Immigration Categories

A brief description of corporate immigration categories by assignment type follows. The appropriate immigration category or status for your employees will depend on their specific details and on your company. The most common category for corporate transfers in our experience is the Employment Entry Visa with Work Card. For details on non-typical categories not listed below (investors, special programs), please contact your representative.

  • Employment Entry Visa with Work Card: – This type of Visa requires a local contract

Typical Process Overview

The following process overview is applicable to the Employment Entry Visa with Work Card application process. The approximate overall processing time from the time the first step is submitted to the time the employee is legal to work in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) varies greatly depending on the area in which the sponsoring company is located. Each of the seven (7) states, or Emirates, of the UAE has its own distinct immigration process. Immigration procedures are streamlined and expedited for companies located in certain Zones within each Emirate, as the UAE is keen to encourage foreign investment in these areas.

Note that lead time for document gathering at the start of the process should be factored in, as should processing time for completion of post arrival formalities. In the UAE, the document gathering stage of the process is particularly labor intensive, as the original university diploma plus police clearances must be obtained for the assignee, and then translated into Arabic or English and certified. Likewise, birth and marriage certificates must be obtained for accompanying dependents and must be translated into Arabic or English and certified. We can assist with this if required. See the “Application Materials” section below for further details. Average processing time for each individual step is noted below.

Step One: Entry Employment Permit (EEP)
Processing Time:
Depends on area of jurisdiction. Approximately seven (7) to ten (10) working days for most Free zones and ten (10) to fifteen (15) working days for others, but may be expedited.

The employment visa application should be submitted to the respective jurisdictional immigration authorities in the UAE. The approved hard copy of the visa (pink Visa) will be deposited at the airport; if an Electronic Visa is issued then a copy will be shared via email, in order for the assignee to allow him/her to enter the UAE with permission to work.

Step Two: Residence Permit (medical exam and Emirates ID application)
Processing Time: Depends on area of jurisdiction, approximately two (2) to three (3) working days.

As soon as the EEP is approved and the assignee has entered the UAE, he/she must undergo a medical exam and biometric scan as part of the application process for an Emirates Identification Case (EID).

Step Three: Issuance of Labor Card, Stamping of Residence Permit and Issuance of Emirates ID (EID) Card
Processing Time: Depends on area. Approximately seven (7) to ten (10) workings days for RP to be stamped on the passport and fifteen (15) to twenty (20) working days for issuance of Emirate ID Card, but may be expedited.

Once the medical has been carried out, a labor card/ Smartcard is applied for on behalf of the employee, and Residence Permits are applied for and stamped on the employee’s Passport. Also an Emirates ID Card will be issued.

NOTE: Issuance of Emirates ID takes approximately three (3) to four (4) weeks as it is a simultaneous internal process; however, the applicant can legally work and travel abroad.

Step Four: Dependant Entry Permit (DEP) for family

Processing Time: Depends on area of jurisdiction. Approximately seven (7) to ten (10) working days for most Free zones and ten (10) to fifteen (15) working days for others, but may be expedited.

Upon issuance of immigration documents for the principal the immigration process of the family can be started and an application for Dependant Entry Permit can be submitted while they are outside UAE.   Dependents can also apply for in-country Entry Dependant Permit application if their nationalities allow obtaining on-arrival visa or can obtain a Tourist Visa from home country and can do the in-country conversion in UAE.

Step Five: Residence Permit (medical exam and Emirates ID application)
Processing Time: Depends on area of jurisdiction, approximately two (2) to three (3) working days.

As soon as the DEP is approved and the dependent has entered the UAE, he/she must undergo a medical exam and biometric scan as part of the application process for an Emirates Identification Case (EID). All accompanying family members [except children under eighteen (18)] must undertake an immigration medical or Biometric scan [except children under fifteen (15)]. However, it is mandatory to apply for an Emirates ID irrespective of age.

Step Six: Stamping of Residence Permit and Issuance of Emirates ID (EID) Card
Processing Time: Depends on area. Approximately seven (7) to ten (10) workings days for RP to be stamped on the passport and fifteen (15) to twenty (20) working days for issuance of Emirate ID Card, but may be expedited.

Once the medical has been carried out, Residence Permits are applied for and stamped on the dependent’s Passport. Also an Emirates ID Card will be issued.

 

Typical Documents Obtained

Following the Employment Entry Visa with Labor Card application process described above will result in the obtaining the following immigration documents. Typical validity is noted next to each document name. For details on the renewal process, please see the next section, “Renewal.”

  • Entry Employment Visa: Typically issued for sixty (60) days. Residence Permit & Labor Card must be issued before its expiry and application for these must be submitted immediately after arrival in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) so  that they can travel out of UAE when required
  • Residence Permit (includes Medical Exam & Emirates ID (EID) application): Typically one (1) year, but may be issued for up to two (2) to three (3) years, depending on jurisdiction of filing.
  • Issuance of Labor Card and Stamping of Residence Permit: Typically one (1) year, but may be issued for up to two (2) to three (3) years, depending on jurisdiction of filing.

Renewal

Renewal is possible. Renewal processes take two (2) to three (3) weeks; please allow two (2) weeks of lead time for document gathering.

Deregistration

Upon cancellation of a valid visa, individuals are allowed up to thirty (30) calendar days from the date of the Residence Permit cancellation to change their status or leave the country. Failure to complete the change of status/exit within the thirty (30) day grace period will result in fines.

Dependents’ Residence Permit should be cancelled prior to cancelling the sponsor’s Residence Permit.

The deregistering individual should be physically present at the Government Service Office to sign the visa cancellation form and confirm that he/she has received all of his/her dues and this depends upon the jurisdiction filing at the authority.

The DIFC Employee card for the deregistering individual should be submitted along with the visa cancellation application.

If the Employee card is lost, the company should provide an official letter printed on the company letterhead stating that the Employee card is lost. This letter should be signed and stamped by an authorized signatory. In addition, a penalty fee should be paid for the lost Employee card, as per the latest Government Service Office price list.

Dependents

Dependent immigration status approval depends on the immigration status of the principal applicant. Where the principal applicant is in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with an Employment Entry Visa with Labor Card, the following rules apply for dependents:

  • Minimum age (spouses): Not Applicable
  • Maximum age (children): Eighteen (18) years
  • Unmarried partners: No
  • Same sex partners: No
  • Non-traditional dependents (e.g. parents): Parents are allowed to be sponsored by assignees with an undertaking letter attested by the respective country consulate stating the assignee will be responsible for both the parents. However, assignees cannot sponsor any other family members or relatives.
  • Work authorization granted? No
  • Note: Where the principal employee is female, obtaining approval for her husband to accompany her as a dependent may be challenging.

Application Materials

Application materials vary depending on the immigration category being applied for and on the specifics of the case. We will advise you in detail regarding your specific case; however, general application materials for the Employment Entry Visa with work card application are noted below.

  • A variety of personal and corporate documents will be needed to support the application with a clear color copies and originals
  • Personal documents include: original diploma (which must be translated into Arabic or English and certified). All documents must undergo further attestation once in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
  • Corporate documents include: company license, company stamp, bank guarantee, company immigration card.
  • Note that the above mentioned documents are examples of what will be required and that additional documentation will certainly be necessary.
  • We can advise you of the exact documents required based upon the specifics of your case.
  • All documentation must be submitted in Arabic or English and must be certified. We can assist with the certification requirements.

Business Visitors

  • Name of visa granted: Visit Visa. The sponsoring company in the UAE must arrange approval and issuance with the immigration authorities and deposit the Visa for the business visitor at the airport prior to his/her date of arrival. The visa is normally collected by the assignee on arrival at the airport.
  • Duration of stay: Short Term (30 days) or Long Term (90 days).
  • General activities permitted: Orientation, home-finding, and other preparation for employment.
  • Short term visit visas can be obtained on arrival at the airport for citizens of forty-seven (47) visa exempt countries. Contact your representative for further details).

Change of Status

For certain nationalities, and depending on the status of the sponsoring entity in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it is possible to convert from visitor visa to employment/Dependant visa status without leaving the UAE. Note that persons seeking to convert for work purpose may not commence work until the Residence permit is obtained.

Salary and Payroll

Salary and payroll requirements vary depending on the immigration category and on the specifics of the case. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), salary must correspond to a set market range which is standard based on cost of living, rather than to what a local resident would expect to receive, in practice, as the payment for local residents would be much higher than that is applicable to a foreigner. For assignees with dependents, a set minimum salary level is in place. Salary may be paid outside the UAE, but must be transferred via the UAE’s new salary transfer system, Wages Protection System (WPS). Additionally, a local contract and local payroll is required as part of the immigration application. Depending on the Zone in which the company is based, it may be possible to generate local contracts using the online tools provided by the authorities. Please contact your representative for more details for your specific situation.

Qualifications

Qualification requirements will vary from case to case and will depend on the immigration category under which the application is made. However, in general, the immigration authorities do expect to see an undergraduate level university degree. The minimum level of education required for both male and female applicants is based on the job in question. Please contact your representative for more details.

Red Flags

In our experience, the following points are important to note at the start of the process. If any of the below situations apply to you, contact your representative immediately for further detailed advice.

  • Absence of degree.
  • Insufficient compensation.
  • Timing and process varies depending on the Emirate and the Zone.
  • We cannot assist with complete filing of the application in all the Emirates, although we can provide advice. In Dubai, we can handle the complete process.
  • If the sponsoring company in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) employs a Public Relations Officer (PRO), then that PRO is obliged to submit all work permit applications. We will not be able to submit on behalf of the sponsoring company in such cases, although we can still, of course, assist in preparing the application.
  • Salary must be transferred via the UAE’s new salary transfer system, Wages Protection System (WPS).
  • Female assignees will be required to demonstrate exceptional skills and qualifications.
  • It may be challenging to obtain approval for female assignees to bring husbands and children as dependents.
  • Nationality affects processing time; applications for nationals of Eastern Europe or South East Asia typically take longer to process than applications for nationals of Western Europe or the United States.
  • The principal applicant’s birth certificate, attested by UAE Embassy in their home country and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in UAE, will be required for new, renewal or transfer of employment visa if the applicant is from a non-Arab country but holds a previous nationality or ancestral existence from any Arab countries.
  • Applicants with Israeli stamps in their passports may not be issued with visas for the UAE. Israeli nationals or anyone suspected of holding Israeli dual nationality will be refused entry.
  • The assignee and family must not leave the country until the final permits are issued, otherwise the medical certificates will become invalid.
  • Exit permits at the end of the assignment may be required depending on the individual situation.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

The government of the United Arab Emirates takes immigration non-compliance very seriously. Penalties for non-compliance may include fines, deportation, and imprisonment.

Employee Penalties:

Penalty fees will be determined by the authorities based on the nationality. The authorities can take custody of the passport of the employee until they leave the country and/or the employee can be taken into police custody.

Employer Penalties:

Non-compliance will call for penalty to the company. Penalties for the employer will be determined at the discretion of the Immigration authorities and would vary from AED 10,000 to AED 50,000 per employee.

For more details, please contact your representative.

Bilateral Agreements

  • Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Nationals from the other members of the GCC (currently, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia as well as the UAE) do not require work permits for the UAE.