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Step-By-Step Guide to Getting a Work Permit in the UAE

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Being a country that boasts a significantly large expatriate population, the UAE has clear guidelines regarding the entry of foreign workers. Many of these formalities must be fulfilled by the employer prior to the arrival of the employee in the UAE, while others can be completed in due course of time.

Below we lay down some important facets regarding the entry of foreign workers into the UAE. Expats looking for employment opportunities may refer to the list below to understand more about the emigration protocol.

1. Visa Approval

 The process typically starts with the employer applying to the Ministry of Labour for an entry visa and work permit for the expatriate worker. This process takes about three days. If the visa is for any of the free zones in the UAE, it is mandatory for the employer to secure it before the employee arrives for work.

2. Job Contract and Signature

 Next, the employer must send the offer contract to the employee for their signature and submit the signed contract with the Ministry of Labour. This contract is written in English and Arabic, and a third language, if the expatriate is from a non-English, non-Arabic native country. This process can be completed digitally and is usually two days long.

3. Work Permit Approval

This is a key phase where the Ministry of Labour verifies whether there are any unemployed UAE nationals who could perform the job for which the permit is being sought. The government also checks whether the company which is sponsoring the expat is legally registered in the UAE. Only when these criteria are met, does the ministry grant its approval for the work permit. It takes anything between three and five days to secure a work permit approval.

4. Employment Entry Visa

The Ministry of Labour issues an employment entry visa within three days of the approval of the work permit. This visa legally allows the expatriate employee to enter the UAE for work. It is valid for two months from the date of issue and allows the expatriate employee to remain in the UAE for 30 days while the formal work permit is being approved.

Where the employee is flying in from abroad, they can pick up the visa from the airport. If the employee is already in the UAE on some other visa, then they must apply for a visa change status. Typically, an expatriate employee has 60 days in which to complete all formalities to acquire a work permit and a residence visa to legally start working in the UAE.

5. Other Formalities

 Besides these, expatriate employees also need to get themselves medically screened, apply for an Emirates ID, get their biometrics done, and attach the results of the medical test along with a signed copy of the employment contract to the Ministry of Labour for obtaining the work permit.

The biometrics procedure requires the employee to apply to the Emirates ID Service Centre along with their passport and entry visa. It is also important to note that the signed employment contract has to be submitted to the Ministry of Labour or uploaded on the ministry’s website within 14 days of the results of the medical tests.

6. Health Insurance and Work Permit

In addition, the expatriate employee also needs to be covered for health insurance. This is mandatory under UAE law. In the absence of a valid health insurance, the Ministry of Labour will refuse to issue a work permit. The ministry takes about five days (after the signed contract is submitted along with the other documents) to issue a work permit. After this, the expatriate employee can legally be employed and enrolled in the UAE payroll system.

Besides these, the expat also needs a residence visa stamped on their passport. This legally allows them to stay in the UAE and complete other formalities, such as opening a bank account, vehicle registration etc. This takes about three days. Following this, the expat can collect their Emirates ID card. This is issued 10 days after their passport is stamped with a residence visa.

Seamless Integration of Expats

The UAE has one of the most efficient processes in place to facilitate the seamless integration of expatriate workers. The Ministry of Labour has put in place a detailed explanation that expatriates can refer to before seeking employment opportunities in the UAE. But given the regulatory compliances involved, it is always advisable for expats to seek adequate guidance from their employer for fulfilling these formalities before beginning work in the UAE.

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