What is the change? Authorities in the United Arab Emirates have eliminated the option of placing family residence visas “on hold,” making it more difficult in some cases for family members to stay in the UAE if principal visa holders change jobs. 

What does the change mean? The change will not affect family members of principal visa holders who change jobs within UAE free zones. It will, however, impact family members of visa holders who change jobs where either the new job or the old one is outside of a free zone. In such instances, family members who have their visas cancelled will have 30 days from the time of the cancellation to leave the UAE.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Residence visas for family members of expatriates.
  • Who is affected: Principal residence visa holders and their family members.
  • Business impact: The change makes it more difficult in some cases for foreign nationals working in the UAE to keep their family members in the country when they apply for new visas when switching jobs.

Background: Foreign nationals who switch employers in the UAE often have to cancel their initial visas and apply for new ones unless they are eligible for a visa transfer within free zones. In the past, family members of principal visa holders could have their visas put on hold, meaning authorities would freeze their visa status and reinstate family visas once the principal visa holder’s new residence visa was issued.

This is no longer an option. Family residence visa holders now have their visas cancelled before the principal applicant and are given only 30 days from that point to remain in the country.

The change will not affect family members of residence visa holders who obtain visa transfers within free zones because usually under these circumstances neither the principal nor dependents have their visas cancelled. Given that it often takes more than 30 days to apply for and obtain a new visa, however, family members who are affected may be required to leave the UAE while the principal visa holder’s application is pending.

BAL Analysis: Given that many foreign nationals who change jobs do so within UAE free zones, the impact of the change is limited. For those it does affect, however, the change makes it more difficult to keep family in the UAE when switching jobs. Family members who stay more than 30 days after their visas are cancelled risk steep overstay fees and are advised to leave the country if visas cannot be renewed within the 30-day window.

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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