Can I come on a visit or tourist visa to Dubai, find work and start working immediately?
It is illegal to work on a visa other than a valid employment visa in Dubai. However, you may come on a visit or tourist visa and actively search for jobs in Dubai. Under recent legislation pertaining to employment visas, successful candidates who are hired by Dubai employers are required to exit the UAE pending release of their Employment Visas.
Clearly, any employer asking you to start work immediately or without a valid employment visa is not in compliance with legal requirements. If you choose to begin work without a valid employment visa, you:
- give up you chances of using the Labour Code or having the Labour Ministry to mediate your case in the event of a dispute with your employer;
- run the risk of being caught, fined and deported. You will also be blacklisted such that you may never return on an employment visa to the UAE. In many cases, illegal laborers spend jail time prior to deportation and their retina scans are kept active to effect the blacklisting.
Can I apply for an employment visa myself?
No, you can’t do that on your own. Employment and residency in Dubai work within a system of sponsorship. An employer is the appropriate party to apply for an employment and residency visa for employees. This means you have to have been hired prior to the application for your employment visa.
How does the UAE’s system of sponsorship work?
An employee’s designated sponsor for residency visa is their employer, whether the respective company is operating within or outside of Free Zones. Dubai or UAE residency is temporary and normally valid for three (3) years but may be renewed. The visa is stamped on the face of your passport.
UAE Laws require resident aliens (foreign nationals) to be primarily sponsored by a UAE national (citizen). UAE nationals may be direct private sponsors, as in the case of a UAE national hiring a domestic servant or, they may be indirect sponsors, as in the case of business employees. Businesses are able to sponsor their employees mainly because a UAE national is a partner, owner or a majority shareholder of the business-sponsor.
Besides being sponsored by my employer, how else can I get a UAE residency visa?
You have three options:
- Set up and register your own company in Dubai. Your business can then be your sponsor. Note however that you’ll be required to have a local partner, i.e., a UAE citizen.
- Set up a consultancy off of a free zone to become eligible for both residency and work permits
- Buy a property so that the property developer becomes your sponsor for residency. Note however that this does not entitle you to work in the UAE.
Can someone who is not a UAE national sponsor a resident?
Yes. This is possible through secondary sponsorship. Secondary sponsors are sponsored residents, usually employed males who would like to have their wife and children live with them in the UAE.
Can women be secondary sponsors as well?
Yes, women can sponsor their children if they’re divorced or widowed.
Can a married woman sponsor her husband and children?
Yes, she can, but only under certain circumstances and with prior approval by both the Depart of Labour and the Department of Immigration and Naturalisation. Wives sponsoring husbands are not customary. In most cases, approval is granted if the wife-sponsor has a profession of strategic and economic importance such as teachers or medical personnel.
What are the qualifying criteria for secondary sponsors?
Employed persons may sponsor only their immediate family, and must meet the minimum salary requirement for sponsorship. The consent and signature of the primary sponsor is required before an employee may sponsor their family.
Whose residency can I sponsor so that they can reside with me in the UAE?
- Your spouse. This means either your lawfully-wedded husband or wife. This does not include a same-sex partner, even if such person is a lawfully-wedded partner.
- Your children. These are male and female offspring under 21 years or unmarried daughters over 21 years.
What does being a secondary sponsor mean?
Secondary sponsors are responsible for their dependents whilst such dependents are residents of the UAE. This means you are responsible for their financial support, debts, if they incur any, and all aspects of life and living whilst they are under your sponsorship, including their conduct and behaviour.
Also, as their sponsor, you are responsible for the visa, processing fees and other related costs for obtaining the residency permit for your dependents. This is not your employer’s responsibility and they may not be obliged to assist you beyond giving their consent to your sponsorship. However, in some cases, employers may provide employees with visa-assistance benefits for employees to bring their families over.
Can I acquire permanent residency in the UAE?
No, you can’t. Residency in the UAE is only temporary. However, it is renewable.
Can I acquire UAE citizenship?
No, you can’t. An expatriate is not eligible for UAE citizenship. UAE citizens are defined by law to be only those persons born of parents who are both UAE citizens or born to a father who is a UAE citizen.
What happens to an expat’s child born in the UAE?
The child takes on the citizenship of the parents who must then apply for temporary residency status for their child under the secondary sponsorship system within three months of birth.
What right does temporary residency NOT include?
Temporary residency status is not concurrent with the right to work or seek employment in the UAE, nor does it guarantee employment. Sponsored children under 18 and freehold property owners over 60, whose residency is sponsored by the respective property development company, are not eligible for employment in the UAE. All other residents may go through the usual application process to be legally employed. Legal employment in the UAE is evidenced by the Labour Card.
I have a valid UAE residency visa. I’d like to spend some time in my home country. Will my visa still be valid when I return?
Assuming your UAE residency visa is not expiring within the next six (6) months, you can stay outside of the UAE for at most six months and return on the same visa. Staying outside of the UAE for more than six months at a time automatically invalidates your UAE residency.
What is a “ban”? How do I get banned?
A ban is a legal mechanism that prevents a resident or an employee from re-entering the country or from accepting a position with a new employer for a fixed period of time, usually for six (6) months.
A permanent residency ban may be imposed on serious labour offenders, such as illegal or absconded workers, illegal aliens or convicted felons. Fingerprint samples and retina scans of banned individuals are kept on file by the Federal Department of Immigration.
A labour ban is mandatory. You get banned when:
- Your contract expires and no action pertaining to your employment has been taken by your current employer, or no new application by a different employer is filed for you.
- You terminate an unlimited labour contract before completing one year of service.
- You terminate a limited labour contract before its expiration.
How do I NOT get banned?
- Your current employer must have taken appropriate action with the Department of Labour to extend your employment with them prior to the expiration of your labour contract;
- Your sponsorship must have been transferred with a different employer. To effect this, certain conditions must be met, otherwise, your Labour Card will be cancelled and you will be banned.
How do I have my sponsorship transferred from one employer to the next?
Your limited labour contract must have already expired or you must have performed at least one year of service under an unlimited labour contract. As your current sponsor is required to issue a No Objection Certificate (NOC), they must have no objections to the transfer or their conditions must have been met prior to the issuance of such certificate. In any case, this is usually discussed by your current and prospective employers. The NOC is required for the transfer of your Labour Card and both must be filed with the Department of Labour. In addition, you can only transfer sponsorships under the same labour category. This simply means your new employment must be for the same position, e.g. Accountant to Accountant, Manager to Manager.
What is the NOC? Can my current employer be legally ordered to provide this document?
A No Objection Certificate (NOC) is a formal letter by your current sponsor addressed to the Department of Labour and the Department of Naturalisation and Immigration to prevent you, the employee, from being banned after completion of your labour contract or in the process of transferring your sponsorship to a new employer. This is entirely discretionary and must be freely given by an employer. No employer may be forced to provide an employee with a NOC, under any circumstance, even after successful completion of a labour contract.