UAE Work Permit and Visa Guide

Expanding your business into the United Arab Emirates 

Work permits and employment visas in the UAE can be a difficult process, so it is important you have all the right information before you get started.

In this guide we will cover everything you need to know about UAE Work Permits and Visas, including  information about Ministry of Labour Documentation, Work Permits, Work Visas and Workforce Management Partner in The UAE. 

If you would like to  download a PDF version of this guide, simply click the link below.

Download UAE Guide PDF

Introduction to The UAE

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The United Arab Emirates, often referred to as the UAE is the Middle East’s most attractive location for many businesses looking to set up operations in the region.

In less than 4 decades, it has transformed itself from a country strongly reliant on agriculture and fishing, into one of the most cosmopolitan countries in the Middle East with world leading infrastructure and business prospects.

The UAE consists of seven independent Emirates including 2 major business hubs, Abu Dhabi and Dubai which offer everything you could possibly need and lots of things you didn’t know you needed.

The Recruitment Landscape In the UAE

The UAE continues to be one of the most popular destinations for professionals across the world, which makes it a very competitive recruitment landscape. As a result, despite some recent initiatives, the majority of the UAE’s workforce is made up of expats from all over the globe.

This allows many companies to have higher expectations and a stricter criterion when hiring new employees. As a result, the recruitment process is typically longer, so it’s important to keep this in mind when setting out your hiring timeline.

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Ministry of Labour Documentation

As a business, before you can hire expats in the UAE you will need to obtain two legal documents an ‘establishment labour card’ and an ‘establishment immigration card’ from the Ministry of Labour. In these documents it sets out the legal obligations of businesses when employing international workers, including, but not limited to:

  • Working Hours
  • Government Health Cards
  • Work Contracts
  • Workmen’s Compensation
  • Annual Leave Entitlements
  • Sick Leave
  • End of Service Benefits

To apply for both these documents you will need a company trade licence and a company PO Box address. The applications must be submitted to the Ministry of Labour by the owner of the company, partner or PRO. The cards are often issued on the spot if approved. 

The UAE ministry of Human Resources have shared a really helpful article 'Opening an Establishment Card' which includes information about the application process, conditions, timing, payment and frequently asked questions. 

Work Permits in the UAE

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Once you have obtained your companies establishment labour card and establishment immigration card, you are now able to apply for work permits on behalf of your employees.

As the employer you are responsible for applying for work permits on behalf of your employees and responsible for all cost incurred during the application process. Once you have issued your employee with a contract, you will be able to apply for a residence visa and work permit.

Also, it is important to note if you are looking to employ someone that is already in the UAE with a work permit, it is essential that this handover is managed compliantly otherwise penalty charges may be applied.

Work Visa Process and Documents Required

There are a few steps to the process of obtaining a UAE visa. Here is a step by step guide of the process.

  1. Visa Quotas

In order to hire expats in the UAE you need to obtain visa quotas from the Ministry of Labour (MOL).  This will need to be done by you, the employer and the quota you get will vary depending on the size of your business. 

  1. Contract Signing

Once you have your visa quota, you should get the employment contracts out to your people for signing.  Once received you then submit the offer letter to MOL for review and approval.

  1. MOL approval

At this stage the MOL reviews the details of the position to decide if there are any unemployed UAE citizens that can take the position.  They also check that the company sponsoring the visa is a registered entity in the UAE.  Once these checks are done you will receive the MOL approval.  

  1. E-visa granted

Once MOL approval has been received your workers can then receive their E-visa.  This allows them to travel to the UAE and is valid for 2 months from the date of issue.  Once inside the UAE your workers can only remain for 30 days (can be extended).  During this time they will complete the following tasks to formalise the work visa which allows them to stay and work.

  1. Arrival in the UAE

Upon arriving in the UAE there are a number of formalities to be completed in order to convert your e-visa into a residence visa. These should be done as soon as possible once your worker arrives in the UAE.    

  • Medical Screening
  • Emirates ID application – submit documents including passport and entry permit in order to apply for an emirates ID
  • Signed Labour Contract – once medical results are received this must be submitted to MOL

Once these submissions have been made it will then take around 5 days for the work permit to be granted.  At this point your workers are ready to start.

Workers must also have a valid health insurance policy provided either by their employer or purchased by themselves.  Work permits will not be issued without an insurance card.

Once all of these items are in place the residence visa can then be stamped into the passport.  Once this has been completed the Emirates ID card can also be collected. 

For more information about the UAE visa process, check out our article How long does it take to get a UAE work visa and how to get a UAE work visa.

Dependant Visas In The AUE

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If your employees will be living in the UAE with their Spouse or Children, they will require dependant visas. Similar to the above they will need to be provided with the necessary compliance items such as medical insurance. However, if the employee is male, they will be able to sponsor their own family members provided they have a valid permit and meet a minimum salary of Dh.4000 or Dh.3000. For females, they are able to sponsor their husbands, however there are extra conditions.

Here is a great website for more information about how employees can apply for dependant visas, click here. 

Workforce Management Partner in The UAE

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The UAE Visa, Tax and Payroll process can often be complex for foreign businesses, so it is common for businesses to partner with companies like ourselves to manage the process on their behalf. Here at Leap29 we provide support with:

  • VISA and Work Permit application services
  • Medical Insurance Coverage
  • Contract Management Services
  • Payroll and Taxation Reporting Services

Simply drop us an email at [email protected] or call us on +44 (0) 1625 537 555 and one of our specialists UAE workforce management team will get in contact as soon as possible.

Download UAE PDF Guide