On Your Side: Our resident consumer advocate Keren Bobker answers questions on closing UAE bank accounts, the pros and cons of limited contracts, and one reader's work-visa quandary.
In a couple of months' time I will be leaving the UAE after many years and will obviously want to close my bank account. I have heard stories of difficulties and delays in doing this, but do not want to speak to my bank yet in case they freeze my account. Can you tell me if this is straightforward to deal with and what I will need to do? RF, Abu Dhabi
Mr F's account is with HSBC and I contacted them to obtain details of the procedure. The bank has advised that to close accounts, customers need to visit their nearest branch and complete the account closing form. Assuming there are no liabilities, such as an outstanding loan, the branch staff should be able to complete all the formalities on the spot and any balance in the account can be paid out immediately in cash. I am told that the only proviso is that if there are any debts, they must be repaid in full before the account can be closed.
I am about to move to Al Ain and have been sent information from my prospective employer about the contract that I will be given. I have a query about the duration as I have been offered what I believe is called a limited contract, but from what I have been told I would be better off with an unlimited contract, especially as my intention is to stay in the UAE for many years. It seems that this makes it easier for me to leave at any point, but also means that I am not locked in for a set period of time. My employer has told me that if no action is taken at the end of the limited contract it is automatically rolled over into an unlimited contract. My question is whether this is correct. DC, UK
There are both advantages and disadvantages in having a limited contract. It is harder to leave earlier, as penalties apply, but by the same token it is more expensive for an employer to make you redundant as compensation must be paid if the contract is ended early. With an unlimited contract, either party must simply give the period of notice as set out in the contract of employment. According to Article 39 of UAE Labour Law, if anyone has a limited contract and continues working for the same employer after the fixed term without agreeing a further term, it is assumed that the contract is now unlimited. Your years of service are based on the total period worked under any contract basis per Article 38 of labour law.
I am living and working in India and applied for a job in Dubai. I received an offer in October 2012 and while it was not really good enough, I accepted it thinking that I would explore more possibilities when I reached the UAE. I then got some bad reviews about the company relating to their financial stability and later I decided not to join. I found out that they had already processed my employment entry permit visa, which was valid till January 17 2013. I had informed the company that I didn't want to join them and requested they cancel my entry permit, but I believe they have not initiated visa cancellation. I have sent them several reminders followed by telephone calls, but they have not responded. I got another job interview with a Government company in Abu Dhabi and have been offered a job with them that I am accepting. I am concerned that the unused employment entry permit from the first company will cause a problem. I have not entered the UAE and have no stamps in my passport and the initial entry visa has now expired. Is there a way of having that visa cancelled, or can I be banned from working in the UAE? Can you tell me how I can deal with this situation that will not prevent me from getting this new job? SKS, India
You will not receive any sort of labour ban in the UAE as you were never employed and a contract was never generated, submitted and documented by the Ministry of Labour. The Employment Entry Visa was issued by the Ministry of Immigration upon the submission of your earlier prospective employer, but it is not a residency visa. Since you did not come to the UAE, the Employment Entry Visa has lapsed, but it should still be cancelled by the local applicant, that is the first company that offered you the job. I suspect the reason they are not responding is because of cost issues as they will have paid money to obtain the visa, although this is just Dh200 (US$54), and you may find them more amenable if you offer to repay the fees. I understand that the company can apply for a refund for an unused visa so you should point this out. That said, this should not prevent your new employer organising a new entry visa, especially if they are a government employer as they have additional powers when it comes to organising such issues and are not beholden to UAE Labour Law in the same way as private companies.
I suggest you explain the situation to the new company so that they are fully aware and can deal with it accordingly.
Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org