Work Permits for Dubai
Document required for Visa | Working Process | Regulation | Rules | Legislation
All non-UAE citizens working in Dubai require a residency visa, which allows them to obtain a work permit (labour card) issued by the Ministry of Labour.
Most expats arrive in Dubai , and don’t have to deal directly with the complicated process as employers usually take responsibility for the visa application process, and thus the work permit, while also acting as the sponsor for the visa. Employers also normally incur the costs of the application.
There are different types of work visas for the UAE, depending on the duration of the employment contract. In order to obtain a work permit for Dubai, expats need a residency visa, which allows them to remain in the emirate for up to two years. Before getting a residency permit, applicants have to pass a health check, which includes testing for HIV/AIDS.
All forms and documents for the work permit should be written and processed in Arabic. The employment contract should also be written in Arabic and three copies are needed: one for the employee, one for the employer and one for the Department of Labour.
The requirements for a labour card include:
- A residency visa
- Applicant must have a qualification that is needed in the country
- Valid passport with no less than six months validity
The following documents are required to secure a work permit in Dubai:
- Photograph of applicant
- Passport (with at least six months validity) and residency visa
- Valid health certificate
- Photocopy of sponsoring company’s tradelicence
- Three copies of employment contract with signatures of employee and employer
- Copies of professional qualifications
Working in Dubai
If possible, expats considering working in Dubai should secure a job before moving to the emirate. Though many foreign nationals have chosen to forego this advice and make a success of themselves regardless, it should be noted that it’s much more difficult to do so.
The employers are increasingly looking for those already settled in the region; thus, resident status can go a long way when it comes to securing lower and mid-level positions.
It is virtually impossible to begin a life in Dubai without a residence permit, which allows expats to obtain a work permit. A residence permit also needs to be presented when buying a mobile phone, opening a bank account, renting a property and linking into any other logistic required for a normal life in Dubai.
Expat jobs in the UAE are mostly in banking and finance, insurance, Sharia compliance, construction, retail and services, and the telecom sector. Those considering a move should be aware that career flexibility in Dubai is very limited.
Expats working in Dubai find that it’s not easy to move between companies. Many employment contracts contain clauses imposing a ban on employees working for another company within the same industry within a year of leaving, although there is some doubt as to whether such practices can be applied in the ‘Free Zones’, which are areas that have been established for specific sectors or industries such as Dubai Healthcare City, Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City.
Furthermore, expats must have their visa reprocessed if changing jobs, and the former employer must sign a formal document called a “No Objection Clause”.
While Dubai’s economy suffered at the hands of the recession, positive confidence is coming back to the market, and employers are looking to hire expats with experience. Those “Dubai survivors”, expats who managed to sit tight during the downturn, and even those who left the country and would entertain the idea of returning, are considered ideal candidates. In addition, those with good communication ability in Arabic and English, team spirit and flexibility, good leadership skills and trustworthiness will do well in the Dubai job market.
Expats considering working in Dubai should also be aware that the hiring process has become increasingly rigorous. Multiple interviews, deep reference checks and even psychometric tests are fast becoming the norm.
Historically, companies sourcing talent to work in Dubai were required to offer generous relocation packages as an incentive for workers to decamp to the desert. Now, with the exception of very senior level positions, those days are all but gone. No one, it seems, needs much incentive to make the move to Dubai and it is becoming increasingly unusual to find accommodation, furniture/shipping allowances, private schooling, family vehicles and other historically appealing expat perks.
What employees can expect is:
- Initial flight to Dubai and hotel accommodation on arrival (usually for a period of a week to a month)
- A return flight to home country once a year
- Standard healthcare insurance (Health Benefits Contribution), which covers the cost of a health card and makes a contribution toward general public healthcare
A word of warning: employees who resign or who are fired before completing a year’s service can be liable for the full repayment of the above.
What is my basic salary? Is it a minimum wage?
There is no provision for minimum wages in the UAE Federal Labour Law, nor has the Emirate of Dubai instituted any such law. Your basic salary is a negotiated rate stipulated in your labour contract. This amount is important because it is the basis of your end-of-service gratuity pay. When you receive salary increases, it is to your best interest to make sure you receive a formal notice of the increase, i.e. in writing, and that the Department of Labour is duly notified.
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Dubai offer similar wages for comparative positions, i.e., office secretaries for small businesses are normally granted a compensation package within an expected range. More established organizations, such as multinational corporations (MNCs) with offshore locations in Dubai negotiate salaries within their company’s pre-existing scales.
What makes up a basic salary/compensation package in Dubai and the UAE?
Here are items that the law mandates to be included in an employee’s compensation package include the following:
- Basic salary
- 30-day annual paid leave (21 for the first year)
- Government medical insurance (some companies provide private insurance coverage after probationary period).
- Recruitment and visa-processing fees and other associated costs. Some employers may attempt to have you agree to have these costs deducted from your pay so beware.Notehowever, that repatriation costs may be legally taken off of your final pay, especially if you abscond or fail to complete your contract term.
- Gratuity pay
- Return flight to your home country at the end of your contract.
What other benefits or perks may be negotiated?
- Relocation assistance
- Private medical insurance
- Annual return tickets
- Accommodation and transportation allowances
- Vehicle allowance
- Mobile phone allowance
- Furnishing (for accommodation) allowance
- Food allowance