Is it illegal to work under a husband's visa without a work permit?

A resident in Sharjah has been sponsored by her husband for 10 years while she has worked

As per rules set by the Abu Dhabi Department of Health, it is standard practice that employment-linked medical insurance is cancelled at the same time as visa cancellation. Getty Images
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I would like to know what is the law for working under a husband's visa. I have been working for the past 10 years under his sponsorship. He has given me a letter of no objection that I had submitted to my company, but I do not have a work permit. Does that make my work illegal? SJ, Sharjah

A wife who is sponsored by her husband is permitted to work in the UAE, even if her visa states "housewife not permitted to work" provided her husband, as her sponsor, gives a letter of no objection to the employer. The company does not have to provide a visa but must apply for a work permit, commonly known as a labour card.

Physical cards are no longer issued but the employer is obliged to make a proper application for a work permit by following due process. This includes making an application to a Tasheel centre with copies of visas, photographs, the NOC, and the relevant fee, which will vary dependent on the category of the company and usually starts at just Dh353.

A contract of employment should be signed by both parties. Unless a work permit is applied for, an individual will be working illegally and both parties can be subject to a fine. As this is only recorded online, SJ should check with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation or her local Tasheel office to see if there is a proper record of her employment.


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I am an American citizen about to turn 60. There is a school in Dubai that is looking for an English teacher, and I was told that I'd been short-listed for the position. However, I just received an email from the recruiter saying she's been told that, due to my age, I cannot be considered for the job. Can you please tell me if this is true, or right? TL, USA

There is no longer an age limit for employees of 60 years old as this was increased in 2011. After the age of 60, however, residency visas are subject to approval by the MoHRE and must be renewed annually which is an additional cost for an employer, plus the cost of medical insurance increases significantly. For these reasons, few companies are keen to take on employees aged 60 or over. While the UAE has anti-discrimination legislation, Law No(2) of 2015 on Combating Discrimination and Hatred, this does not make any mention of age discrimination. An employer is not obliged to take on any employee, of any age, so they are not breaking the law in any way.

I am working for a company under an Abu Dhabi Visa while my wife is working too and is under a Dubai visa. I have been providing insurance to my wife under my company's group policy while my wife has not taken any insurance from her company. While transferring to a new insurance company, the insurance company in Abu Dhabi has come out stating that they cannot cover my wife as she is under a different sponsorship. I would like to provide the group insurance I am in for my wife as it provides better coverage and she is not going to avail the insurance given by her company. Is this allowed? Doesn't my insurance have to cover her as well? RR, Abu Dhabi

Mandatory medical insurance for employees on Abu Dhabi visas came into effect in 2008 and has included a spouse and up to three children. As stated on the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) website: "All employers and sponsors are responsible for the procurement of health insurance coverage and possession of valid health insurance at all times for their employees and their families (1 spouse and 3 children under 18), inclusive of registration fees, as well as the cost of the policy and for the cost of all healthcare services that are provided to persons on his sponsorship in the event that such a person is not covered by a valid health insurance policy.” The last statement - "in the event that such a person is not covered by a valid health insurance policy" - is relevant as RR’s wife is not under his sponsorship and is on her own visa. This is a Dubai residency visa and under the rules of the Dubai Health Authority, all employers in Dubai must provide medical insurance to their employees. This is not optional and no employee can choose not to be insured. Mrs R has medical insurance from her own employer so Mr R’s employer is not obliged to provide her with insurance. In addition, the licencing requirements for medical insurance companies in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are quite different and only individuals with visas issued in the emirate of Abu Dhabi can obtain insurance from a company authorised by HAAD.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with over 25 years’ experience. Contact her

at Follow her on Twitter at @FinancialUAE.

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