A change to visa sponsorship laws in the UAE has given residents hope they can be reunited with family members who live abroad.
This week, the UAE Cabinet removed the job title criteria for sponsoring dependents, meaning visas can now be issued to residents’ family members based solely on their income bracket.
Previously, only certain professionals – specifically those in management positions – could sponsor family members.
Under the new rule, a male worker who earns a minimum salary of Dh4,000, or Dh3,000 plus accommodation, can sponsor his wife’s visa in the UAE. Single mothers must earn a minimum of Dh10,000 to sponsor their children.
The changes are welcome news for Asadul Khan, an Indian logistics assistant at Gemini Property Developers in Dubai, who has lived away from his family in Kolkata for three years.
“They have never visited me but I am hoping to invite them here in the next few months,” Mr Khan said.
His wife works as a teacher back home but he is hoping he will now be able to bring her to the UAE so she can find a job here.
"My brother and I work here in the same company but I do miss my family. It would be very helpful if they were here."
He has two sons, aged one and seven, but the high cost of living keeps him from moving all of them over. He said that if his wife were able to move to the UAE and find a job that he would bring his children over too.
Mohammed Sajjad, an office manager at Al Rihan Typing Centre in Dubai, said he receives at least 10-15 inquiries every day about family sponsorship.
He said many organisations don't give employees accurate designations.
“If someone is an accountant, they give them the designation of chief clerk. So, they face problems in sponsoring family.
“We don’t apply for visas for these people and inform them that it’s difficult to get sponsorships with this designation.”
He said removing the job title requirement will help many people in the UAE.
R K, an Indian resident who moved to Dubai last year to work as a consultant, faced a similar issue when her company registered her visa under a designation that did not match her job. Because her title did not meet visa requirements, she was unable to sponsor her husband and child.
“I came to know after two weeks of applying that my husband’s visa was rejected.”
She said her employers registered her as an administrative consultant to ease the visa issuance process but her job is actually that of a manager.
“It took me a month to get my husband and three-year-old son here and I had to do a lot of to and fro to get many approvals.”
She appealed and sponsored them in the end.
“[The people at the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation] knew I was at a managerial level and realised that it was a genuine case.”
She said she had been warned by the human resources team at her organisation that the process was more difficult for a woman.
“I think there should be the same requirements for a male and a female to sponsor their family,” RK said.
The general cost of living in the UAE is also a roadblock to some workers.
An official at a Tasheel centre in Dubai said he sees between five and 10 people a day who inquire about sponsorship.
He said the problem lies not in the designation alone, but also in the salary.
“People are not able to bring their families here because of the cost of monthly rent, visa expenses, tickets, etc.
“Now, if they are willing to face the costs, they can bring their families here.”
Anette Dcunha, recruitment and licensing manager at Bareen International Hospital, said the removal of the title criteria will help to attract skilled professionals.
"The first question that comes our way [when hiring] is 'what is the cost of living and can I sponsor my family?'" she said. "Now, the focus will be only on the income and this will help us to pool many candidates."
She said many of their employees have approached the HR team about sponsoring their families.
“We were restricted to say it’s certain professions who can sponsor even though the person may be earning more than Dh10,000 at times.”
But she said they do sometimes apply for special approvals because work-life balance is essential to employees.
Sunil Gomes, chief executive of Gemini Property Developers, agreed.
"You have happier employees and it's a great motivation," he said.
"Having family here enhances a sense of well-being and that is very important."
In many instances she said parents whose children are in their home countries rush to go home to talk to their children on the phone, but now they can have a feeling of security when the children are with them at home.