'Can I return to the UAE if I have an unpaid phone bill?'

The former resident left an outstanding bill of Dh2,099 when he exited the country in 2018

FILE PHOTO: A customer tests a smartphone during the launch of the new iPhone XS and XS Max sales at "re:Store" Apple reseller shop in Moscow, Russia September 28, 2018. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva -/File Photo
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I worked in the UAE in 2018 but my company terminated my position and placed an employment ban on me. While I was in the country I had a post-paid contract with a telecom provider. I did not clear the bill before I left for my home country. I have now received an offer for a new job in the UAE and my visa is being processed. I received an email from the phone operator in May to tell me there is a legal notice against me for an unpaid bill of Dh2,099.  Can I pay the bill when I get back to the UAE in instalments over two or three months? I am worried I will be stopped when I arrive in Dubai because of this. What I can do? TS, India

There are a couple of issues to address here: the potential consequences of entering the UAE with unpaid debts and also why TS had an employment ban. If a bill remains unpaid, the creditor is within their rights to request repayment and it appears TS did not keep in contact with the telecom or offer any payment.

Non-payment of debts is a criminal issue and if an individual fails to make the payments due, a business can register a police case. If this is the case, TS would be stopped at Immigration on attempting to re-enter the UAE and most likely detained until the debt was settled. He needs to contact the provider to ask if they have taken this course of action and offer a payment solution. Failing to keep in touch when money is owed is never a good idea. The telecom provider does not have to accept a payment plan or rescind a police case, if there is one in place, until the money owed is repaid in full.

It is also possible to check for possible cases on the Dubai Police app but an Emirates Identity number is usually required.

TS states that he received an employment ban but these are only issued if someone leaves a job of their own accord. No one terminated by their employer should ever receive a ban, unless it is due to some kind of illegal activity or behaviour contrary to UAE Labour Law.

I have just completed a two-year contract with my employer. Can I renew on another renewed limited contract but resign before the contract expires or would there be a penalty?  DC, Sharjah

The rules for limited-term contracts are the same whether it is the first, second or third one. If DC has already renewed for a further period of two years, he will be subject to the usual penalties if he resigns before expiry. This is as set out in UAE Labour Law, Article 116 which 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 and some companies may not apply it if the new residency visa has yet to be arranged and no additional costs have been incurred. It is always best however, to advise an employer that you do not wish to renew just prior to the contract end date to ensure no penalties apply. Note that resigning during the first five years of service on limited-term contracts means that the end of service gratuity is forfeited. This is not the case if a contract is not renewed.

I have been in Dubai for 10 years and now need to renew my driving licence. I was told by a friend her licence was only issued for five years, is that the case for everyone these days? TE, Dubai

The rules regarding UAE driving licences for non-UAE citizens changed in 2017. Previously licences were for a period of 10 years but they were reduced to five years for non-UAE citizens, which means all expatriates. UAE citizens still receive 10-year licences and anyone who has just passed their driving test will be issued with their first licence for two years only. The good news is that it is a straightforward process to renew a licence and apart from the mandatory eye test, everything can be done online. As a Dubai resident TE can find all the information she requires on the Roads & Transport Authority website: www.rta.ae.

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