What you need to know when you get a
Job in the United Arab Emirates
A Summary of Labour Law, the Paperwork and
Procedures Involved when you come to Dubai for a Job
Other Gulf State Pages Page 1 Page 2

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What you need to know when you get a Job in the United Arab Emirates

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The Hiring Process when you apply for a job through a web site online

Typically in an online recruitment process, the employers will get in touch with you directly via email, letter or phone. It is quite common for employers to fly potential employees above a certain seniority level out to the Middle East. Some companies prefer candidates to travel at their own expense and some international companies may hold interviews in your home country. It is up to an applicant to negotiate these details with the potential employer.

If you are required to fly down to meet with the prospective employer, please make absolutely sure there is a written understanding between both parties about who covers the travel expenses. At the very least, you must try to get a faxed agreement (not an e-mail!) from the employer about your traveling expenses for an interview. A visitor visa is issued for Canadian, US or European citizens on arrival, but other countries may require a visa prior to transit. Check with your local embassy or travel agent.

The Paperwork involved when you come to Dubai for a Job

If you have a written job confirmation from an employer in Dubai, your company of employment or sponsor (a sponsor is someone who legally vouches for you - usually, your employer) will undertake you and your family’s paperwork formalities.

The outline given below covers only private sector employees. Public sector employees (government workers) and people working in the Free Zones are subject to different employment rules, and the Labour Law is not applicable to them.

The paper work for private sector employees will proceed in three stages -

Stage One: Before entering the UAE

In order to apply for your entry visa, your prospective employer will ask you to send them the following standard documents.
Passport photocopy

Passport-size photographs
Education or degree certificate/s

If you are a degree holder, you must have your certificates attested by a public notary in your home country and then by the Foreign Affairs Office to verify the notary as bona fide. The UAE Embassy or Consulate in your home country must also attest the documents. You may be able to outsource this to your travel agent.

Note: Citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and British nationals with the right of abode in the UK do not need attestation and visas to enter the UAE. Although, in some cases, UK citizens might be required to get an attestation from the UAE Consulate.

Stage Two: While entering the UAE

A copy of your entry visa will be sent to you by your employer. You will enter the UAE by exchanging this document with the original, which will be deposited by your employer at the airport of arrival.

Stage Three: After entering the UAE

Once you join the company, your employer will apply for the following necessary documents for you - Health Card, Residence Visa, Labour Card

a) Health Card

Health card includes a medical test (children under 18 do not have to undergo this test) that consists of a blood test (for AIDS, Hepatitis, etc.) and chest X-ray (for TB, etc). This card entitles residents to free medical treatment at public hospitals.

b) Residence Visa

There are two types of residence visa:
Sponsored by the employer for employment (Employer sponsorship)
Sponsored by a family member for residency (Family sponsorship)

Employer sponsorship

The employer generally takes care of all the paperwork. Just supply the necessary documents, which are normally the same that you submitted for the entry visa.

c) Labour Card

he Labour Card is essential for anyone working in the Emirates and is issued by their employer.

Before a Labour card is issued, you would need to sign your Labour
Contract, which is a standard form issued by the Labour Authorities and completed with your details of employment.

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The Labour Contract is printed in both Arabic and English. It is advisable to have a translation of the Contract made, since the Arabic part is taken as the legal document in the event of any legal dispute.
Labour cards and residence visas are renewable and valid for three years in the case of private companies and five years for government organisations. If you are a qualified professional with a degree, or have an established employment history, there should be few difficulties in obtaining the necessary documentation.

Note: It is usual for the employer to retain an employee's passport.

The Importance of the Résumé

The initial contact point between a potential employer or his recruiter and a candidate is generally the résumé and your cover letter. Thus, the quality of presenting yourself to a potential employer or an executive recruiter is crucial in your job search. Remember, you have, maybe, 5 minutes to convince your counterpart, when he looks at your résumé, that you are the person for the job. That is why having a top professionally written résumé is an important investment!

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A short Summary of Labour Laws in the United Arab Emirates

Administered by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Labour Law in the UAE is loosely based on the International Labour Organization's (ILO) model. UAE Law No. 8 of 1980, as amended by Law No. 12 of 1986 (the "Labour Law") governs most aspects of employer/employee relations, such as hours of work, leave, termination rights, medical benefits and repatriation. The Labour Law is protective of employees in general and overrides conflicting contractual provisions agreed under another jurisdiction, unless they are beneficial to the employee.

The Ministry issues a model form of labour contract in Arabic which is widely used, but other forms of contract are enforceable, provided they comply with the Labour Law. End of contract gratuities are set at 21 days pay for every year of the first five years of service and 30 days for every year thereafter. Total gratuity should not exceed two years' wages. Employees are entitled to pro-rated amounts for service periods less than a full year, provided they have completed one year in continuous service.

Trade unions do not exist. In the case of a dispute between employer and employee, or in interpretation of the Labour Law, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs will initially act as an adjudicator, in an effort to resolve matters. If a party wishes to appeal any such decision it can take its case to court. Strikes and lock outs are forbidden.

The normal maximum working hours are eight per day or 48 per week. However, these hours may be increased to nine daily for people working in the retail trade, hotels, restaurants and other such establishments. Similarly, daily working hours may be reduced for difficult or dangerous jobs. Many businesses work on a two shift system (for example, 8am - 1pm and 4pm - 7pm). As in all Muslim countries, Friday is the weekly day of rest.
In practice, commercial and professional firms work 40-45 hours a week and government ministries about 35. The weekend for office workers has traditionally been Thursday afternoon and Friday, but a number of organizations have changed over to a five day week with Friday and Saturday as the weekend. During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, normal working hours are reduced by two hours per day.

There are 10 days of public holidays (paid) in any year. The employee's annual leave is two days for every month if his service is more than six months and less than a year. In every completed year of service after the first, an employee is entitled to 30 days annual paid leave. This is in addition to public holidays, maternity leave for women and sick leave.

Overtime is used extensively and additional pay is required for manual and lower ranking staff.


The UAE Federal Authorities are primarily responsible for all immigration matters, and visitors are advised to consult their nearest UAE embassy or consulate if in doubt about visa requirements. Information can also be obtained from the overseas offices of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.

In general, all visitors, except transit passengers who do not leave the airport on arrival and citizens of the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council states - Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia - must obtain visas sponsored by a local entity such as a hotel, company or travel and tourism firm to enter the UAE. However, British citizens with the right of abode in the UK and AGCC residents of certain qualifying nationalities and professions are issued automatic 30 day visas on arrival. German and US citizens may obtain multiple entry visas from UAE Embassies.

Visas are easily obtainable for other visitors
except for Israelis and travellers whose passports bear Israeli stamps.

A business visitor may enter Dubai with either a transit visa or a visit visa. Both types of visa require the sponsorship of a company or hotel licensed to operate within the UAE.

A transit visa entitles its holder to a stay of 14 days exclusive of arrival and departure days. A visitor planning a longer stay in the UAE may prefer to enter the country with a visit visa which entitles him to a stay of 30 days renewable twice up to a total of 100 days including a grace period of 10 days. A visit visa further entitles its holder to change his status to that of residence or employment provided certain conditions are met. A visa holder may enter and leave the country through any port of entry in the UAE.

Airlines may require confirmation that the sponsor is holding a valid visa for the incoming visitor.

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