With a diverse economy, increasingly stable political system, low tax environment and a government open to foreign investment, a surge in foreign investment has been made in the United Arab Emirates over the last few years. Many businesses are choosing to expand to the UAE to take advantage of these opportunities, as well as the promise of accessible African and Asian markets. Businesses with global ambitions are turning to this promising market that offers a strong network of international tax treaties and positive cash flow.
As one of the World Bank’s 2019 global listings for its Ease of Doing Business, the UAE provides various options for immigrants to obtain their UAE working visa and residency status more easily. Here is everything you need to know about how to obtain your UAE work visa.
Obtaining a UAE Work Visa
During the last several years, the UAE government has taken steps to make their market more accessible to foreign investors. As a result, their UAE work visa requirements for expats are less intensive than for many neighboring countries.
You cannot legally work in the UAE while on a tourist visa. UAE companies typically complete all necessary visa requirements for expats and may also sponsor employees’ immediate family members. To obtain your UAE work visa, you must first obtain the following:
- Entry permit
- Emirate identification card
- Residence visa
The steps to secure these essential documents are described in greater detail below.
An entry visa is necessary for anyone planning to live or visit the UAE for more than one month. Emirati citizens, private-sector companies, companies in free zones, a UAE-based hotel, a UAE-based airline, or an expat resident with his or her own UAE residency permit can sponsor an entry visa.
The entry permit is valid for 14 to 90 days, depending on your reason for entering the UAE and your nationality. However, UAE law allows the entry visa to be extended up to two times for 30 days each.
Emirate Identification Card
Before you can apply for a residence visa, you must secure an Emirate identification card for your employees. You must provide the entry visa and the employee’s original passport and a copy at the Emirates Identity Authority Center. Once here, the employee will have his or her picture and fingerprints taken. You must also pay the applicable fee.
Once issued, the Emirate identification card contains important information about the employee, including his or her:
- Date of birth
This card is the official form of identification for the person’s stay while in the UAE.
UAE Residency Permit
Next, you will apply for a UAE residency permit. Temporary or permanent resident visas are available. A residence visa is necessary to work in the UAE as well as complete many other routine tasks, such as:
- Obtaining a driver’s license
- Registering an automobile
- Opening a bank account
- Applying for a mobile phone plan
Temporary residency permits are usually valid for one to three years, but you can renew them for longer. Once you have a residency visa, you can apply for a visa for your immediate family. You must apply for your residency visa during the duration of your entry permit.
Most companies handle the entire visa application process for their employees. You can also obtain a residency permit by purchasing real estate that is worth at least 1 million AED. This type of residency permit usually lasts for two years, but it does not authorize the right to work. Business owners can obtain residency in the UAE when they register their company in an emirate state or free zone. Doing so will also allow you to hire employees in the UAE.
To apply for your worker’s residency visa, you will need to submit the entry permit, the same information you did for the Emirate identification card, and the following:
- Completed application
- Emirate identification card
- Passport photos
- Copy of valid company card
- Valid commercial license of the company
The employee will also need to complete a medical check at a medical clinic or government hospital in the UAE. Medical checks or certificates from other countries are not accepted. The test checks for communicable diseases and requires blood tests and a chest x-ray. Once the employee passes the medical check, he or she will receive a health certificate to include with his or her application.
Applying for the UAE Work Visa
Now that you have the necessary forms, you can apply for the UAE working visa. You will submit the same information for the UAE work visa as you did for the residency visa. You will also need to submit proof of a work contract or job offer from a business in the UAE. All information must be translated in Arabic.
You must also pay the applicable fee. The amount of the fee depends on the category of the company and whether a worker is considered skilled or unskilled. Skilled workers are those who have a degree that is required by the profession. Fees for unskilled workers are typically higher than those for skilled workers.
There are four UAE categories for these purposes, which include:
- Level 1 – This category includes individuals with at least a bachelor’s degree, including professionals such as doctors, pharmacists, engineers, teachers, public relations officers, and computer operators.
- Level 2 – This category includes individuals with a diploma in their field and typically employed in mechanical or technical jobs.
- Level 3 – This category includes individuals with the equivalent of a high school education, including site supervisors, cashiers, storekeepers, and tourist guides.
If you are hiring an employee who is 65 or older, there is an additional fee of 5,000 AED.
It takes about ten days to process the UAE work visa.
There are a few other visas that the UAE offers that may allow you or your employees to immigrate to the UAE, including:
- Business visa – Business visas are available to skilled workers who will contribute to the economic development and growth of the UAE.
- Self-employment visa – Self-employment visas are available to self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and freelance workers who have a sponsor and can demonstrate they qualify for the area they plan to work in.
- Mission visa – A mission visa is a 90-day visa that is sponsored by a UAE company that allows expatriates to work in the UAE for a short time.
- Persons with specialized talents visa – Researchers in the fields of science and knowledge, including doctors, scientists, inventors, executives, and creative workers, may be able to obtain this type of visa, but the worker must have a valid employment contract in a specialized field and must meet additional criteria. If obtained, this visa is valid for ten years.
Once a worker obtains his or her UAE residence visa, he or she can sponsor family members who can move with the worker to the UAE. He or she must sponsor the entry visa of each family member. If approved, the family member’s visa is valid for the same duration as the worker’s resident visa.
There are different requirements for male or female expatriates to sponsor family members.
Male expatriates who are employed in the UAE can sponsor immediate family members, including their wife and children if they meet the following requirements:
- They receive a salary of at least that which is required
- They are in a profession that allows them to sponsor family members
- They provide a marriage certificate translated in Arabic
- Their sponsored daughter is unmarried, or their sponsored son is 18 or younger or up to the age of 21 if he is studying in the UAE or abroad
Female expatriates are subject to more regulations that vary by jurisdiction. Single mothers can sponsor their children. If the woman is married, she cannot sponsor her children if the father meets the necessary requirements.
Women may have to be employed in certain professions and/or have a certain salary to be able to sponsor family members.
To apply for a family visa in the UAE, applicants must provide the following:
- A completed online application
- Passport photos for each family member
- Copies of the passports for each family member
- Copy of the workers’ employment contract or job offer
- Salary certification
- Translated marriage certificate, if sponsoring a spouse
- Health certification for each family member
- Registered tenancy contract
- Most recent utility bill
The worker must also pay a fee for each family visa application.
We Are Here to Help
Horizons is here to assist you with every aspect of your expansion to the UAE, including helping you to set up your company in the UAE, recruiting qualified staff, and assisting you with obtaining UAE work visas for your employees. We also provide PEO and payroll solutions in the UAE that allow you to test the market and expand without committing to the time-consuming process of registering a foreign business.
Learn more about our business solutions in the UAE. Our knowledgeable staff is available to answer any questions you have and to set up a consultation. Contact us to schedule your confidential consultation.