Need to hire expats for your company? You must start with getting the right government approvals. With around 90% of the population being immigrants, the UAE is heavily reliant on a foreign workforce for an overwhelming majority of jobs—from semi-skilled work like construction labour, to highly skilled jobs in sectors like technology and healthcare.
This makes the UAE one of the most popular work destinations for expats resulting in strict entry regulations. When you hire an expat, it is the job of the employer to assist new hires and facilitate their entry into the UAE. Here is a brief guide on the legal requirements for hiring foreign workers. From obtaining work permits to arranging dependent visas, we enumerate the key steps to enable foreigners to live and work in the UAE.
1. Establishment Card
Hiring-related compliance starts much before you can actually select a candidate. Companies need to obtain an ‘establishment card’, also known as an ‘immigration card’, from the immigration department of the concerned emirate. The possession of this card is crucial to enable a business to obtain a resident visa for its employees.
A business will have to furnish various documents including business licence, memorandum of association (MOA), membership certificate from the relevant chamber of commerce and industry, names and passports of the partners, power of attorney etc. It is also necessary for the licence holder or one of the partners of the establishment be a citizen of the UAE.
The fee for the establishment card varies between AED 600 and AED 5,000 depending on the zone and comes with a validity of one to three years. The website of the UAE Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) contains detailed information on how businesses can obtain an establishment card.
2. Work Permit
Obtaining an establishment card is followed by arranging the necessary work permit on behalf of the employee. The employer should provide the employee with a work contract, on the basis which they can apply for a work permit and residence visa. The work permit allows the holder (in this case the employee) to enter the UAE for work and is valid for two months from the date of issue.
The work permit essentially indicates that the employee is sponsored and employed by the company. Where the expat is already employed in the UAE, the new employer must arrange to transfer the work permit. Failure to do so may result in non-compliance and penalties.
3. Work Visa
To facilitate the worker in getting a work visa, the employer should collect passport, photo, certificates and onboarding form and submit an application to the authorities. The issue of a work visa permit allows the employee to fly into the UAE and officially join their work.
Along with this, employees also need medical and police clearances from the UAE government. Where the employee has to access to vital installations—power grid networks, oil rigs etc.—as part of the job, they will need to apply for a security pass as well.
4. Dependent Visa
An expat can bring their spouse, children and parents on dependent visas, subject to certain rules. A male expat can sponsor resident visas for their family provided their minimum income is AED 4,000 or AED 3,000 plus accommodation. Female expats can sponsor their spouse and children provided their monthly salary is above AED 10,000. The rules may vary in different zones. A single mother can sponsor her child, subject to the production of a no-objection certificate from stakeholders and a financial deposit for each child.
Expats who wish to sponsor their parents must make a financial deposit along with proof that the sponsor is their sole support and there is no one else to take care of them.
Documents required for sponsoring family residence visas include passport, photos, employment contract, salary certificate, marriage certificate, birth certificate (children), and—for daughters above 18 years of age—a statement testifying she is still unmarried. Married daughters are not eligible for dependent visas in the UAE.
All expats including those arriving on dependent visas must clear a communicable disease test to gain entry into the UAE.
UAE organisations are heavily dependent on expats for day-to-day operations making it necessary for them to possess a thorough understanding of the rules and regulations. They should also arrange for the necessary resources including bolstering their HR departments to facilitate the seamless immigration of new hires. Ignorance of the rules or wilful non-compliance could result in steep fines and penalties. This article can help you gain a broad understanding of the steps to take while hiring expat workers so that you have some idea of the requirements. At the same time, it is important to remember that it is not a substitute for professional advice, so be sure to consult an immigration expert for help and guidance.
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