The Ultimate BAN Guide
Due to the number of queries/ enquiries that “the Forum” receives regarding bans and banning I thought it may be worthwhile combining all the information into one single reference document. I have drawn on several sources for the information, and have listed these as separate references at the bottom of the posting. As with most things if you feel the information here is not accurate you are free to check for yourself. If you have any comments let me have them and I’ll make changes accordingly.
As with most things relating to the “Labour Law” there are grey areas, where these exist I have indicated them and given the consensus view.
Background and Definitions:
Bans are imposed on expatriate employees when they want to move from one employer to another within the UAE. Bans do not affect UAE Nationals or expatriates moving to a government position; a 1 year (not 6 month) ban is however enforced on expatriates leaving government positions. The ban also excludes employees of oil companies.
Definition: A “ban” can be defined in the context of UAE Labour/ Residency as a temporary or permanent restriction placed on either working or residing under sponsorship in the UAE (or any of the Emirates).
Definition: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) the UAE is a federation of states (Emirates) bound and governed by a number of Federal Laws. Each Emirate is free to make minor changes to the Federal Law in order to govern in accordance with the needs and requirements of that particular Emirate. In the absence of a local guideline Federal Law takes precedence.
Definition: Free Trade Zone (Free Zone or FZ). Federal Law only applies to regions of the UAE, in the context of this document it does not apply to Free Trade Zones that are geographically situated within the UAE as they are not by definition legally part of the UAE and are responsible for their own administrative procedures. In the context of the Labour Law, the Free Zones have drafted their own “Law” or produces of governance that are very loosely based on the UAE Federal Labour Laws; more on this further on.
Pretty much a rhetorical question; historically bans have been used in most of the Gulf Region as a way of stifling competition. You don’t want (expatriate) employees moving to your competitors and taking valuable information with you, so you have a legal mechanism in place that firstly deters employees from job-hopping and secondly removes them “from play” for a defined period if they do decide to move. There is another view that the ban is a way of recruiting fresh talent to the country.
History: A few years ago (up till August 2005) there were two separate bans imposed on expatriates leaving their employer, one by the Department of Naturalisation and Immigration and one by the Department of Labour; both were for periods of 6 months and ran concurrently (more or less as they are based on the date of cancellation of either the labour card or residency visa). There were also a number of legitimate ways to circumvent these bans, most were by paying a “fine” to the government to remove or lift the ban.
Current situation: The 6 month residency ban has fallen away, thereby allowing employees return to the country immediately on a visit visa. Employees still have to leave the country within 30 days of their residency being cancelled by their previous employer or else face fines.
The residency issue does not affect people who own their own properties in the UAE and are sponsored for residency by the property developer.
There is a 6 month (180 day) mandatory labour ban placed on employees when leaving their jobs. This is measured from the date that the employee’s labour card is cancelled at the Department of Labour. This is an administrative ban, meaning that a block is inserted into their computer system preventing an application for labour approval being processed against your name/ passport number. Currently bans cannot be lifted by paying a fine.
As mentioned above the ban is mandatory under law, this means it is implemented automatically unless the Department of Labour is instructed otherwise.
For most people the ban becomes an issue when they are looking to move to a new employer, for obvious reasons most employers will not be prepared to wait for 6 months while your ban period runs its course. If your labour card is cancelled you are banned, the only way to circumvent this is by transferring sponsorship (to a new employer).
You will be banned if:
* You are employed on a “fixed term” or “limited” contract and break it prematurely
* If you employed on an “unlimited” contract and leave it without providing 30 days notice
* You are dismissed from your employer under any term of Article 120 of the UAE Labour Law (normally serious offences which can carry prison time as well)
* You leave your employer without having completed a minimum of 1 years service
* You do not have a No Objection Certificate from your old employer
* You have a “restraint” clause specifically included in your official contract stating that you may not work for a competitor for a reasonable period of time. It is not a standard inclusion in a labour contract!
* You do not have a valid residence stamp in your passport
* If you work for another employer at the same time as working for your legal sponsor
* You are not in possession of a valid labour card
* You cancel your labour card
* Any or a combination of the above
You can avoid being banned and transfer to a new sponsor if:
* You obtain a No Objection Certificate from your current employer
* You transfer to the same labour position (as you are currently registered) with the new employer
* You have a valid Residency stamp in your passport
* You have a valid Labour card
* You have worked out at least a minimum of 1 year of your contract
* You are employed under an “unlimited” contract
* All the above conditions must be met!
* Where you are transferring from one branch of a company to another branch of the same company, or branch owned by the same employer/ sponsor
* Where transfer of employment was affected through transfer of ownership of the company
* Where the registered company is financially liquidated or declared bankrupt by court order
* Where the sponsor of the company dies and his heirs don’t want to continue running the business
* If you are employed on an Unlimited contract (normal duration is 3 years), and work out the full duration of the contract as stipulated in the contract document. One month prior to the contract’s expiry you may notify your employer of your intention not to re-new your contract. If the full period of the contract is worked out you are not subject to the Ban.
* As above. UAE nationals, transfers to government departments and oil company employees
As mentioned above FZ’s play according to a different set of rules. The major difference is that the Free Zone authority acts as the Labour Sponsor for the employee and not the employing company.
The employer only provides sponsorship for residency; the FZ’s and the UAE government have an arrangement whereby labour can work in a FZ, but be accommodated in the UAE (like a migrant labourer).
This creates the following situation, if you are employed in a FZ and want to move to a new job within the same FZ, you are in actual fact transferring between the same labour sponsors (the FZ Authority) – and as per the Labour regulation transfers between the same labour sponsor are not subject to a ban.
You will note, that above I said “same” Free Zone. FZ’s are administered independently and have different regulations governing them, as such they have different regulations and policies relating to sponsorship of people coming into the FZ and people leaving the FZ (remember that leaving the FZ could then require a NOC). When leaving, apply for work in a FZ or even transferring between FZ’s its best to always confer with the FZ Authority concerned.
* A No Objection Certificate (NOC) is simply a letter from the sponsor of your company instructing the Labour Department not to ban you, and permitting you to transfer from his sponsorship to that of another party (which must be named). It must be in Arabic (to be legal) and be signed and sealed by the legal sponsor of the business. It is presented to the Labour Department by the company PRO at the time of transfer of labour sponsorship; it cannot be taken in after the card has been cancelled. If you have worked out the full period of your contract with your current employer you don't require a NOC in order to transfer to a new contract.
* In a lot of instances the crux (of a transfer) is the NOC; obviously if you leave an employer on bad terms or your leaving results in “ill feelings” you can forget about getting an NOC from him. Word of advice, if you want an NOC smile, grin, nod your head a lot, grovel if need be – because without it you are facing a 6 month, unpaid holiday.
* You are employed on a “fixed term” or “limited” contract and break it prematurely you will not only incur the ban, but are also liable to pay your employer the equivalent of 6 weeks salary as compensation.
* Circumventing the ban once does not mean that you can become a habitual “job-hopper” under normal circumstances you will only be allowed to transfer sponsorship once or possibly twice (without a ban) during your residency in the UAE. The higher your qualifications the more indispensable you are.
* When transferring sponsorship your new employer takes over the responsibilities of your previous sponsor (salary, contract obligations and repatriation).
* On transfer of the labour card your “dues” or gratuity (if you are entitled to one) is paid out to you by your old employer; you start with your new employer having “a clean slate” meaning that you will have to undergo a probation period, your leave dues and leave are not accumulated from the previous employer and neither is your gratuity payment.
* Regarding transfers and Probation periods, remember you are starting with a clean slate – your previous work or “in country” experience doesn’t count for anything; you can theoretically transfer to a new employer and have your employment terminated during your probation period - you could loose everything! And to top it off you can then also be banned without any recourse!
* On transfer of your labour card your attested qualifications will again be required by the Department of Labour.
* On transfer of your labour card you are again required to undergo your medical examination.
* On transfer of your labour card your new employer is responsible for all visa, labour and medical charges (not you) as per the UAE Labour Law.
* In some cases you may fee that being banned is unreasonable/ unfair or that there are extenuating circumstances which caused you to want to move employers; in instances such as these the only option is to visit the Labour Department, speak with one of the advisors and state your case. Be logical, methodical and offer evidence, if they feel sympathetic to your case they can issue an instruction to lift the ban; this can only be done though at a senior level so your case needs to carry merit.
Permanent immigration bans are imposed on persons who are deported from the country, normally for immigration violations or convicted criminal activities. These persons may never again set foot in the UAE (let alone work) and can be arrested if they try to. If you were to fall into this category you probably wouldn’t want to return in any case.
References (amongst others):
http://www.ammas.com/uploadedfiles/1475 ... down_2.pdf
http://www.gulfnews.com/uaessentials/as ... index.html
http://uaeinteract.com/docs/Expatriates ... /17474.htm
Dubai Media City – one of the forum members has kindly shared the following information. As long as an Application File is opened with DMC prior to your Labour card being cancelled and you have a NOC from your current employer you can transfer across without the ban being effected. This also assumes that the minimum of 1 year has been worked out.
Note: Each Freezone is different, the above conditions may not apply to all FZ’s!