United Arab Emirates: Foreign Worker Quota
Employers in Dubai are now subject to a new work permit quota system and must obtain pre-approval to sponsor individuals for work permits, except for those operating in a Free Trade Zone. New application requirements are being implemented in jurisdictions throughout the UAE, including a new standardized employment contract requirement for TECOM employers submitting permit applications, a birth certificate requirement for dependent resident permits, and a new passport requirements for certain Pakistani nationals. In addition, UAE authorities are urging all residents to complete registration for their Emirates Identity Card to comply with the December 31, 2010 deadline.
There are several new immigration updates from the United Arab Emirates, including the implementation of a foreign workers quota system in Dubai.
Foreign Worker Quota System Implemented in Dubai
The foreign worker quota system, first introduced in Abu Dhabi in June, has now been implemented in Dubai, effective September 14. Under the quota system, employers must obtain pre-approval to sponsor individuals for work permits from the UAE’s Ministry of Labour, which has discretion over quota applications. Employers may seek quota approvals on an individual basis or in bulk to cover projected needs. The quota system does not affect employers operating in any of the UAE free trade zones. Employers who already have an electronic work permit quota do not need to apply for an additional quota at this stage.
The new quota system is intended to reduce the number of shell companies that sponsor foreign workers despite not operating a genuine business in the UAE. To demonstrate it is not a shell company, an employer generally must submit supporting documentation that includes the location of the employer’s office, floor plans, lease agreement, utilities bills, information on customer contracts, and corporate registration documents.
TECOM Now Requiring Standardized Employment Contracts with Permit Applications
The Technology and Media Free Zone Authority (TECOM) is instructing employers registered in the TECOM zone to include a standardized version of their employment contracts with all employment-residence permit applications, according to a September 21 circular. A draft of the standardized contract is available on the TECOM government services website.
Registration for Emirates Identity Cards Required by December 31
All residents of the UAE must register with the Emirates Identity Authority (EIDA) for a new Emirates Identity Card by December 31, 2010. Starting January 1, 2011, all UAE residents will be required to carry an identity card. Those that fail to properly complete the registration process may be subject to penalties. In the future, the registration process is expected to be streamlined and integrated with the residence permit process.
Reports of Relaxed Medical Examination Requirements Are Unconfirmed
Foreign nationals should treat with caution recent media reports of relaxed medical examination requirements for the UAE. In August, UAE media outlets reported that foreign nationals seeking to obtain or renew residency status in UAE would no longer have to be screened for hepatitis B or syphilis unless they will work in certain industries. Media reports also suggested that no foreign national would be screened for hepatitis C or tuberculosis, and that renewal applicants who have hepatitis B would no longer be deported, but would receive treatment. Despite these reports, medical centers in Dubai continue to apply existing examination requirements and have not confirmed whether there has been a change to the rules or when any such change would be implemented.
Legalized Birth Certificates for Dependent Children Residence Permits Recommended Throughout Dubai
Several immigration offices in Dubai have begun requiring residence permit applications filed on behalf of dependent children to include a birth certificate that has been legalized by the UAE diplomatic post in its country of issuance. Legalized birth certificates have been a formal requirement for dependent children throughout the UAE for some time, and the requirement has been strictly enforced in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. Dubai, however, generally did not enforce this requirement, which made for a more streamlined process there.
The birth certificate requirement is now in place at the immigration offices at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and the Technology and Media Freezone Authority (TECOM). Legalized birth certificates are also being requested at offices of the General Directorate of Residency & Foreigners’ Affairs (GDRFA). The GDRFA central office in Dubai (Bur Dubai) has suggested legalized birth certificates are not strictly mandatory for dependent residence permits but is apparently considering implementing such a requirement in the near future. In light of the conflicting requirements, individuals planning to file a residence permit for a dependent child should have the child’s birth certificate legalized.
Pakistani Nationals Now Need Machine Readable Passports
The UAE Ministry of Interior has announced that Pakistani nationals submitting applications for new visas or residence permits must include a machine-readable passport with their application. UAE officials are no longer accepting manual or handwritten passports from these applicants. The new passport requirement does not apply to Pakistani nationals who are already residing in the UAE and hold a current residency permit. However, current residents will need to submit a machine-readable passport if they apply to change or transfer their sponsorship from within the UAE.
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