Everything you need to know about getting a work permit and work visa in UAE

If you are an expatriate and want to work in the UAE, then you cannot do so without a visa.

Team getthat
September 27, 2020

It starts with finding a job, which can be done through classified sites such as getthat.com

You can also check out this really helpful link: Career tips to find a job in the UAE

Now this works in three ways:

  1. You could be hired from overseas;
  2. You are in the UAE on a visit/tourist visa and find a job; or
  3. Already have a job but are moving to another company.

Don’t worry, it’s not complicated. It’s quite simple.

Let us help you better understand the process:

  • The process begins with what is called a ‘work permit’ from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE).
  • The company/organization that has hired you has to bring you in on this permit/employment entry first, following which they will convert it into a residency visa.
  • The work permit allows the holder to enter the UAE for employment, and it is valid for two months from the date of issue.
  • After the employee enters the UAE on the basis of the work permit, the sponsoring company arranges to complete the formalities of medical testing, obtaining UAE Resident Identity (Emirates ID) Card, Labour Card and stamping the UAE Residency Visa on his passport within a scope of 60 days.
  • The UAE Residency Visa on the employee’s passport denotes that he is sponsored by the company he is employed by.
  • All costs for the Work Permit, medical testing, Emirates ID and UAE Residency Visa are borne by the employer.
  • After the employee receives a visa, he/she can sponsor his/her family members and bring them into the country.

Important note

Signing job offers from abroad

  • If you are on a tourist/visit visa, then you can obtain a work permit by exiting the UAE, be it to a neighbouring or your home country. There are airlines offering this ‘visa run’ facility on the Dubai-Oman-Dubai leg, such as Air Arabia and Fly Dubai.
  • The other option for the company is that the status can be changed inside the country through a ‘Changed Status’ process by the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDFRA) of the emirate that the company is located in, which works in tandem with the federal authority MoHRE.
  • If you are hired from overseas, the MoHRE and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation have set up centres outside the UAE. At the centres, employees would be able to know their rights, duties and terms and conditions of employment and all privileges they are entitled to, in the language they understand. This mechanism ensures a transparent contractual relation between employers and employees and prevents any fraudulent attempt to replace job offers upon the arrival of the employee in the UAE.

What are the documents a company will need from you to apply for a work permit?

  1. A colour photograph with a white background.
  2. A copy of your passport, which has to be valid for a minimum of six months.
  3. If evidence of academic qualification is required (post-secondary diploma, university degree or equivalent), a copy authenticated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the home country is necessary.
  4. A letter of approval from the relevant authority is necessary in case of a physician, pharmacist, nurse, and teacher (your employer will guide you on it).
  5. You cannot be below the age of 18 years.
  6. Your qualifications have to be commensurate with the company’s activity.

And if everything is in order, ideally you are supposed to get a work permit issued within a week or so – all subject to your employer following due process.

There are no specific age limits per say – hiring depends on the job, and its skill requirements

We know you cannot get a work permit if you are below 18 years but is there a maximum age for expatriates to get a work permit?

  • The UAE’s Labour Law No. 8 of 1980, as amended does not specify a particular age to terminate employment contracts on the basis of age or seniority.
  • As per Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE), the fees for issuing an initial approval for a work permit for those who are 65 and above is AED 5,000 every two years.

Now you just joined a new job, but found a better one within six months, what happens then? Can you move?

Under Article 1 of Ministerial Decree No. 766 of 2015, an employee whose employment was terminated because of expiry of his contract, whether limited or non-limited can get a new work permit when he wishes to join a new employment.

An employee can also get a new work permit for all limited and unlimited contracts if:

  • It is determined whether the employer has failed to meet the legal and contractual obligations, including but not limited to failure to pay wages for more than 60 days.
  • MoHRE confirms that the employer has not provided work due to the firm being inactive for more than two months, and if the worker reports to the ministry during this period.
  • The final ruling in a labour case (which MoHRE refers to the Labour Court on the basis of a complaint) is in favour of the employee and wherein the case pertains to early termination or outstanding wages, which are less than two months of dues for end of service.

But, again other than just the two types of contracts, you also have the two categories of skilled and unskilled workers – information you need to know:

  • A new permit can be granted when both the worker and the employer mutually consent to terminating the contract during the term provided that the worker has completed at least six months’ employment.
  • The ministerial decree notes that a new permit can be issued to a worker whose employer terminated him unfairly, without the need to complete six months.

New permits for skilled workers

  • The requirement of six months’ employment is waived if workers qualify for the skill set series 1, 2 or 3 as classified by the ministerial decree, which denotes holding a university degree, post-secondary diploma or high school diploma respectively. This is applicable if the employee fulfills his contractual commitments.

Once the permit comes through, starts the process of applying for the work visa that will allow you to be a working resident in the UAE:

In general, expatriate employees are issued residency visa for one year or two years based on their labour contract. Also, you have an open and closed contract.

In case of an open contract, it gets renewed as many times as the company would like to keep you in their employ.

A closed contract has a fixed tenure.

The duration of residence visa depends on the type of sponsor and the person sponsored. It is issued for one, or two or three years. Visa is renewed subject to conditions similar to those of fresh visas.

A quick overview on the UAE work visa process.

Employment contracts in the private sector

Under the UAE Labour Law No. 8 of 1980, there are two types of employment contracts. The difference lies in the provisions for end of service gratuity and termination.

  1. Limited term contract or (fixed-term)
  2. Unlimited term contract.
  3. In 2018, the UAE implemented the part-time contract system by virtue of a ministerial resolution.

Limited term contract (fixed-term)

  • In general, limited term contracts mention the start and end dates of the employment period. Unless the contract is renewed, it is automatically cancelled when it expires.
  • These contracts are adopted wherein an employer needs to engage employees for specific projects or specific duration.
  • According to recent reforms in the UAE’s labour market, limited term contracts are for a maximum duration of two years. The contract must also include a notice for termination. Refer to Ministerial Resolution No. 765 of 2015 on the Termination of Employment Relations.

Unlimited term contracts

  • An unlimited term contract is open-ended, more flexible and commonly used in the UAE. It can be terminated with mutual consent or by giving a notice of one to three months. The parties involved must honour their obligations throughout the notice period.
  • Therefore, an employment contract is deemed to have ended without due process when either the employer or employee terminates the employment contract without complying with legally mandated procedures.
  • In this case, the wronged party may initiate legal action and compensation.

Multi-employer contract

In 2018, MoHRE implemented a new rule, which allows the companies to recruit skilled workers from inside the country or from abroad under multi-employer contract. These types of contracts are limited only to skilled workers, namely holders of university degrees or higher and those who have completed two or three years diploma in any technical or scientific field.

  • Under this new system, part-time contract employees can take several part-time jobs without the approval of the original or other secondary employers; however, they are obligated to take a permit from the MoHRE.
  • The part-time contract is subject to same rules and penalties applicable to the regular employment contracts common in UAE: limited or unlimited
  • Part-time contract may not be changed into a regular contract until the end of the part-time employment contract.

A very useful link: Multiple contract system

Responsibilities of the original/primary employer

Under the part-time contract, the original employer bears:

  1. The part-time contract fees as administered by MoHRE, according to UAE work permit fees linked to company classification system.
  2. The employee’s annual leave.
  3. The employee’s end of service benefits.
  4. Any other financial obligations in proportion to the number of actual working hours and the amount of the wage.

Additionally, the original/primary employer may not require the worker to work more than the hours agreed upon or prevent him from working in a similar facility under the non-competition clause or for disclosure of the secrets of the facility.

Medical fitness requirement

In order for the UAE to grant or renew a residence visa for all expatriates, males and females, have to undergo and pass medical fitness tests at government approved health centres in the UAE.

All applicants of a UAE Residency Visa, whether for first time or for renewal, will be tested for two communicable diseases:

  • HIV (by testing their blood) and;
  • Pulmonary tuberculosis (by taking an x-ray of their chest).

Those found to be HIV positive or having tuberculosis will be considered medically unfit and therefore will not be granted a residence visa. They will be deported immediately by the UAE’s authorities.

Residents who are detected with dormant or inactive pulmonary tuberculosis are also considered medically fit.

In this case, they are granted a one-year ‘Health Fitness Certificate for Residence’ subject to treatment and follow-up by the Department of Preventive Medicine or equivalent government health authority.

Hence, if you suspect to be suffering from a communicable disease it is advisable to get yourself tested in your home country first.

You need to know:

In order to be able to obtain a clear work/residence permit, expatriates need to be free of all forms of communicable diseases such as HIV and TB.

In order to be able to obtain a clear work/residence permit, expatriates need to be free of all forms of communicable diseases such as HIV and TB. Hence, if you suspect to be suffering from a communicable disease it is advisable to get yourself tested in your home country first.

In addition, the following categories of workers should test negative for syphilis and Hepatitis B:

  • Workers in nurseries
  • Domestic workers including housemaids, nannies and drivers
  • Food handlers and workers in restaurants and cafes
  • Workers in saloons and beauty centres
  • Workers in health clubs
  • Female domestic workers must test negative for pregnancy

Important note:

A new Cabinet Resolution was passed in 2016. As per this resolution, all resident expatriates while renewing their residence visas have to undergo TB screening, too.

Those found with scars or active TB or found having drug-resistant TB will be issued a conditional fitness certificate and be issued residence visa for one year. They will then have to undergo treatment in the UAE.

Where are government medical fitness centres located?

Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Shariah have several medical fitness centres. Check also medical examinations centres for residency offered by the Ministry of Health and Prevention – Preventive Medicine Department.

Medical examination for Residency

You can complete your medical examinations regarding the issuance of a residence visa at a medical examination centre near you.

Services offered at the centres

  • Printing of Residence visa forms.
  • Conducting of medical examination.
  • Issuance of Emirates ID (Preventive Medicine Departments only)
  • Documents Required
  • Valid passport copy
  • Valid Residence Permit/Visa copy.
  • Two passport size photographs with a white background.
  • Valid Emirates ID copy (only in case of renewal of residence visa).

Service Locations

Medical examination centres for UAE Residency Visa process in shopping malls

  • Ibn Battuta Mall Dubai – Jebel Ali, China Court, Besides DEWA Customer Happiness center, 04-8804762, MEC.IBN@moh.gov.ae, 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM, Sunday – Thursday, Saturday – 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Applications accepted only till one hour before closing
  • Dragon Mart 2 Dubai – International City, First floor, Near Novo Cinemas, 04-2326615, MEC.DG2@moh.gov.ae, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Sunday – Thursday, Applications accepted only till one hour before closing, Saturday – 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Applications accepted only till one hour before closing
  • Spring Souk Mall Dubai – Jebel Ali, Springs Shopping Center, 1st floor – near Reel cinema, 04-4274431, Spring.DXB@moh.gov.ae, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Saturday – Thursday
  • Salah Al Deen Street (19/b), Al Muraqqabat, Opposite to Al Reef Mall and Salah El Deen Metro Station, 04-4274431, MEC.SalahElDeen.DXB@moh.gov.ae, 7:30 AM- 7:30 PM, Sunday-Thursday
  • Al Khobaisi Dubai – Deira, Al Ittihad Street (22), Behind Hyundai Agency, 04-2355524, MEC.AlKhobaisi.DXB@moh.gov.ae, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Sunday – Thursday
  • Al Nahda Center Dubai-Deira, Al Nahda Area 1, Al Ittihad Street (4), Near Tadbeer Center, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Sunday-Thursday, 04-2638833, MEC.AlNahda.DXB@moh.gov.ae
  • Al Khibrah Center Sharjah-Industrial Area (10) near the industrial police station (10), 06-7489547, MEC.AlKhibrah.SHJ@moh.gov.ae, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Saturday – Thursday
  • Mushrif Health Centre Ajman, Al Ittihad Street near Emirates Telecommunication Corporation Company, 06-7455900, MEC.Mushairif.AJM@moh.gov.ae, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Sunday-Thursday
  • Sahara Center Sharjah – Al Nahda Area Sahara Center – basement, 06-5313666, MEC.Sahara.SHJ@moh.gov.ae, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Sunday – Thursday
  • Al Ibdaa Center Sharjah Industrial area 18 Al Maliha street Showroom 3, 4, 06-7429800, MEC.AlIbdaa.SHJ@moh.gov.ae, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Sunday-Thursday
  • Al Dahan center Ras al Khaimah, Sheikh Mohammed bin Salem Street near the red Twilight car upholstery shop, 07-2224900, MEC.Dahan.RAK@moh.gov.ae, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Sunday – Thursday
  • Service Charges: 48 hours (AED 110 including VAT)

The Ministry of Health and Prevention Preventive Medicine Departments

  • Preventive Medicine Center – Dubai (Al Baraha), 04-2731161, dxb.pmd@moh.gov.ae, Sunday to Thursday 7:30 AM to 2:30 PM
  • Preventive medicine Center – Al Ghubaiba, 06-5662111, shj.pmd@moh.gov.ae, Sunday to Thursday 7:30 AM to 9:00 PM
  • Examination Center of Expatriate Labour in the Industrial Area, 06-5421442, shj.pmd@moh.gov.ae Sunday to Thursday 7:30 AM to 3:30 PM
  • Preventive Medicine Center – Kalba, 09-2031256, kal.pmd@moh.gov.ae, Sunday to Wednesday 7:30 AM to 2:30 PM
  • Preventive Medicine Centre – Dibba Al Hisn, 09-2444455, shj.pmd@moh.gov.ae, Sunday to Thursday 7:30 AM – 2:30 PM
  • Preventive Medicine Center – Khorfakkan, 09-2384664, khor.pmd@moh.gov.ae, Sunday to Thursday 7:30 AM – 2:30 PM
  • Preventive medicine Center – Al Dhaid, 06-8822221, dhd.pmd@moh.gov.ae, Sunday to Thursday 7:30 AM – 3:00 PM
  • Preventive Medicine Center – Fujairah, 09-2227114, fuj.pmd@moh.gov.ae, Sunday to Thursday 7:30 AM – 3:00 PM
  • Preventive Medicine Centre – Ras Al Khaimah, 07-2223111, rak.pmd@moh.gov.ae
  • Preventive Medicine Center – Ajman, 06-7031700, ajm.pmd@moh.gov.ae, Sunday to Thursday 7:30 AM to 2:30 PM Sunday and Tuesday 5:00 PM to 10 PM
  • Preventive Medicine Center – Umm Al Quwain, 06-7649393, uaq.pmd@moh.gov.ae, Sunday to Thursday 7:30 AM to 2:30 PM Tuesday 7:30 AM to 2:30 PM 5:00PM to 10:00 PM Service Charges: 48hrs.
  • (Subject to 105 AED Service charge)

Medical Examination Packages

  1. All Categories (excluding vaccination and female household domestic service) – AED 260
  2. All Categories (including vaccination) – AED 310
  3. Female House Hold Domestic Service – AED 360

How to get an Emirates ID?

This is necessary to complete your visa application process. It is basically a digital national identification system that is required for most transactions in the UAE. It is linked to your passport and visa – it is part of a national centralized system.

But, fret not, because we have all the details in this useful link: Get your Emirates ID online

Once this done, you just have to wait till your employer completes the process, has the residence visa affixed on your original passport. This can take anywhere from five days to a month, depends on your employer.

Once you are done with your visa process, how can you get your family to the UAE?

Expatriate residents, can sponsor their families in the UAE provided they have a valid residency permit.

Male residents who are employed in the UAE can sponsor their immediate family members, such as wife and children, subject to conditions, which include minimum salary of AED 4,000 or AED 3,000 plus accommodation.

Since March 2019, the type of profession is no longer a condition for an expatriate worker to be able to sponsor his family visas.

Male residents who are employed in the UAE can sponsor their immediate family members, such as wife and children, subject to conditions, which include minimum salary of AED 4,000 or AED 3,000 plus accommodation. Now, an expatriate can bring over his family members to the UAE and sponsor their residence visas regardless of his profession, as long as he maintains the ‘income criteria’ or the minimum wage requirement, which is a minimum salary of AED 4,000 or AED 3,000 plus accommodation.

The UAE government amended its previous provision under which only listed professions could apply for family sponsorship visa.

Now, an expatriate can bring over his family members to the UAE and sponsor their residence visas regardless of his profession, as long as he maintains the ‘income criteria’ or the minimum wage requirement, which is a minimum salary of AED 4,000 or AED 3,000 plus accommodation. Check with the relevant GDRFA (based on the emirate your visa is from, here are some quick links for Dubai and Abu Dhabi) for more information.

Further, if the father of the family is residing in the UAE and meets the conditions for sponsoring his children, the mother is not allowed to sponsor them.

A resident sponsor has 60 days to apply for his dependents’ residence visa after they enter the UAE and modify their status from an entry permit holder to a resident visa holder.

Family members are issued visas for one or two years depending on the nature of the work and employment contract of the sponsoring member.

Sponsored residents except adult males who are continuing their education and sponsored parents can enjoy the same visa duration as their sponsors. For adult males and parents, the residence visa is granted on a yearly basis regardless of the sponsor’s visa duration.

Sponsoring your wife and children

An expatriate resident may sponsor the residence visa for his wife and children if he fulfils the sponsorship requirements set by the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA).

  • To sponsor his wife, the expatriate resident must prove an existing marital relationship by submitting an authenticated marriage certificate in Arabic or duly translated into Arabic by a certified translator.
  • In strict cases, a Muslim resident may be allowed to sponsor his two wives, if he meets certain terms and conditions set by the respective GDRFA.
  • An expatriate resident can sponsor his daughter/s only if she/they is/are unmarried, till the age of 18 years in case of a male child.
  • Starting from October 21, 2018, students who graduate from their universities or secondary schools or complete 18 years of age will be granted a one-year residence visa, renewable for another year from the graduation date or on completing 18 years.
  • For this type of visa, parents are not required to place bank deposits. The visa will cost AED100 for first time issuing and renewal.
  • To avail of this service, parents must present duly attested graduation certificates from universities or schools, whether inside the country or abroad.
  • Important note: An expatriate resident can also sponsor his stepchildren, subject to GDRFA’s conditions, which include a deposit for each child and a written no-objection certificate from the biological parent. Their residence visas are valid for one year; renewable annually.

Required documents to sponsor your wife and children include:

  1. Online application or through a registered typing office
  2. Passport copies of the wife and children
  3. Photos of the wife and children
  4. Medical clearance certificate for the wife and children above 18
  5. Copy of the husband’s employment contract or company contract
  6. Salary certificate from the employer stating the employee’s monthly salary
  7. Attested marriage certificate
  8. Registered tenancy contract
  9. Latest utility bill

How can you sponsor your parents?

  • An expatriate employee can sponsor his parents, which is for a year, by paying a deposit as a guarantee for each parent as stipulated by the respective immigration department. This is refundable.
  • An expatriate employee cannot sponsor only one of his parents. He needs to sponsor both parents together. He also needs to provide proof that he is their sole support and that there is no one to take care of them back home.
  • If one of the parents has passed away or if the parents are divorced, he has to show the related official documents as justification to sponsor only one of his parents
  • To sponsor parents, the employed expatriate resident must earn the minimum salary stipulated and obtain a medical insurance policy for parents with the minimum coverage stipulated for each, to be renewed each year. For example: GDFRA in Dubai stipulates a minimum salary of AED 20,000 or a monthly pay of AED 19,000 plus a two-bedroom accommodation to sponsor parents’ visa.

How can a woman sponsor her family?

Women can sponsor their families, too

  • In Abu Dhabi, a woman can sponsor her husband and children if she holds a residence permit stating that she is an engineer, teacher, doctor, nurse or any other profession related to the medical sector and if her monthly salary is not less than AED 10,000 or AED 8,000 plus accommodation. She needs to provide additional documents as stipulated by the respective authority.
  • In Dubai, if a woman is not employed in one of these categories, she may still get approval to sponsor her family if her monthly salary is more than AED 10,000 and with a special permission from the GDFRA.
  • A single mother can sponsor her child. The authorities might ask for documents similar to those required to sponsor stepchildren.

What happens to your family’s visa/s if you quit or lose your job?

  1. The family’s residence permits are linked to the residence permit of the sponsoring expatriate employee. If the sponsoring family member’s visa is cancelled, it requires cancellation of the visas of the dependents.
  2. Dependents are granted a 30-day grace period from the date of expiry or cancellation of their visa to obtain a new residence permit.
  3. If the employee fails to renew or cancel the visa of his dependents, the dependents would be deemed illegal residents and could be liable to pay a fine.

A great toll free number for MoHRE to have: 800-60

Information Courtesy: www.gulfnews.com, MoHRE and GDRFA

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