Here’s all you need to know about working on a visit visa here
15 January 2019| Last updated on 15 January 2019
In order to work in the UAE, you need a valid employment contract and visa.
With this contract, each individual receives their residency visa, their Emirates ID and their work permit – it also means they are sponsored by a company here.
Now, many expats moving here come on a visit visa only, hoping to secure work once they arrive. More often than not, you may find that you’ll be required to report for work before your work permit and contract is in place.
And while you may think working on your visit visa is harmless while your residency visa is being arranged – think again.
Is it legal to work on a visit visa in UAE?
Working whilst still on a tourist visa in Dubai and the UAE is illegal.
In fact, the law stipulates that workers should receive their residency visa, EID and their work permit before they report for work.
It’s a law that few are familiar with; as thousands of expats frequently visit the country in search of employment. Once a job becomes available, more often than not, employees are left on their visit visa while the company arranges their full visa.
Issues arise when visas are delayed, or if the employee is travelling, or for any other reason – so much so, that the “visa run” to Oman has almost become a rite of passage for many expats living here.
Can a tourist visa be converted to a work visa in UAE?
Yes – if you’re searching for a job on a tourist visa in the UAE, it is possible to convert it.
Unlike other countries, the great thing about the UAE is that if you arrive on a tourist or visit visa, you do have the option of searching for a job here. This system provides opportunity aplenty for career-driven individuals, and has helped Dubai develop to what we know today.
But once you’ve secured a job, converting your visit status to an employment and residency visa prior to working is extremely important. And you mustn’t start working until all documents are in place.
Why do companies in UAE let you work on a visit visa?
From an employer’s perspective, they most likely want to have you working straight away. This is understandable for a company who has every intention of converting your visa.
There are however, companies that exist in the UAE unfortunately, that may exploit employees – especially those new in the country.
Cases of employees who begin working here whilst on their tourist visa, only to then be terminated, do occur in the emirates. In this occurs, not only will you not have a work visa, but you won’t have any rights. Especially if you are owed a salary.
Of course – this happens in extreme cases, and is a rare occurrence. But it’s something to be mindful about when job-hunting.
What the UAE law states about working on a visit visa
Federal Law No. 8 of 1980 governs the regulations of employment in the country.
More commonly known as the Labour Law – it states that it is illegal for an individual to work without a valid employment contract and visa that is approved by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, i.e. the Ministry of Labour, or the concerned Free Zone Authority.
Employing or becoming employed in the UAE without a valid employment contract is a criminal offence, in accordance with Article 11 of the Federal Law No. 6 of 1973 concerning immigration and residence. It states:
“The alien who obtains a visit visa may not work anywhere in the country with or without pay or for his own.
If the visa is issued to work for an individual or an establishment, holder may not work for another individual or establishment without the written consent of that individual or establishment and the approval of the Directorate of Nationality and Immigration".
Remember – any entity employing a person in the UAE who is on a visit visa is equally as guilty as the individual who takes up employment on a visit visa.
What is the penalty for working in the UAE on a visit visa?
As per the law, a AED 50,000 fine is in place for any individual caught working on a visit visa – and they will also be banned from entering the UAE.
Companies who employ individuals will also face penalties; “Any company that is caught employing illegal workers will face a AED 50,000 fine per worker on the first offence, and a AED 100,000 fine per worker on the second offence.
“And if the owner of the company is an expatriate, he will be deported and banned from entering the country for life while if the owner is a national, he will be jailed for a minimum of six months.”
Having an employment visa means you have employee rights
Without a work visa – you are NOT an employee in the UAE.
And if you’re not an employee and you have complaints, you can’t go to the Ministry of Labour to complain as technically, you’re not employed. If you’re not paid, it will be very difficult for you to raise the problem to authorities, for instance.
It’s extremely important for any prospective worker in the UAE to obtain their documents, residency visa, work permit and EID before reporting for work.