Restart of UAE work permits hailed as a welcome step

The move could see a rise in nursing, doctor and senior management roles being filled in UAE

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The UAE government's decision to again issue work permits for some overseas workers has been hailed as a welcome step by companies looking to hire senior and technical talent.

Recruiters said jobseekers with management experience or hard skills were likely to benefit from the move.

Nurses, doctors and those in mid-to-senior management roles were expected to be the focus of international recruitment drives.

But demand for domestic workers from outside the country was expected to remain low until the end of the year.

What we are seeing more and more from clients is a need for very senior roles as a lot of talent has left

“What this is signalling is a positive shift for the recruitment sector in the UAE,” said David Mackenzie, managing director of recruitment firm Mackenzie Jones.

“Re-introducing work permits for new arrivals to the country is the UAE telling the world that it is back open for business.

“The parameters surrounding the decision means it will only impact certain sectors initially, such as health care and government departments, but it is a positive move.”

For the first time since March, government departments and semi-public sector firms, which are part-owned by the government, were given the green light to advertise vacancies to external candidates in vital sectors including health care and transport.

Previously, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation suspended the issue of all types of labour permits, including for drivers and domestic workers, to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Mr Mackenzie said because the UAE is a very cyclical market, people leave during times of economic turmoil, but quickly look to return when things pick up again.

The impact of the pandemic and other political factors such as the US elections and Brexit have made places like the US and Europe unattractive for jobseekers.

David Mackenzie, managing director of Mackenzie Jones Group. Ravindranath K / The National
David Mackenzie, managing director of Mackenzie Jones Group. Ravindranath K / The National

In turn, more people were open to work opportunities overseas, such as the UAE, he said.

“We are a UAE company so we always look to recruit locally first as the turnaround time to hire is quicker and candidates are more accustomed to local practices,” Mr Mackenzie said.

“But what we are seeing more and more from clients is a need for very senior roles as a lot of talent has left.

“For that, we need to look externally.”

Those expected to be recruited from overseas were predominantly people without families, due to cost factors, he said.

And salary packages would tend to be combined into a single monthly take-home that includes housing, transport and education benefits all in one, where offered.

The decision, announced by the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA), the country's main immigration agency on Monday, means domestic workers and drivers can also secure work permits from abroad.

Neeraj Agrawal, press official at the Indian consulate in Dubai, said it could attract more Indians back to the country after many returned home due to job loss over the past few months.

“It’s a welcome step. We see ease of movement going forward for people offered jobs in all categories,” he said.

However, Rohini Bhalla, a senior consultant at GGC HR consultancy in Dubai, said uptake for domestic roles would be slow.

“Hiring someone from abroad brings with it a lot of added expense,” she said.

“A flight ticket over, as well as accommodation costs for 14 days as per the quarantine rules.

“Companies will only absorb that cost if they can’t find the talent locally.

“Because of the job loss and redundancies caused by Covid-19 there are many domestic workers in the country searching for work, so the talent is already there.

“I think this decision will mainly impact frontline workers, nurses and doctors, people with technical skill sets that just aren’t readily available here.”

Since the outbreak, employers have been able to make some overseas hiring, depending on the circumstances and profession.

But foreign workers were largely difficult to bring into the country due to the pandemic until this latest announcement.

How to secure a permit to work in the UAE

A work permit is obtained from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE). The process is quite simple and is done in collaboration with the employer.

  • The company or organisation wishing to hire a candidate from overseas will send an offer letter outlining the terms of contract, including salary and length of contract (usually 'unlimited' or 'two years')
  • Once signed by the candidate, the company will apply for pre-approval of the work permit
  • The company or organisation has to complete a number of formalities with the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs. Once complete, the work permit will be approved
  • The initial permit allows a candidate to enter the UAE for employment and is usually valid for two months from the date of issue, not entry
  • Once in the country, the company or organisation will start the process of applying for a residency visa for the employee
  • The sponsoring company will liaise with authorities in the emirate to complete medical testing, obtain an Emirates ID and stamp the UAE residency visa page on the candidate's passport (within two months of entering the country)
  • The costs relating to work permit, medical testing, Emirates ID and UAE residency visa should be paid by the employer

What you need for a work permit

  • A colour photograph on a white background
  • A copy of your passport with at least six months validity
  • Some employers may require proof of academic qualifications. In this case, original certificates need to be attested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the home country
  • You have to be 18 or over