‘Can I continue living in the UAE after my divorce?’

A 2018 laws allows divorced women and their children to apply for a one-year residency extension

A close-up view of a young man's hands removing his wedding ring a concept of relationship difficulties
Powered by automated translation

My husband and I are divorcing, and he is thinking of leaving the UAE. I want to stay here for a while as my children are happy in school and I do not want them to face any disruption next year. Although my husband will support us, he will not be able to sponsor us because he will not be in the UAE.

Is there a way we can continue to stay in the country as residents? We could apply for visit visas but that will be a problem for children who attend school. HT, Dubai

To obtain a residency visa, one generally needs to be sponsored by an employer or spouse, own an eligible property or apply for a trade licence that provides a visa. However, there is another option that will apply to HT.

In October 2018, the UAE introduced a new visa for widowed and divorced women. This allows them and their children to apply for a one-year residency extension without the need for a sponsor, valid from the husband’s date of death or the divorce. This visa is renewable once only.

There are conditions that apply, namely that the woman and any children must be sponsored by the husband at the time of death or divorce. The visas should be valid at that time and the children’s residency should not exceed that of the mother.

Applications must be submitted via the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigner Affairs in the relevant emirate, along with evidence of the death or divorce, proof that the applicant has a place to live, medical fitness certificates for anyone aged 18 or above and medical cover if they are a resident of Abu Dhabi or Dubai.

It is expected that the woman will provide proof that she can earn an income to support her family. However, as each case is considered individually, there will be some flexibility if there are assets or unearned income that can support the family.

I completed my probation period of six months with my company and am on a limited contract for two years. Is it possible for me to change jobs? Will a ban be imposed on me for not completing the contract?

Our company requires a 30-day notice period and I am ready to do this. I am a skilled worker who is underpaid despite my qualifications and experience. What will be the best way to change my job without having a ban imposed? AB, Fujairah

If an employee breaks a law or contract terms, an employer can make a complaint and apply for a ban from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation

We need to address two issues here: that of a ban and the penalties for breaking contract terms.

If an employee breaks a law or contract terms, the employer can make a complaint and apply for a ban from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation. Note that an employer must apply for a ban; they cannot put a ban on a person themselves.

If an employee is on a limited contract and does not fulfil the terms, such as resigning before the end of the agreed term, the employer can choose to apply for a ban, usually for six months.

There are cases where a ban may not apply. These include cases where the company and employee are in mutual agreement, when an employee joins a government or semigovernment organisation and when an employee goes to work for a free zone company. Some free zones have different regulations and will apply their own rules regarding bans.

Unless an employee has absconded – a reason for an employment ban that should be enforced for reasons linked to future visa applications – no employer has to apply for a ban when a person leaves service. It rarely benefits anyone.

It is also important to note that if someone breaks the terms of a limited contract, they are liable to pay a penalty as compensation.

Article 116 of the UAE Labour Law states: “Should the contract be rescinded by the worker ... the worker shall be bound to compensate the employer for the loss incurred thereto by reason of the rescission of the contract, provided that the amount of compensation does not exceed the wage of half a month for the period of three months or for the remaining period of the contract, whichever is shorter, unless otherwise stipulated in the contract.”

The application of the penalty is at the discretion of the employer, but most will apply it.

It is possible for AB to leave the company but it is expected that he will have to pay a penalty for breaking the contract and face a ban for a period.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with more than 25 years’ experience. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com. Follow her on Twitter at @FinancialUAE

The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only