offer even greater potential for big gains should be investigated when considering high-risk, high-reward investments.

Why should you make US-based ETF investments?

The US has the greatest GDP in the world, as was already mentioned. With a GDP of $20.953 trillion, it has a GDP that is more than $6 trillion larger than China, which has the second-highest GDP.

The relative success, stability, size, and expansion of many of the businesses operating there are clear indicators of the US’s wealth.

For instance, five of the world’s fastest-growing internet companies—Facebook (now Meta), Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google (now Alphabet)—are frequently grouped together and studied by investors under the moniker FAANG stocks.

With Netflix excluded, the market capitalization of four of these five corporations has already topped $1 trillion. For context, know that just 16 nations in the globe will have a GDP of more than $1 trillion by 2020.

However, this is not just a technological issue. Investors have also studied and recognized a particular group of businesses that are market leaders, have a solid track record, are dependable, provide impressive long-term returns, pay dividends, and routinely raise their dividend distribution. They are known as blue-chip stocks.  

Numerous of these so-called top blue-chip companies, like Disney, Walmart, Coca-Cola, P&G, JP Morgan, and Berkshire Hathaway, are also based in the US and have US stock exchanges.

In essence, the US stock market offers significant current and future possibilities for wealth development. The US financial market is simply the largest, most open, transparent, and liquid financial market in the world.

Diversification is made simpler on the US stock market because it has the most listed businesses overall, making it possible to diversify by industry and market capitalization.

The US stock market offers the best chance for large profits, diversification, liquidity, and risk minimization (the less risk you are exposed to, the more stable the companies are).

Why should you invest from the UAE?

The United Arab Emirates has emerged as a global financial hub and a preferred destination for investors and high net worth individuals (HNWIs) looking to maximize their wealth and take advantage of numerous benefits offered by this thriving city.

Situated at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa, Dubai enjoys an advantageous geographical location, making it a lucrative business hub for investors.

The city serves as a gateway to the vast markets of the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, providing access to over 2 billion potential consumers.

This strategic position, coupled with excellent infrastructure and connectivity, creates a favorable environment for investors to expand their businesses and tap into a wide range of international opportunities.

Market Stability and Economic Growth

The UAE, and places like Dubai in particular, is known for its stable economy and government policies that promote business growth and attract foreign investment.

The region has witnessed consistent economic expansion and diversification, with a strong focus on sectors like tourism, real estate, finance, and technology.

The UAE government’s commitment to maintaining a favorable business environment, coupled with its forward-thinking economic initiatives, makes it an ideal destination for investors seeking long-term stability and capital growth in their investments.

Tax Advantages and Business Environment

The UAE has traditionally placed a strong emphasis on encouraging entrepreneurship, economic diversity, and growth.

With the help of this strategy, the nation has been able to successfully diversify away from its traditional reliance on oil and gas earnings and towards industries like tourism, real estate, construction, banking, and technology.

With a value of $415 billion, the economy of the nation is currently the second largest in the Middle East.

Since the UAE’s lack of a federal corporate income tax (CIT, or CT) has traditionally been one of the main attractions for foreign investors, the implementation of a corporate tax regime, effective as of 1 June 2023, has led to many inquiries about its potential effects and how they will affect the UAE economy.

It is vital to consider the bigger picture to fully comprehend the impact of the UAE’s corporate tax, even though it may be perceived as a reduction in the country’s attraction to foreign investors.

A recorded 180 countries were used to calculate the average statutory corporate income tax rate, which is 23.37 percent globally and 25.43 percent when adjusted for gross domestic product (GDP).

In this regard, the UAE’s corporation tax rate of 9 percent places it among the 20 nations with the lowest corporate tax rates in the world, tied for third lowest among all nations. It also makes the UAE one of just three OECD member states.

This highlights the UAE’s ability to balance its responsibilities and commitment to the OECD with its goal to keep the nation a desirable investment location.

It has been successful in striking a careful balance between upholding its commitment to the OECD’s global minimum effective tax rate and keeping the interest and confidence of investors.

This is especially important at a time when nations are under increasing pressure to change their tax structures and conform to evolving international standards and laws.

The UAE’s commitment to long-term economic stability and progress can be seen in the adoption of the corporate tax, which increases the country’s appeal to investors seeking a predictable and stable business climate.

Businesses entering the UAE market will now be more confident in their investment decisions and able to gain the confidence of their stakeholders and customers.

High Quality of Life and Infrastructure

The UAE offers a luxurious lifestyle that is highly appealing to HNWIs and investors. This cosmopolitan city boasts world-class infrastructure, including modern transportation systems, advanced healthcare facilities, prestigious educational institutions, and a wide range of leisure and entertainment options.

Cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi have iconic landmarks, luxurious real estate developments, and high-end shopping experiences further contribute to the overall appeal of the UAE as a destination for discerning investors and individuals seeking an exceptional quality of life.

The UAE then stands out as an attractive destination for investors and high net worth individuals. Its strategic geographical position, stable economy, tax advantages, business-friendly environment, and luxurious lifestyle and infrastructure collectively make it a highly appealing choice for wealth accumulation and investment.

As with any investment, it is important for individuals to conduct thorough research, due diligence, and seek professional advice before making any financial decisions.

Why should investors in the UAE buy U.S.-Based ETFs?

For investors residing in the UAE, exploring global investment opportunities is crucial to diversify their portfolios and achieve long-term financial success.

While there are various investment options available, U.S.-based exchange-traded funds (ETFs) offer an attractive avenue for investors seeking exposure to the dynamic U.S. markets.

Access to a Diversified Portfolio

As mentioned above, by investing in U.S.-based ETFs, investors gain access to a diverse range of securities such as stocks, bonds, and commodities. These ETFs are designed to track specific indices, sectors, or asset classes, providing investors with exposure to a wide range of companies and industries within the U.S. market.

With a single investment, investors can effectively diversify their portfolio and reduce their risk by spreading investments across various sectors and asset classes.

Exposure to World-Class Companies

The U.S. market is home to many globally renowned companies across various industries, including technology, healthcare, finance, and consumer goods.

By investing in U.S.-based ETFs, investors can gain exposure to these world-class companies, benefiting from their potential growth and stability. Many U.S.-based ETFs focus on specific sectors, allowing investors to invest in industries they believe will outperform others in the years to come.

Ability to Capitalize on the Strength of the U.S. Economy

The United States boasts the world’s largest economy, known for its innovation, robust financial system, and entrepreneurial spirit. U.S.-based ETFs provide investors with a unique opportunity to benefit from the strength and growth potential of the U.S. economy.

Whether it’s the technology-driven NASDAQ 100 or the broad-based S&P 500, investors can align their investments with the performance of the U.S. market.

Liquidity and Transparency

U.S.-based ETFs offer high liquidity, allowing investors in Dubai to easily buy and sell their investments on major stock exchanges.

This liquidity gives investors the flexibility to adjust their positions quickly based on market conditions or individual investment strategies.

Additionally, U.S. financial markets are known for their transparency and regulatory oversight, providing investors with confidence and reliability when investing in U.S.-based ETFs.

Cost-Effective and Efficient Investing

Investing in U.S.-based ETFs can be a cost-effective way for investors in Dubai to gain exposure to the U.S. market.

These ETFs typically have lower expense ratios compared to actively managed mutual funds, making them an affordable option for long-term investors.

Additionally, U.S.-based ETFs can be traded throughout the day, providing investors with flexibility and the ability to respond to market movements and capitalize on short-term investment opportunities.

Investors living in the UAE can enhance their portfolios by venturing into U.S.-based ETFs. These investment vehicles offer a diversified portfolio, access to world-class companies, exposure to the U.S. economy, liquidity, transparency, and cost-effective investing.

While there are risks associated with any investment, careful consideration of U.S.-based ETFs aligned with individual investment goals and risk tolerance can potentially yield attractive returns for investors based in the Middle East.

However, as always, it is recommended to consult with a financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

How do you invest in US ETFs from the UAE?

Investing in US-based stocks, ETFs, and other securities is as simple as choosing an online broker of your choice. But then the question becomes, how do you choose which one is best for you?

The Middle East stands out as an attractive destination for investors and high net worth individuals, so it is no surprise that there are many who want to invest in ETFs in the UAE.
The Middle East stands out as an attractive destination for investors and high net worth individuals, so it is no surprise that there are many who want to invest in global ETFs in the UAE.

Without access to investment accounts and platforms, you cannot accumulate wealth or move closer to your financial objectives. Before beginning the selection process, it is essential to identify these notions and understand how they differ.

You require an investment platform in order to manage your investments, keep track of the performance of your portfolio, and execute transactions.

The majority of these websites offer a wide variety of investment choices, a user-friendly layout, and tools for completing in-depth market research. Online brokerages include, but are not limited to, Charles Schwab, Vanguard, Fidelity, and Robinhood.

Choosing the proper investing account is crucial when making future plans. Take into consideration the following factors when you decide:

  • Your level of risk tolerance is an indicator of how much financial risk you are willing to accept. Stocks and other riskier investments may be a suitable option for you if you are not afraid of uncertainty.
  • If your capacity for risk is constrained, you might choose to stay with safer investments like bonds or cash. Selecting an appropriate investing account will be aided by your awareness of your level of risk tolerance.
  • Understanding your investment objectives clearly is necessary to select the appropriate investment account.
  • Depending on your goals, it is conceivable that your investment strategy and account requirements will change. Long-term objectives may be better served by retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(k) plans, whilst short-term objectives may be better served by taxable brokerage accounts.
  • Taxation frequently has a detrimental effect on investment returns. In light of your tax situation, consider the benefits and downsides of various investing accounts.
  • To aid investors in making wise selections, the finest investing accounts and platforms frequently include a variety of research and analytical tools. To aid investors in making wise selections, the finest investing accounts and platforms frequently include a variety of research and analytical tools.
  • Investments kept in taxable brokerage accounts may be subject to capital gains taxes, as opposed to tax-deferred retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s. Depending on the individual, different accounts will have different tax advantages.
  • Your earnings may be greatly reduced by fees and costs associated with utilizing an investment platform or maintaining an investment account. It is essential to become familiar with the price policies of any potential platforms or accounts.
  • Common fees include those for account upkeep, trading, advisory services for managed accounts, and the expense ratios of mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. Compare the fees levied by various accounts to ensure you are getting the most out of your money.

Your investment strategy and goals should be supported by the investment possibilities offered through an account or platform.

You will also need a brokerage account that offers a wide selection of stocks if you prefer a hands-on approach and want to choose individual equities.

On the other hand, if you want a more passive approach to investing, a platform that provides inexpensive index funds or ETFs might be more appropriate.

The ease of use and level of customer support offered by the platform can have a big impact on how you feel about investing. Consider the UI of the platform, your ability to navigate it, and whether or not any learning resources are offered.

Check to see if the platform responds to queries promptly by phone, email, and/or live chat. A user-friendly platform and competent customer support can make investment management easier.

How do you best evaluate the investment platforms and accounts available?

The main element to consider is fees. Your investment returns may eventually be reduced by fees and charges. Examine the fees of various investment accounts and platforms to make the most of your money.

Account maintenance fees may be assessed annually or periodically for certain investment accounts. These charges are often either a flat rate or a fixed percentage of your account balance. Keep in mind that any account maintenance fees could reduce your investment returns, so be informed of them.

Trading costs are expenses spent when purchasing or disposing of investments. While some trading platforms have flat fees for each deal, others allow commission-free trading.

Trading costs can mount up rapidly if you are a frequent trader, therefore it is crucial to take this cost into account when selecting a platform.

Expense ratios are recurring fees that mutual funds and ETFs charge to cover their operating costs. These costs are included in your returns and are calculated as a percentage of your investment.

It is critical to examine the expenditure ratios of various funds because over time, lower expense ratios might produce higher net returns.

You might also have to pay advising fees if you choose a managed account or professional financial guidance.

These charges, which often represent a proportion of the assets you have under management, pay for the advisory services rendered. Ask yourself if the advice and services are worth the money you are paying for them.

For particular sorts of transactions, such the purchasing or selling of particular stocks, some investment platforms levy transaction fees.

These charges may differ and be associated with particular investment products or transaction types. It is important to check the platform’s fee schedule to comprehend any potential transaction fees.

When an account is inactive for a predetermined amount of time, costs for Inactivity could also be assessed and deducted from your account.

Although not all investment platforms or accounts charge inactivity fees, it is nevertheless vital to be aware of this possible expense, particularly if you do not intend to actively monitor your investments.

The total cost structure of an investment account or platform should always be taken into account because it can significantly affect how well your investments perform. To determine which platform or account gives the best value for your financial needs, compare the fees of various accounts and options.

What tools should I look for in an investment platform?

A variety of research and analysis tools are frequently offered by investment platforms to assist investors in making wise decisions. These tools can offer insightful information about market trends, portfolio analysis, and investment performance.

The following are some typical tools for research and analysis that investing platforms provide:

  • Stock screeners: Stock screeners let investors select and look for stocks based on particular parameters including market size, sector of the economy, price-to-earnings ratio, and dividend yield. These resources assist investors in reducing their list of possible investments and locating investment possibilities.
  • Fund Comparison Tools: These tools let investors compare the attributes and performance of various mutual funds and ETFs. These instruments include data on holdings, historical returns, risk measures, and expense ratios. Investors can choose investments with greater knowledge if they compare funds.
  • Tools for Portfolio Analysis: Portfolio analysis tools assess the efficiency and make-up of an investor’s holdings. These techniques shed light on risk exposure, asset allocation, and diversification. Investors can use portfolio analysis tools to spot any imbalances or hazards in their holdings and make the appropriate corrections.
  • Numerous investment platforms provide research reports and analysis from reliable financial firms. These studies include information on market trends, financial projections, and particular investment prospects. Investors seeking professional analysis and advice can find great value in research papers.
  • Educational Resources: To assist investors in learning about investing and enhancing their financial literacy, investment platforms frequently include educational resources like articles, videos, webinars, and tutorials. These resources cover a range of subjects, from fundamental notions in investing to sophisticated investment techniques.

Investment platforms can differ in terms of research and analysis tool availability and caliber. It is crucial to take into account the tools that are significant to you and make sure the platform you select offers the resources required to support your investment selections.

Should you hire a financial advisor to handle your investments?

Choosing the right platform to invest in is essential for reaching financial objectives. Investors may find it difficult to understand the market on their own given the wide range of investment possibilities accessible nowadays. This is when financial advisors’ knowledge is useful.

Financial counselors start by thoroughly knowing the investor’s objectives, risk tolerance, and time horizon for investing.

They evaluate things like the requirement for income creation, capital appreciation, or the necessity to preserve capital. Financial advisors can suggest investment platforms that support the investor’s aims by recognizing these objectives.

Financial advisors are well-versed in the range of market-available investment platforms. They evaluate each platform’s capabilities, prices, and performance to determine which ones are best for certain types of investors.

Working with a financial advisor can give investors the assurance and information necessary to make wise investment choices.
Working with a financial advisor can give investors the assurance and information necessary to make wise investment choices.

Advisors reduce the possibilities to those that satisfy the investor’s particular needs by assessing variables including fees, investment options, customer service, and ease of use.

Assessing risk tolerance and directing investors toward well-diversified portfolios is one of the main responsibilities of financial advisors.

When selecting investment platforms, they take into account elements including asset allocation, industry exposure, and regional diversification.

Advisors offer platforms that give a well-balanced combination of risk and potential return while also assisting investors in understanding the risks related to various investment options.

Financial advisors thoroughly investigate investment platforms to make sure they adhere to all applicable regulations and have a proven track record.

They look at the platform’s standing, stability, and adherence to rules set by the sector. This due diligence procedure makes sure that investors are pointed in the direction of reliable platforms.

Informing investors about the numerous investment platforms accessible is a critical role that financial advisors perform.

They aid investors in making wise decisions by offering information on the benefits and drawbacks of each option. Additionally, advisors provide continuing assistance by keeping tabs on the performance of the preferred platform and offering suggestions for modifications or rebalancing as required.

Financial counselors keep up with the most recent market developments and new investment avenues. They continually review new possibilities and determine whether they are suitable for investors.

Advisors can give clients access to cutting-edge platforms that might present better investing opportunities by staying abreast of market trends.

Final thoughts

When making international investments, a little bit of prudence goes a long way. The choice of the best investment platform is a crucial one that can have a big impact on how successful an investor is financially.

To help investors through this procedure, financial advisors contribute knowledge, experience, and a thorough understanding of the market.

Financial advisers assist investors in choosing the finest investment platform options that fit their particular needs and objectives by taking into account the aims of the investors, performing due diligence, and offering continuing support.

Working with a financial advisor can give investors the assurance and information necessary to make wise investment choices.

Investing in US ETFs from anywhere including the Middle East can prove to be a profitable approach if you pick the correct broker who can accommodate your trading requirements.

Pained by financial indecision? Want to invest with Adam?

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Adam is an internationally recognised author on financial matters, with over 760.2 million answer views on Quora.com, a widely sold book on Amazon, and a contributor on Forbes.

This website is not designed for American resident readers, or for people from any country where buying investments or distributing such information is illegal. This website is not a solicitation to invest, nor tax, legal, financial or investment advice. We only deal with investors who are expats or high-net-worth/self-certified  individuals, on a non-solicitation basis. Not for the retail market.



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