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Immigration: UAE

Comprehensive immigration profile on the United Arab Emirates for those considering a relocation.

By Lorna Kralik
August 26, 2010
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Immigration in the UAEAs relocation experts, at Move One we understand how important it is to make the transition to your new home as seamless as possible. To that end, Move One profiles a country every month, providing an in-depth look at relocation, immigration, moving and pet transportation issues. This month’s spotlight focuses on the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The world is watching the UAE.  Within the last thirty years this relatively young federation has transformed itself from a regional economic player – one primarily dependent on oil markets – into an international center for tourism and commerce.  Although the global economic downturn, combined with intense speculative buying over the past decade, has left the future of Dubai’s construction industry in question, the UAE remains attractive to foreign investors. Today, close to 10,000 companies are located in Emirates free trade zones.  Planned airport expansions will make the UAE one of the most important transport hubs in the Middle East, allowing passengers and cargo to bypass European layovers on their way to Asia.

Move One is proud to offer immigration services both in and out of the free zones of Dubai.

Getting Started

In order to determine which immigration procedure and permits would best accommodate the transferee’s situation, the following information should be forwarded to a Move One immigration specialist:

  • Assignee’s citizenship
  • Job location of assignee in Dubai, including name of zone
  • Name of sending company
  • Name of receiving company
  • Exact job title of assignee and job description
  • Duration of the assignment, including arrival date and start date
  • Passport expiration date
  • Information regarding family members who will be joining transferee, their nationalities and ages
  • Contact details for assignee, sending company, receiving company and Public Relation Officer (or PRO, who is authorized to submit and collect all documents to/from immigration offices)

Business Travel

The term business visit, from an immigration perspective, defines a short trip that does not require a work permit or authorization from the destination country. As such, the business traveler is limited to well-defined activities. In the case of the UAE, business travelers may attend business meetings, trainings, seminars, conferences and discussions.

The citizens of 33 countries may obtain a short-term visit visa upon arrival in the UAE, which may be extended. Other nationalities, however, must obtain a visa prior to their arrival through their host company.  Host companies may apply for these visas via the free zone/immigration authority website.

Depending on the type of visa, a foreigner’s stay is limited as follows:

  • Business visa obtained upon arrival: valid for 30 days.  It is extendable for an additional 30 days.
  • Single entry, short-term visit visa: allows for a 30-day stay in the UAE. Foreigners must enter the country within 60 days of the date of visa issuance. The short-term visit visa is non-extendable.
  • Single entry, long-term visit visa: allows for a 90-day stay in the UAE.  Foreigners must enter the country within 60 days of the date of visa issuance. The long-term visit visa is non-extendable.
  • Multiple entry, visit visa: valid for a total of 6 months, for a 14-day stay after each entry. To obtain this visa, the business traveler should enter the country on a short-term visit visa sponsored by a host company, then apply for a multiple-entry visit visa. The multiple-entry visit visa is non-extendable.

Work permit

In order to carry out paid activities in Dubai, a labor card (work permit) is required. A labor card is valid for a predetermined period of time and allows the foreigner to hold a temporary job in Dubai. The process for obtaining work and residence authorization is variable, depending upon the company’s location.

Before arrival: the visa application (entry visa)

Transferees who intend to work in the UAE must secure an entry visa before travel. The host company sponsor has to apply for the visa on behalf of the employee. Companies in the UAE are either registered with the regulatory authority in any of several established free zones or with the Ministry of Labour (companies located outside of a free zone).

Visa related issues for free zone companies are exclusively handled by the government immigration authority in the respective zone where the company is registered. Immigration rules are generally uniform across zones, though it is not unusual to encounter slight inconsistencies.  Please consult with an immigration specialist regarding regulations for particular zones.

The process for obtaining an employment visa for those companies registered with the Ministry of Labour is slightly more complicated than for free zone cases. Applications for entry visas must be submitted for approval to the Ministry of Labour and the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs – Dubai – DNRD.

Entry visas are valid for 60 days from the date of issuance.

After arrival: obtaining a labor card (work permit) and residency permit

After the applicant’s visa has been approved, the following documents need to be acquired to legally work and reside in the UAE:

• Labor card (work permit)

• Residence visa (residence permit)

All procedures and applications have to be finished within the first 60 days of arrival.

Free Zones

There is no separate application for labor cards and residency permits in free zones. These permits are processed using the original entry visa application/online request. That said, additional documentation, such as the transferee’s passport, the original entry permit, and the original employment contract need to be submitted.

One of the most common scenarios entails a request for an Employment Visa Package (constituting an entry visa, the residency permit and the work permit in one package), where the assignee is sponsored by a company within a free zone.

Non-free zones

Employees whose host companies are registered with the Ministry of Labour (as opposed to free zone companies) must apply to both the Ministry of Labour and the DNRD in order to obtain their labor card and residency permit. The procedure is divided into two steps, as the permits are provided by distinct authorities.  Please contact Move One regarding your specific case.

Medical Check

Foreigners must take blood test and a chest x-ray in an approved hospital or clinic. In free zones, appointments are arranged through the zone authority. Outside of free zones, the assignee or agent should submit preliminary application either online or at a typing center.  Currently, testing positive for either HIV, hepatitis, tuberculosis or syphilis will result in automatic deportation.  The UAE’s Ministry of Health, however, recently announced that a positive test for either syphilis or hepatitis will no longer be a bar to obtaining a work permit.  The type of health screening required depends on the employee’s job category.  No date for the implementation of the new guidelines has been set.

Please contact an immigration specialist at Move One for more up-to-date information related to specific job categories.

Important to note

  • Productive work can be performed once the labor card is issued.
  • Urgent processing can be requested for an additional fee.
  • Degree certificates are required for almost all work permit applications. Educational certificates must be official.
  • Foreign nationals above the age of 18 must undergo a medical examination before a residence permit can be issued. A blood test and chest x-ray will be taken.
  • Foreign documents must be officially translated into Arabic or English.
  • Work permits are only granted to employees with a local employment contract.
  • Foreigners have to have a sponsor for the immigration process.  For the employee, the host company acts as sponsor.  For the employee’s dependants, it is the foreigner (spouse/parent with a valid labor card and residency permit) that acts as a sponsor.
  • If a wife would like to sponsor her husband, she will need to hold the position/job title of teacher, engineer or doctor. If she holds any other job title/position, her application to sponsor her husband will be subject to approval, with minimum salary of AED 10,000 per month.
  • The immigration process for dependents may only be initiated after the sponsor’s (spouse’s/parent’s) employment visa has been issued.
  • Marriage and birth certificates are required for family member applications.  These documents must be official.
  • Passports should be valid for at least six months beyond the entry visa start date.
  • In case of an overstay, a fine will be incurred. The amount of the fine depends on the length of the overstay.

Our articles are for informational purposes only. Should you have any further questions regarding immigration issues, please do not hesitate to contact your global Move One immigration specialist, or send an e-mail to immigration@moveoneinc.com.



Rest of the series:

Relocation: UAE
Pet Transportation: UAE
Moving: UAE

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