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Immigration & Work Permits

Work Permits

Foreign workers are required to have the proper visas and work permits in the UAE, as established by immigration laws. Work permits must be secured for employees, and sponsored by a locally licensed and incorporated entity, which can be a problem for companies just entering the UAE market. If you have yet to complete the incorporation process you can use an outsourced management company or GEO Employer of Record to sponsor the employee for the necessary permits.

Your Options

Have your own company

A properly registered company can sponsor work permits for foreign nationals in the United Arab Emirates. Once the company has gone through the necessary steps to register and incorporate in UAE then it can apply to be a sponsor.

It is possible for companies registered in the Free Zones and mainland to sponsor, but a mainland company must have a local sponsor holding 51% of the company. This can be done though an agent, however that will cost approximately AED 50,000.

If the company is registered in a Free Zone it has a quota restriction on visas based on the size of their office space in the relevant Free Zone. Generally a company is allowed to sponsor 1 foreign staff member for each 12.5 square metres of office space that is leased. Given the premium that companies pay to rent office space in the Free Zones this is a significant consideration. Annual rents in the Free Zone are approx AED 1600-2600 per square metre which is roughly double mainland rental prices.

To register for sponsorship involves the following additional steps after the company is incorporated:

  • Show an office rental agreement
  • Apply for a Trade License. Note that the activities granted in the Trade License will influence which job titles and experience levels the Ministry allows the company to sponsor.
  • Register with Ministry of Labor. Note the company may be required to arrange a bank guarantee prior to applying for an employment entry visa.
  • Register with the Department of Residency and Naturalisation
  • In the mainland this will take approximately 3 months and cost around AED 20,000 (plus AED 50,000 to the local sponsor). In a Free Zone it will take 3-6 months and cost around AED 15,000 (plus the premium on office rental).

At this point the company will be entitled to sponsor employees, but will still need to follow the sponsorship steps outlined below per employee. Note that all forms are required in Arabic so it is recommended to use a local immigration specialist.

The steps required are as follows:

  • The employee and employer supplies their documentation.
  • Company makes an application to the Department of Labor for ‘quota approval’.
  • Company applies for the Employment Entry visa.
  • Employment Entry visa is approved and supplied to employee.
  • Employee travels to UAE.
  • Employee has compulsory Medical & Biometrics Tests.
  • Test results come in 24 hours and the Work Visa is processed and stamped into the employees’ passport.
  • Employee is legally permitted to commence work in the UAE.
  • The Emirati ID card application is lodged and generally takes 2-4 weeks to be issued.

Documentation required (Employer):

  • Office rental Agreement
  • Copy of Business registration certificate
  • Trade License
  • Immigration card
  • Letter of guarantee
  • 3 copies signed employment contract in Arabic

Documentation required (Employee):

  • Authenticated (notarised) Educational and Professional Certificates
  • Scanned copy of the personal page of the employees passport
  • Passport photo.
  • Authenticated (notarised) birth and marriage certificates for any dependents

 

Use the Shield GEO solution

Shield GEO can process work permits in 2-4 weeks depending on the nationality of the employee.

Cost : USD 3,500 (approx AED 12,850)

The steps required are as follows:

  • Company engages with Shield GEO.
  • The employee supplies their documentation.
  • Shield GEO makes an application for ‘quota approval’.
  • Shield GEO applies for the Employment Entry visa.
  • Employment Entry visa is approved and employee travels to UAE.
  • The Entry visa is lodged at Dubai airport for the employee to pickup on arrival (72 hours notice required).
  • Shield GEO arranges compulsory Medical & Biometrics Tests.
  • Test results come in 24 hours and the Work Visa is processed and stamped into the employees’ passport.
  • Employee is legally permitted to commence work in the UAE.
  • The Emirati ID card application is then lodged and generally takes 2-4 weeks to be issued.

 

Documentation required (Employee):

  • Authenticated (notarised) Educational and Professional Certificates
  • Scanned copy of the personal page of the employees passport
  • Passport photo.
  • Authenticated (notarised) birth and marriage certificates for any dependents.

Types of visas in United Arab Emirates

Category Description of Visa
Employment Visa This is the Emirati equivalent to a work permit. It can be obtained prior, or after entry to the UAE. All employment visas are issued by the Ministry of Labor. The employment permit must be acccompanied by a residence permit, however the employee has 60 days to obtain their residence permit after entering UAE.
There are restrictions on people over 65 and for certain nationalities.
Business Visa / Multiple Entry Visit Visa The applicant will need to show a relationship with a reputable local company or demonstrate they are a frequent visitor to the UAE. The Visa costs AED 1000 and is valid for 6 months. Each stay is maximum 30 days in duration. The multiple entry visa is allocated in country after the applicant has entered on a normal visit visa.
Residence Permit A residence permit is issued in two forms, either with or without employment. Residence permits are valid for up to 3 years. They can be cancelled if the holder is absent for more than 6 months.
Entry Service Permit This visa can be sponsored by a UAE company and will allow the holder to enter the United Arab Emirates for up to 14 days. This visa is non-renewable and designed for urgent activities carried our by workers such as sales managers, auditors, managers, etc.
Tourist Visa (Visa on Arrival) If your country of nationality appears on the list below, no advance visa arrangements are required to visit the UAE as a tourist. Simply disembark your flight at Dubai International Airport and proceed to Immigration, where your passport will be stamped with a 30-day visit visa free of charge. This can be extended for an additional 30 days at an additional charge (approx AED 500 at last report).
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