What is the change? Work permit applications for mainland companies in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are experiencing delays because of new rules requiring employers to complete additional steps.

What does the change mean? Mainland employers are now required to issue employment offer letters that conform to the Ministry of Labour’s approved standard employment contract before work permits are issued. The requirement has led to increased processing times, especially for overseas applicants.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Work permits.
  • Who is affected: Mainland companies recruiting and hiring foreign nationals. Free zones are not affected.
  • Impact on processing times: The new offer letter requirements have led to delays, especially for those applying from outside of the country.
  • Business impact: Employers should anticipate delays in obtaining work permits for foreign nationals as authorities consider measures to address the delays.

Background: The employment offer letters became mandatory under recent changes to labor laws that took effect Jan. 1.

At the work permit approval stage, employers must submit a signed and stamped employment offer letter to the Ministry of Labour. The ministry then generates its own offer letter based on the letter provided by the employer, who must then sign and stamp the new offer letter and send it to the employee for his or her fingerprints and signature. The requirements add significant time to the work permit process, especially for employees outside the country, because documents must be couriered to the employee for fingerprinting and then back to the MOL before work permits can be issued.

BAL Analysis: Authorities in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are considering measures to address the delays, such as allowing applicants to enter the country on a short-term visa and complete the work permit process without having to leave the country; however, these changes have not yet been implemented or updated within the immigration system as approved procedures. BAL is following these developments and will report any additional changes in procedures.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in the United Arab Emirates. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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