The normal process of securing a job involves:
* Interview (possible follow up interview)
* Employers: Offer of Employment
* Employee: Acceptance of Offer of Employment
* Employee: Provides employer with passport copy, photographs and attested documents
* Employer: Seeks Labour approval for position
* Employer: Applies to Department of Naturalisation for Residency of employee
* Employer: Completes Official Labour Contract
* Employee and Sponsor of Employer: Sign the Official Contract
* Employer: Submits Official Labour Contract to Labour Department
* Employee: Undergoes Medical Examination (HIV/TB/ Communicable diseases)
* Employer: Submits results of Medical to Labour Department
* Labour Department issues Labour card in the name of the employee
* Employee: Submits original passport to employer for residency processing
* Naturalisation Department: Stamps Residency Visa in employee’s passport
Process can take anywhere between 1 week and 6 weeks depending on the HR officer of the company and time of the year (Ramadan and Eid Holidays etc.)!
Working on Visit Visa's
I can’t stress this enough, it is illegal to work on a visit visa irrespective what any employer may tell you. Simply look at the Expat Help Forum and you will have a good idea about what I mean, a large percentage of the queries/complaints and problems relate to people working on visit visa’s.
If you work on a visit visa you basically give up any chance that you may have or using the Labour Courts or Labour Department as an arbitrator should you have a dispute with your employer.
You stand a very good chance of being caught, fined, deported and black-listed from ever returning to work in the UAE.
If you enter the UAE on a visit visa looking for work; once you have a firm Offer of Employment from your employer then keep at them to process your Residency visa as soon as possible. You can tell them that you need a valid residency visa to open a bank account, rent a car, rent an apartment, purchase a mobile phone etc.
There is a mandatory probation period included in all labour contracts of 3 months (and not more than 6 months), this is standard; either party can terminate services within the period without notice. Remember though, if you terminate your contract in this period you will most likely incur a 6 month labour ban!
Residency and work permits are issued up until the age of 60 years. Thereafter any extensions can only be authorised by the Minister of Labour, and this would only be in exceptional cases.
Freehold property owners are technically sponsored for residency for the duration of their lease (99 years), however this does not entitle them to work or even guarantee them a work permit/ labour card even if they are under the 60 year age limit!
The minimum working age is 18 years of age, there are exceptions to this, but only applicable to apprenticeships or vocational training positions.
While this issue can sometimes be quiet complicated and take up a separate posting the bare basics are as follows:
Residency is temporary only and normally for a period of 3 years after which it must be renewed.
In order to live and work in the UAE you have to be sponsored by a UAE national, this can take the form of a private sponsorship (such as the case with domestic servants/ drivers etc.), although it is normally accomplished by virtue of the fact that the UAE national is the owner or majority shareholder of the company which employs you.
There is also secondary sponsorship; this occurs where the sponsored person (employee) sponsors someone else to reside with him in the UAE, the normal situations where this occurs are: a husband sponsoring a wife and children or sponsoring a domestic servant. You may notice I said “he” as it is not the norm for a woman to sponsor a husband and children in the UAE; this can only occur in certain circumstances and prior approval from both the Labour Department and the Department of Immigration and Naturalisation are required – this normally occurs only where the wife is deemed to have a profession of strategic or economic importance (medical staff, teachers etc.). A woman may however sponsor her children if she is divorced or widowed.
There are criteria which need to be met before you can sponsor a dependant, this is normally based on your earnings/ salary (the amount is changed form time to time, at present it is a minimum basic salary of 3,000AED pm and 1,000AED pm accommodation allowance from the employer, or a minimum of 4,000AED pm). In other words, if you were to earn a very basic salary you would not be able to sponsor a dependant. You have to have written permission from your sponsor in order to sponsor a dependant. As the secondary sponsor you are responsible for the processing fees (Medical tests and Residency processing fees), not your employer! As the sponsor of your family you are responsible for their behaviour, debt and support while they reside with you in the country!
You cannot sponsor your boyfriend/ girlfriend/ fiancé/ common-law spouse/ partner or extended family members. You can only sponsor a spouse to whom you are legally married (being a Muslim country this does not include same-s.e.x marriages), and a certified copy of the marriage certificate must be entered with the sponsorship application, this applies to men sponsoring wives, or in exceptional cases (as above), wives sponsoring husbands.
Children are defined as children (male and female) under the age of 21 years and un-married daughters over the age of 21. Daughters, once married have to fall under the sponsorship of their husband (if they are still resident in the UAE). Expatriate male children over the age of 21 must either leave the country (as they can no longer be sponsored by their father) or apply for a Student Visa at a registered educational institution.
As an expatriate you can never become a UAE citizen or naturalised; you have to either have been born to parents who are UAE citizens or a father who is a UAE citizen to be able to claim citizenship.
Expatriate children born in the UAE must take on the citizenship of their parents, an application then needs to be made for temporary residency status (to remain in the UAE) under the sponsorship of the secondary sponsor made within 3 months of the birth. See this thread for further information: http://www.dubaiforums.com/viewtopic.php?t=10560
Property owners (freehold) are generally sponsored for residency by the property development company for the duration of the lease period (normally 99 years). Please check this with the company before buying a property, recently it has been found that there are numerous developers who do not have the authority (granted by government) to provide sponsorship to owners.
Temporary residency status does not automatically grant you the right to work or seek employment, although one normally follows the other. Example: a spouse, sponsored child of working age (over 18 ), or freehold property owner cannot simply start working, or work from home to earn extra income; she/ he would have to follow the normal procedure and find an employer who would provide her/ him with a labour card.
Student work/ Holiday jobs/ In-service training
The UAE and Dubai Labour Law do not recognise short-term holiday or vacation jobs. Any company advertising positions in the UAE for students is more than likely going to try and get you to work on a Visit Visa! The law does cover “apprentice” contracts; however I feel this is probably to cover the use of children (under 18 ) as camel jockeys rather than offering trade apprenticeship.
Working for the Government or a quasigovernment institution.
If you have been offered a position with any of the following institutions you are not subject to the normal conditions of the UAE Labour Law (1980): Government, Government Hospitals, Police, Military or Municipality (including Civil Defence). It should also be noted that if you are moving from private employment to a government position there is no labour ban on the move; however if you move from a government position there is a mandatory 1 year ban on your re-employment.
What next? So you have a job, now what?
There are numerous banks represented in the UAE, both local and international; each offer different packages to new account holders.
One thing to consider is that many companies pay their employees by electronic funds transfer, if you happen to bank at the same bank as your employer you will most likely not have to pay any transfer fees on your salary; if not, you are liable to pay the fees to have your salary transferred from one bank to the other. The other issue is that inter-bank transfers can take a day or two to happen, this means that your salary will only arrive in your account a day or two after it has been paid by your employer (bear this in mind if you have standing orders).
The UAE Dirham, is currently “fixed” against the US Dollar, at a rate of 3.76 Dhs = 1 USD. It has maintained this rate within one or two percentage points for the last 10 years or more, the rate is maintained by the Federal Bank; as it is fixed against the USD, your (repatriated) earnings in dollar terms will fluctuate with this rate. Most GCC countries have their currencies fixed against the US Dollar in this manner, so the exchange rate between GCC member countries for all intense and purposes remains the same.
. Getting a credit card in the UAE is easy; managing it correctly is another problem all together. Many banks will simply issue you a card whether you require on or not. In most cases you have to phone the bank to activate the card, they will charge you a monthly premium thereafter (once activated) whether you use it or not!
. These are very handy, particularly when it comes to paying for accommodation and rental. Most landlords will require a set of post-dated cheques to cover the rental through the year.
Defaulting on cheque payments or accounts
One very important thing to remember in the UAE, under Sharia Law
, no one can be compelled to repay a loan; this applies to banks as well as privately. The normal way to ensure that you get back what you lent will be to ask for a post-dated cheque to cover the debt. If you fail to repay it in time the lender will simply submit the cheque to the bank, the bank will call him and inform him that there are no funds (if that is the case) and ask if they should re-submit it, he simply re-submit it. If the cheque still fails to clear, it then becomes of fraud, and the issue is handed over to the police department to clear up. They will then send a uniformed officer along to your work or home and arrest you (not an idol threat, they do this!).
I also know of instances where expatriates are leaving the country and simply run up debt on their credit cards and cheque accounts, the mentality is “Well, what are they going to do about it if I’m not here and have no intention of coming back”. That was to a certain degree correct a few years ago, now most banks have no qualms about handing the debt over to international collection agencies, affiliate banks in your country of residency or to have a black mark issued against your creditworthiness; try getting a mortgage on a home or open another bank account in your home country once that has happened!
At some stage, someone will ask you for one reason or another to sign surety for a loan that they may want to take from the bank. Under no circumstances unless you know the person extremely well should you do this. Banks and the legal system hold surety signatories liable for the full debt if the main applicant defaults on the loan or absconds; they do not accept “I’m didn’t really know what I was signing” and you can be arrested and end up in jail, or have your bank accounts emptied to cover the outstanding loan! Unfortunately this happens too often, where people think they are simply helping a colleague out in order to obtain a loan from a bank.
What to expect
Where to work in the UAE
Personally I’d start with Dubai as it is in my mind more cosmopolitan and easier to acclimatise yourself to the Middle Eastern way of life. The UAE is a Federation of emirates, and each is governed slightly differently from the other. Dubai is more relaxed and “western” in approach and general way of life, Abu Dhabi is a little more conservative, but is also generally liberal. Sharjah, Ras Al-Khaimah and Ajman on the other hand are more conservative with respect to dress codes, moral codes, legal issues etc. For example the death penalty is still imposed in Ras Al-Khaimah, but only life imprisonment given for the same offence in Dubai. If you are going to be working in the UAE, but out of Dubai read up on the local culture and what is permitted and what is not!
Cost of Living
I have posted another thread regarding the Cost of Living in Dubai, which I have tried to equate to an individuals standard of living as well: http://www.dubaiforums.com/viewtopic.php?t=23858
Without wanting to paint a bleak or negative picture, everyone seeking employment in Dubai needs to realise this as a reality. Dubai is marketed both actively and passively as an international destination almost to the point where the “streets are paved in gold”, this has and still continues to create an almost wild-west gold-rush mentality among job seekers. This attracts people from all walks of life, all socio-economic backgrounds and all nationalities, all keen to get their slice of the action. In real terms this often results in an oversupply of skilled and semi-skilled labour in the market. Competition is stiff; perhaps not to the point of people killing to get a job, but when people are desperate they tend to resort to desperate and even underhanded methods of getting and then keeping a job. This is an obvious bonus to potential employers, they can have the pick of the crop (so to say), and offer less compensation wise than what they would normally do if they were conducting business in a country that had a minimum wage law.
This varies from industry to industry; in IT for example much of the work is actually outsourced to companies operating in India or the Indian sub-continent – the actual operating company in Dubai can then be run on a skeleton staff without all the normal overheads of expatriate salaries, accommodation and visa expenses. Obviously the converse applies, construction companies are labour intensive and very little work can be accomplished off-shore.
Look at the following statistics (a little dated) the UAE has a total population of 4.3 million people, of this only 20% (roughly 860,000) are Emiratis, the rest are expatriate workers!
In Dubai the population is about 1.4 million people, of which only 17% are local nationals (238,000); this means that almost 4 out of every 5 people are expatriates! And that is the figure of registered residency holders; it does not take into account the tens of thousands of people holding visit visa’s looking for employment.
When is the best time to look for work in Dubai?
during the following times:
Not during Ramadan/ Eid – work hours are shorter than normal, enthusiasm and motivation is at a low and business slow in general; many business owners/ managers (as well as UAE nationals) leave the country during this time. Find out when Ramadan and the two Eid’s fall, the Islamic calendar is lunar based and differs by approximately 11 days each year to that of the Gregorian calendar – the net effect is that Muslim (Holy) holidays tend migrate forward (earlier) by about 11 days every year.
Not during the mid-summer months (June, July, August), schools close for three months over the mid-summer and many expats simply pack their families off home on a long vacation. Most companies prefer their employees to take their vacations over this time for logistical reasons. There are normally very few people available at this time to make decisions!
is the beginning of autumn going into the winter season (October/ November), this is also the best time to arrive in Dubai and acclimatise rather than arrive in the middle of summer. Business in general also picks up after the summer.
General Odds & Ends
A Fool and his money are soon parted!!
During the time I spent in Dubai, I saw or read about some of the most elaborate and also some of the simplest schemes employed to part you from your hard earned cash! While there is not much in the way of serious crime to contend with you still have to be cautious when handling your money. There are some recent postings on the forum stressing this issue, where some expatriates were the victims of an elaborate vehicle laundering scheme.
Some of the more audacious ones include selling property which does not belong to the seller. Selling bottles of “the special liquid that the American Reserve bank uses to convert pieces of paper into Dollar bills”. Saying “special words” over a bag of your money to make it more (which really converts it to cut up pieces of newspaper) which you discover only when you get it home, as well as various variations of the “Nigerian” letter as well as a few instances of “chain-letter” systems.
Normally if the perpetrator is caught or if the victim is not too embarrassed by the affair (which a lot of confidence tricksters count on), they publish the issue in the local papers; some of them are really funny and I wish I had started collecting them years ago, I could have published a book on it by now.
Be very cautious about handing over large (or even moderate) amounts of cash to people, this includes receiving cheques. A quirk in the banking system in the UAE (which is highlighted by the recent vehicle scam issue) is that cheques when they are deposited into your account show that the funds are immediately available although the person depositing it may not have any funds in his/ her account to honour the cheque. The bank only picks this up a day or two later and then reverses the transaction – leaving you with a hole in your bank account where the cash was paid to you was and the con-artist long gone with the Plasma screen TV you sold him.
The golden rule is: “If it looks to good to be true, it probably is!”.
Dubai has a slightly more conservative approach to dress than you would expect from a “western” country; having said that, Dubai is far, far more liberal in this regard than other emirates within the UAE. For example short skirts (within reason) are not really given a second glance in Dubai, but in Sharjah the regulation is that they have to be below the knee (in public); disregarding the law in this case will result in a fine or jail, even if you are just passing through! This includes guys wearing short pants in Sharjah!
Personally I found it very odd that everyone was so dressed up, even over-dressed. Most business people wear jackets and ties, and most businesses demand this - I think this really has more to do with image than comfort. Many countries with extremely hot climates dispense with formal attire from a comfort and productivity perspective; this is not the same of Dubai!
If you use prescription medication
Most medicines are available in Dubai, but normally under different trade names that you may be accustomed to. I would however suggest that you either bring a recent prescription or the information pamphlet that accompanies your normal medication; that way the pharmacist can provide you with the local equivalent.
Religion and Holidays
Although being an Islamic administered country, a great deal of religious freedom is observed and there are a number of churches and places of worship through Dubai; in some cases the rulers of the UAE have even contributed in some way to the construction of these. These hold less conspicuous positions than the mosques and are sometimes not in plain site. Church services are normally conducted on Fridays and not Sundays.
Holidays are normally considered Private sector or Public sector; Private sector holidays are observed by all privately owned companies in the UAE while Public sector holidays are those given to governmental departments, military, police service, municipality and banks. In general the public sector get longer holidays than those in the Private sector. For example, the Private sector may get a 2 day Eid holiday, while the Public sector may get 7 or more days.
All Islamic holidays as well as UAE National Day and New Years Day (1 January) are observed as paid public holidays (both Private and Public sector).
Christian holidays (such as Christmas and Easter) are not recognised as official holidays; yet most employers do make allowances for staff wanting to attend services, sometimes due to the large number of non-Muslim staff. Hindu holidays and festivals are given at the discretion of the employer.
Foreigners are expected to observe the practice of fasting during the Holy month of Ramadan, and are required not to eat, drink or smoke in public areas during this time. Pregnant women and children (normally considered children under the age of 12) are excluded from fasting. If you forget and absentmindedly pop a cigarette into your mouth you will normally be reminded/ reprimanded by a passer-by, and at some point a policeman. Restaurants and bars are open in the evening, although no live music or band performances are permitted.
Restaurants only open after sunset in the evening and will normally remain open all night until just before sunrise; during the day however most hotel restaurants remain open, but are screened off from public view. Many shops will only open in the late afternoon or evening. As with many things the Emirate of Dubai is more moderate in enforcing this practice than other Emirates (possibly because of the number of tourists); however this is not to say that you cannot be fined or imprisoned for failing to obey the law. Muslims failing to observe the fast during this time (whether tourists or not) are severely punished, if caught.