For expatriates moving to Abu Dhabi for the first time to work and live, the procedures, administration and paperwork involved can seem daunting and voluminous.
To assist with some of the initial queries which may arise, Hadef & Partners has prepared the following case study about a male British national who has been offered employment with a branch office of a UK company which has been established in Abu Dhabi.
Note: This scenario will be comparable for expatriates moving to live and work in private companies in the other Emirates (including but not limited to Dubai), although there may be some practical differences specific to such Emirates. Your employer’s public relations officer should be familiar with any such differences.
- As a general principle, the permission granted to non-UAE nationals to reside in Abu Dhabi is dependent upon their being engaged in lawful employment in the UAE.
- Notwithstanding this, male non-UAE nationals who are lawfully employed in Abu Dhabi and earning in excess of AED6,000 per month may sponsor their wife and children (under 18 years of age) to reside in Abu Dhabi.
- Non-UAE nationals entering the UAE on visit visas are not legally entitled to work in Abu Dhabi or elsewhere UAE.
The following is based on current law and procedures. However, employment and immigration rules in the UAE are constantly evolving and often subject to change. As employers of expatriates, companies operating in the UAE are advised to fully understand their legal position on employment and immigration issues at all times.
1. The future employee will not be starting work in Abu Dhabi for another four months. Does he have to apply for a visa in order to visit Abu Dhabi to look for somewhere to live and a suitable school for his children?
British nationals will be granted a free of charge tourist visit visa on arrival in the UAE, which will be valid for a period of 30 days. The visa could be extended by a further 30 days, subject to payment of a fee. On expiry of the second 30 day period, the British national would be required to leave the country, unless he has obtained an employment visa. All visitors to the UAE must hold a passport which is valid for at least six months beyond the end of their intended stay.
2. If the employer wants the British national to perform any work during his visit, would this be permitted?
The UAE immigration laws provide that an expatriate who enters the country on a visitor’s visa shall not be permitted to work in the country.
However, in this case, the employer could apply for a multiple entry visa for the British national. Multiple entry visas are intended for expatriates who are travelling on business and have a relationship with a public or private sector company in the UAE, which will require them to make several visits to the UAE. The visa will be valid for a six month period, although each visit to the UAE during that period must not exceed 14 days.
3. The employer has confirmed that it will apply for the British national’s employment visa. What documentation will he need to provide to the employer in support of the application?
- Passport copy
- Passport photograph (colour on a white background)
- Applicable education certificate(s), which should be notarised (ie stamped by a Notary Public) and attested (i.e. endorsed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and UAE embassy) in the United Kingdom prior to arrival in the UAE.
4. The employee is required to undergo a medical test on arrival in Abu Dhabi. What will this involve?
The medical test will include a blood test for communicable diseases (for example, HIV and hepatitis) and a chest X-ray.
5. Is it necessary for the employer to apply for a labour card on behalf of the employee?
Every individual working in the private sector in the UAE must have a labour card. Before a labour card is issued both the employer and employee must sign the standard form Ministry of Labour employment contract which will be issued at an Abu Dhabi typing office and which shall be written in both Arabic and English.
6. Is the British national able to sponsor his wife and two young children in order that they can reside in Abu Dhabi? What will this involve?
The employee will be able to sponsor his wife and two young children and apply for Abu Dhabi residence permits for them, as long as:
(i) He is working in Abu Dhabi and has obtained his Abu Dhabi residence permit; and
(ii) He earns the minimum monthly salary prescribed by Ministry regulations (currently AED6,000).
Subject to fulfilment of the above criteria, the process will be as follows:
(i) Application for a residence visa (one-time entry permit), which allows the wife and children to enter the country. An application must be completed at an Abu Dhabi typing office and submitted to the family entry permit counter at the Department of Naturalisation and Residency, together with passport copies of family members, employee’s passport (original and copy), his labour contract (original and copy), two passport photographs for each family member and the relevant fee. A copy of the despatched visa must then be sent to the employee’s family in the UK and the original deposited at the visa counter at the airport at least two hours before their arrival. A visa registration fee will need to be paid at the airport. The family members will then exchange their copy of the visa for the original on arrival.
(ii) Application for a residence permit which must be made within 60 days of entry into the country of the British national’s family members. On arrival in the country, the wife must have a medical test at an assigned clinic. Once the medical test has been passed, a residence permit application form must be completed at a typing office and submitted to the Department of Naturalisation and Residency, together with passports of the family members (original and copy), two passport photographs for each family member, original residence visa (with entry stamp), employee’s passport (original and copy), his labour contract (original and copy), his notarised and attested marriage certificate (original and copy), notarised and attested birth certificates of his children (original and copy), his wife’s medical test results and the required fee.
7. What would happen if the wife secured employment in Abu Dhabi?
The British national’s wife would have the option to remain under the husband’s sponsorship or for her sponsorship to be transferred to her new employer.
8. For how long will the British national be able to reside in Abu Dhabi?
A residence permit will be valid for a maximum of three years, but may be renewed by the employer for successive three year periods if the employee is being retained. Once on a resident visa, the individual must not stay outside of the UAE for a period of longer than six months, otherwise the residency will lapse.
Author: Helen Woods
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