Tourist not allowed to work in the UAE unless employer has applied for a visa

The application should be made by the time a person starts work but there is a grace period of up to 60 days for the process to be completed.

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My wife has been offered a job and the company asked her to come and work on a tourist visa until they get the work visa for her. We told them it is totally illegal to work on a tourist visa based on information we found online but they said they have a letter from a ministry allowing her to work until her work visa is sorted. That letter is in Arabic and it says the ministry has received the request for that employee but that the school needs to submit all the required documents within 30 days before they get approval. So, is there a clause in the Labour Law that allows an employer to ask an employee to work on a tourist visa under specific conditions? Or is it totally illegal? BF, Sharjah

It is illegal for anyone on a tourist visa to work in the UAE unless the employer has made a formal application for a visa and it is being processed. The application should be made by the time a person starts work but there is a grace period of up to 60 days for the process to be completed. Note that this does not mean the employer can delay before applying as records can easily be checked and the process should only take a couple of weeks in most cases. There is no such thing as a letter of exemption but the school might mean that they have made an application and have confirmation of this. Both the employer and the employee can be fined if someone works without a visa or an application in process, and the individual also runs the risk of deportation.

I have a query about changing jobs. Since May I have worked as a clerk, so I have been there for nearly eight months. I now want to change job but I have a two-year limited contract. Can I change without getting a ban or any other penalty? I am a graduate and I want to do something that pays better. MA, Abu Dhabi

Under the rules that came into effect on January 1 this year in Ministerial Decree 765 of 2015, it is far easier for people to change jobs without getting a ban than it was previously, although there are still a few restrictions. In most cases, provided a person has completed a full six months of employment, they can leave without a ban subject to certain conditions. When someone is on a limited contract they can leave without a ban if they a) complete the contract, or b) there is “termination for cause” per Article 20 of Labour Law, or c) termination by either party with appropriate notice and adherence to the usual formalities. Provided MA gives formal written notice in accordance with his contract he will not receive a ban.

For breaking a fixed-term contract, however, he will have a penalty to pay. In accordance with Article 116 of UAE Labour Law: “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.”

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and Senior Partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with over 20 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.

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