Which industries employ expats in the UAE?
Foreigners are employed by private companies in all industries in the UAE. Government and semi-government companies prefer to hire UAE nationals.
What are the types of employment visas offered in the UAE?
An employment entry permit must be obtained in order to enter the UAE for the purpose of employment. Within 60 days of arrival, all post-arrival immigration procedures must be completed and a labor card and residence permit must be obtained.
For short-term employment of up to 90 days, a mission visa can also be an option. Companies registered with Ministry of Labor (outside a free zone) can apply for a mission visa for their employees.
Some free zones in Dubai provide temporary work permits for visitors arriving on short and long term visit visas (30 and 90 days) which allow visitors to perform productive work during their stay in Dubai.
Are the immigration laws in Dubai different from Abu Dhabi?
Immigration rules are variable among 7 Emirates and also within an Emirate. In Dubai, for example, the main immigration rules are the same although there are slight variations between regulations of zone authorities.
How can I get an employment visa?
A foreigner's sponsoring company is responsible for arranging an employment entry permit for the foreign employee. Private companies registered with the Ministry of Labor, must obtain the ministry's approval and arrange a bank guarantee prior to applying for the employment entry permit on behalf of a foreigner. Companies registered under free zones do not need ministry approval and may apply for the permit directly.
Based on the employment entry permit, the foreigner will be able to enter the UAE and arrange post-arrival immigration procedures such as a completing a medical check, obtaining a labor card, a residence permit and an Emirates ID card.
Can I apply for an employment visa on my own?
No, you cannot apply for an employment visa on your own. The sponsoring company must do this for you.
Who can I hire to assist me in processing my papers?
You can turn to Move One Relocations for guidance on Immigration to the UAE.
What documents do I need to submit?
Passport, photos and a legalized educational certificate will be required from your side, while your employer will have to submit an employment contract and various corporate documents (trade license, establishment card, etc).
If family members are joining you, you will need to submit legalized birth and marriage certificates for them.
How long do I have to wait for my papers to be processed?
For employment at a private company registered with the Ministry of Labor, pre-arrival procedures take around 1 week and the residence permit and labor card can be granted within approximately 30 days after arrival. Latest within 60 days of arrival all post-arrival immigration procedures must be completed.
For employment by companies registered under a free zone, the application procedure varies slightly to that of private companies, and has a shorter processing time after arrival of around 15 days.
Authorities can extend or shorten processing times according to their requirements. Processing time can be expedited for certain steps in the immigration process by paying additional fees to the authority.
Where can I check on the status of my application?
If your company is registered under a free zone, the status of your application can be checked with Government service office in that free zone. For private companies registered with Ministry of Labor, the progress of your application can be monitored online or by following up with the authority.
What will my proof of employment visa be?
An employment entry permit is issued as an A4 paper size certificate and must be submitted to authorities along with other requirements for post arrival service. As a result, a residence permit is issued as a sticker in the passport, and a labor card is issued as a separate plastic card.
What are the government fees I have to pay for while I’m on my work visa?
Government fees vary depending on the type/registration of the company (government, semi-government, private, free zone companies, etc). Fees are covered by the sponsoring company.
How long is the validity of the employment visa before it expires?
An employment entry visa is valid for 60 days from the date of issue and 60 days from the date of entry.
Labor cards and residence permits are issued for up to 2 years for employment by private companies registered with the Ministry of Labor, and for up to 3 years for employment by companies registered in a free zone. It is possible to extend the permits.
If my passport expires before my employment visa expires, what should I do?
An employment entry permit is not issued beyond passport expiration. Upon application, the passport must be valid for at least six months past the start date of the permit. In case this criterion is not met, you will be asked to renew your passport.
If your passport expires before your issued residence permit, the passport must be renewed and the residence permit must be transferred to the new passport (government fees will apply).
When my employment ends, how can I re-enter the UAE and accept a new job?
Upon labor card and residence permit expiration, in case your company is extending your work contract, you may extend your permits in the country. There is no need to extend the employment entry permit.
In case of a new employer, you can either transfer your permits to the new company or ask your previous employer to cancel your permits first then have your new employer apply for your new permits. Transfer is applicable only in certain cases (government/semi-government to government/semi-government or to free zone and vice versa). In most cases, the previous employer must cancel the employee’s permits and the new employer will need to apply for new permits. The employee doesn’t have to exit the country. Change of sponsorship must take place within 30 days from the date of cancellation of previous residence permit otherwise overstaying fines will apply.
In case an employee working for a private company registered with the Ministry of Labor leaves his/her job without completing two years with the employer, a six-months work ban can be imposed by the company, during which time the individual is not allowed to work in the UAE. The work ban can be lifted under certain circumstances.
Is there a grace period to renew employment visa?
For employees of private companies registered with the Ministry of Labor, labor cards must be renewed within 60 days and residence permits must be renewed within 30 days of their expiration date otherwise fines will be applicable.
For employees of free zone companies, labor cards and residence permits must be renewed within 30 days.
Can I come to the UAE on a tourist visa to search and apply for jobs?
In general, whoever comes to the UAE on a Visit (not Tourist) visa can change the status into residency without exiting, however, employment entry permit will still need to be issued.
Tourist visas cannot be transferred directly into residency and person will have to exit and re-enter the UAE based on an employment entry permit.
What happens when an employer asks me to work immediately without an employment visa?
In case illegal workers are found at a company during a routine labor inspection, the fine is calculated based on many factors, and may reach 50,000 dirhams (approximately 13,600 US dollars).
How do I make sure I don’t get banned from re-entry?
You must make sure to follow the law. A permanent residency ban may be imposed on serious labor offenders, such as illegal or absconded workers, illegal aliens or convicted felons.
How can I transfer my employment visa from one employer to the next?
You can apply for change of sponsor at any time if you are working for company registered under a free zone. In case you are working for a private company registered with the Ministry of Labor you can only leave your job/transfer sponsorship if you have completed two years with your employer. If you have not completed two years with your current employer, you will be automatically banned by Ministry of Labor for the period of six months. Furthermore, in case of a limited contract, your company may impose a one year work ban. If both bans are applicable, the total period within which an employee will not be allowed to work will be one year.
The regulations related to private companies registered with Ministry of Labor describe certain cases when an automatic six months ban can be removed, but the one-year ban cannot be removed at all.
Aside from obtaining an employment visa, how else can I reside in the UAE?
You can reside in the UAE as a dependent, sponsored by a UAE resident. In such case you need a dependent visa to enter the country and obtain a residence permit based on that.
How can my partner / spouse or children who work and live in the UAE sponsor my residency?
How can my partner / spouse or children who work and live in the UAE sponsor my residency?
Your family member working in the UAE must receive a salary of no less than 4,000 dirhams (approximately 1,090 US dollars) in order to sponsor your residency as a dependent. Following family members may be sponsored as dependents on a residence visa: spouse, unmarried daughters, sons under the age of 18, step children and adopted children, parents, parents in-law. Sponsoring adopted/step children, parents and parents in-law are subject to the approval of the Humanitarian department in General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs.
Employees falling into some job categories are not able to sponsor their family’s residence visa to the UAE, even if minimum salary requirement is met.
How can I get a job soon after my family sponsors my residency?
If you find a job as a dependent, you can change your sponsorship from being sponsored by your family member to being sponsored by your employer.
A female employee has the option to remain sponsored by their family member while working for an employer. If a female employee decides to remain on husband’s/father’s sponsorship, the company will need to apply for a labor card for her as non-sponsored staff (staff remaining on husband’s/father’s sponsorship). In this case the sponsoring family member (husband/father) must provide a no-objection certificate (NOC).
How can I apply for permanent residency and acquire citizenship when I get my employment visa?
Permanent residency and citizenship will be granted to the wife of a UAE national after a period of time. The husband of a UAE national is not eligible for citizenship. If a mother is a UAE national, her children might get citizenship under certain circumstances. It is generally not possible to get UAE citizenship in any other cases.
Will an expat’s child born in the UAE acquire citizenship?
Birth within the territory of the UAE does not automatically confer citizenship. If a mother is a UAE national, her children might get citizenship under certain circumstances.
I am a UAE citizen currently living overseas with a foreign nationality. What are the requirements for my partner to be able to reside with me in the UAE?
If you are married, you can sponsor your partner to join you in the UAE based on a dependent visa and residence permit.
Wives may only sponsor husbands under certain circumstances and with prior approval by the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs. In most cases, approval is guaranteed if the wife/sponsor has a profession of strategic and economic importance such as teachers or medical profession.
Where can I find more information on work visa, residency and citizenship?
You can find a comprehensive immigration overview for the UAE on Move One's website HERE.
What should I do to have a successful relocation?
You should plan your move well in advance in order to allow enough time for the processing of your permits.
In which countries are UAE citizens exempted from visa when travelling? – For tourism purposes only
UAE has agreements on visa free travel with numerous countries. You should contact the local embassy of the country you wish to visit to confirm your visa requirements.
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ExpatCareers.com nor the author guarantee the accuracy of the information on this page. It is recommend that particularly prior to your travels you check with the relevant government authority. Please contact us with any updates you may have. Last updated 18 February 2013.