UAE Announces Expat Visa Rule Changes

The laws and regulations governing expats’ work visa renewal in the UAE are to be changed in order to prevent foreign workers from changing jobs without a no-objections certificate (NOC).

At present, foreign workers in the United Arab Emirates are required to produce an NOC if they wish to move from one job to another within two years of the initial commencement of employment, after being dismissed from their position or because they have breeched the terms of their original employment contract. In the event that their previous employer refuses to issue the NOC, the foreign worker is not permitted to seek work elsewhere in the UAE for a period of at least six months.

In the past, many foreign workers who have not had the necessary NOC have relocated to Dubai, where expats who were employed within the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC) could be recruited by employers, even if they were not in possession of the NOC. However, in late May, the DIFC government announced that the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs in Dubai (DNRD) will not longer be granting work visas to expatriates who do not have the necessary NOC. In a press release they stated that they would no longer “process employment visa applications for individuals with a labor ban issued by the Ministry of Labor”.

Talking to Reuters, Stuart Walker of Afridi & Angell law office in Dubai, commented on the new measures: “The labour and immigration authorities have made a series of announcements regarding bans, so there is a clear policy decision to tighten up on this issue.”

When questioned regarding how far reaching the impact of the new regulations would have on foreign workers in the UAE, he revealed that the new laws would have the largest effect on blue collar workers: “In the eight years I’ve been in the UAE, dealing with employment law issues on a regular and routine basis, I am aware of only one white-collar individual who received an employment ban… This occurred because he parted on bad terms with his previous firm and they actively sought the ban. Most employers don’t go to those lengths”

Elsewhere, however, news has been released that indicates that other labor regulations are being introduced that will actually make it easier for expatriates to switch jobs. In an article published in Emirates 24/7 there were reports that workers in certain jobs roles could switch roles without a NOC if they had extensive levels of experience in their job role or operated in roles that had a potential to endanger life, such as doctors and architects. Previously very few expat workers who were in possession of advanced educational qualifications were permitted to change jobs without an NOE.

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