- Country Name: United Arab Emirites
- Capital: Abu Dhabi
- Population: 5,779,760 (2015 estimate)
- Language: Arabic, English
- Time Zone: GST (UTC +4)
- Dialing Code: +971
- Currency: UAE Dirham (AED)
This FAQ has been created as an introductory guide to immigration procedures for United Arab Emirates. Since rules and requirements in every country are constantly changing and each case must be assessed on its own merits, for in-depth and up-to-date advice, please contact us.
Please note, we can only advise on matters relating to immigration and are unable support you with employment in a new region. We do however have a network of trusted partners that can support your move, so please visit Our Partners page for further information.
The oil industry is a predominant revenue-generating sector. The UAE also has various other avenues including the finance, construction and manufacturing industries, that have contributed immensely to the growth of its GDP over the past few decades.
The construction sector in the UAE offers a number of job opportunities. With an abundance of building projects, the industry is in need of skilled architects and engineers from across the world. This sector therefore provides expats who possess the right skills and qualifications with vast job opportunities.
With many of the major firms like DHL, Ericsson, Microsoft and others shifting their operations to the Gulf, the private sector in the UAE has seen immense growth, which also attracts many expats to work in the UAE.
Foreign nationals required to work in the UAE must apply for an Employment Permit in order to obtain a residence visa and Emirates ID card. The immigration process is simpler and quicker if the UAE entity is located in one of the many Free Zones in Dubai.
Processes and requirements will vary slightly according to the nationality of the applicant, the country of application and personal circumstances of the assignee and any family dependants. We therefore recommend that you contact us for up-to-date information.
However, the general process involves the sponsoring employer first obtaining a quota for the relevant positions from the Ministry of Labour before the Employment Permit application is filed to the Ministry of Labour on behalf of the employee.
The assignee must then undergo a medical test (including HIV/AIDS) before obtaining a Labour card from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The assignee can then obtain a residence permit and ID card.
Requirements will vary slightly according to country of application, and nationality of the applicant and any dependants.
Applicants will be required to submit a variety of personal documents to support the application which include, but are not limited to:
Passport copy, degree certificate, valid health certificate, medical test results, job description, employment contract, marriage and birth certificates for any family dependants dependants; as well as a variety of corporate documents which may include: the approval letter received from the Ministry of Labour, a copy of the business’s trade licence, Freezone Establishment Card, Bank Guarantee (Freezone).
Takes typically 1 to 3 months until entry to United Arab Emirates, to obtain Ministry Approval and the employment visa and a further 1 month before the whole process is completed (to complete medical examination, Labour card etc.) It should be noted that all post-arrival processes must be completed within 60 days of arrival.
Processing times will vary according to type of work permit, country of application, and nationality of the applicant and any dependants. However, an indication of processing times is as follows:
1 to 3 months until entry to United Arab Emirates, and a further 1 month before the whole process is completed 1 to 3 months until entry to United Arab Emirates, and a further 1 month before the whole process is completed.
Employment visas entitle the holder to enter the UAE once for a total period of 60 days and are valid for a period of two months from the date of issue. The Residence Permit will enable the employee to remain in the UAE for a period of a maximum 3 years and can be renewed.
For certain nationalities, and depending on the status of the sponsoring entity in the UAE, it may be possible to convert in-country from a visitor visa to employment visa status. Otherwise, the applicant will need to exit the UAE and apply for an employment visa.
It should be noted that persons seeking to convert may not commence work until the final work permit is obtained.
The UAE does not offer expatriates permanent residency. Residence Permits can be renewed indefinitely until the applicant reaches retirement age, after which it cannot be further renewed.
There are one or two ways in which a foreign expatriate can become eligible for citizenship, but this is difficult and the laws are stringent. A foreign national married to an Emirati can obtain citizenship after ten years of marriage, but they will have to provide evidence that the marriage is genuine. Children born abroad to UAE nationals are automatically considered citizens; however, the UAE does not allow dual nationality.
Requirements and procedures are subject to change, so please consult with your Newland Chase Immigration Advisor for current and detailed information.
Employers should start the process as early as possible to avoid delays as the process is long winded, time consuming and complex.
It should be considered very early on, before job offers are made to assignees that the UAE entity will be issued with a quota by the Ministry of Labour which will limit the number of foreign nationals they may employ. The quotas are generally issued dependent on the size of the office space leased by the company.
The process of attesting educational certificates in support of Residence Permit applications should be commenced early, as depending on the country of issuance, this may take awhile.
For the assignee’s dependents that will be applying for residence visas in the UAE, the marriage (wife) and birth (children) certificates must also be legalised in the same procedure as the degree certificates. Therefore the partner must be legally married, to join the main applicant on a residence permit.
Any documents, certificates that are not in English will need to be translated by an official certified translator and legalised in that country where the translation took place.
If an employee is transferring from an existing employer in the UAE, either within the same Free-zone or from one Free-zone to another, the previous employer must issue a signed No Objection Certificate in order for the new visa application to be processed.
Applicants need to be aware that if they have Israeli stamps in their passports, they will not be issued with visas for the UAE.
Holders of (work authorised) residence visa should not spend more than six months outside the UAE; if he/she does, the visa becomes void and the employer may be liable for a financial penalty.