The number of expats around the globe has grown substantially, and the United Arab Emirates is no exception. Boasting more expats than nationals, the UAE has experienced (and continues to experience) a wave of expatriate immigration, steadily adding to the nation of just over 9 million.
Dubai, the country’s economic hub and largest city, is one of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates and is the most visited city in the country. It has a large expat community and thus has an immigration system to accommodate the rising number of foreigner workers coming in and out of the country on a daily basis. Each of these workers and visitors enters the UAE on a specific type of Dubai visa — each with a different application process.
Below we address the most common types of visas and their application processes, as well as what they mean for living, visiting, or working, or hiring in the UAE.
When to Get a UAE Work Permit?
In order to gain entry into Dubai, a valid passport and visa is required. Moreover, there are multiple types of visas. Each grants entry into the country, yet each befits a specific purpose. If the applicant is visiting Dubai either as a tourist or for another short stay, then there are two types of visas that they can obtain upon arrival: a 30-day visit visa that is free of charge and a 90-day multiple entry visa that is valid for six months from the date of issuance.
The type of visa that can be obtained is dependent on the applicant’s country of origin, rather than the selection of their choosing. Citizens of countries from one list, e.g. Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, will be given a 30-day visit visa, while nationals of countries from another list, particularly those in the European Union, will be granted the 90-day visa.
How to Get a UAE Work Permit
If the applicant is a resident of one of the six GCC countries, then they do not need a visa or a sponsor to visit the UAE. This does not, however, include foreigners accompanying a GCC national, or a GCC expatriate resident. If the applicant falls into one of these two categories, the UAE government offers application access on its site.
In the event an applicant is moving to Dubai for a new job, they will need a work permit. The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization (MOHRE) is responsible for issuing work permits to foreigners. The local sponsoring employer will need to apply for the work permit through the United Arab Emirates government website.
Once the sponsoring company applies for a work permit, it will be valid for two months from the date of issuance. Once the employee enters the UAE on the newly obtained work permit, the sponsoring company will have to arrange the necessary requirements to officiate the sponsorship of the employee. These include medical testing, obtaining a UAE employment visa, resident Identity Card, Labor Card, and stamping the work residency permit on the new employee’s passport within 60 days.
Stage One: Obtaining the UAE Employment Visa
1. Visa Quota Approval
The first step towards getting the Entry Visa (and work permit) is to get visa quota approval from the Ministry of Labour (MOL), and the employer will apply for this on behalf of the employee. If the visa is for application in any of the free zones, quota approval must be granted before the employee enters the UAE.
Free zone companies have a quota restriction on work visas, generally limited to one foreign worker for each 12.5 square meters of office space. In addition, for all companies with more than 100 employees a quota is imposed for some positions. If a quota is already reached, a quota upgrade can be applied for, but is not guaranteed.
2. Job Offer Contract and Signature
The next step is sending the job offer contract for the employee’s signature, and having them return it to the employer. It must be in both English and Arabic, as well as the employee’s native language (if that is different). This confirms that the employee is arriving for a valid work position, and the offer letter will be reviewed by the MOL.
3. Work Permit: Approval of Application
Before the Entry Visa is issued, the work permit application must be approved. During this approval process, the Ministry of Labour usually bases its decision on whether there are no unemployed UAE citizens who could perform the job, and that the sponsor is a registered UAE corporate entity. Otherwise, the approval should be granted.
4. Employment Entry Visa
Upon receipt of work permit approval, the Ministry issues an Employment Entry Visa also known as a pink visa) which allows applicants to legally enter the UAE. This permit is valid for 2 months from the date of issue and allows the holder to remain in the UAE for a period of 30 days, extendable twice while the formal work permit is being approved.
Stage Two: Obtaining the Work Permit and Residence Visa in UAE
5. Entry to UAE with new Entry Permit / Visa Change of Status
There are two options to enter the country and begin the work permit process. If the Entry Visa was ready prior to arrival, then the employee picks it up on arrival at the airport. If the employee was already in the UAE on another type of visa, they will have to apply for a visa ‘change of status’ after the entry visa is issued (or they can leave and re-enter the country with the Entry Visa).
Once the employee enters the country, they have sixty days in which to complete all the formalities required to get a work permit and residence visa. It is advisable to get these procedures done as soon as possible rather than waiting till the last moment.
6. Medical Screening
The UAE requires all foreigners to go through a medical screening before the work permit can be issued.
7. Emirates ID Application/Biometrics
The employee then needs to go to the Emirates ID service center after getting the relevant form typed up at any typing center. An original valid passport and employment entry permit are required to apply for an ID and have the biometrics done.
8. Medical Screening Result
The medical screening results have to be obtained and included in the application.
9. Labour Contract Signature
A signed labor contract must also be submitted as part of the work permit application. There is a new deadline for the contract, and it must be sent to the MOL within 14 days following the issuance of medical results. The labor contract can be uploaded to the MOL website.
10. Receipt of Labour Card/Work Permit & Contract with Start Date
Once the work permit is received, that is when payroll can officially start through the official UAE system.
11. Medical Health Insurance Card Application
Because health insurance is now mandatory in UAE, all employers must provide coverage for expat workers (or they have to buy it on their own). The work permit cannot be issued or renewed without a valid insurance card.
12. Residence Visa Stamping in Passport
All expat workers and their family members will need a residence visa to legally live in UAE. The visa is required to open bank accounts, register a car and open a PO Box.
13. Emirates ID Collection
In addition to the work permit, the employee will receive an Emirates ID card, which is useful for everyday identification purposes (rather than carrying a passport).
Get Help Obtaining Your UAE Work Permit
Applying for a visa or work permit in the UAE can come with its own set of challenges. Our global immigration solutions assist you through the application process, including vital document collection and dedicated live assistance. Reach out to Velocity Global today to learn more about how we can assist you with your global immigration needs.