IMPACT – HIGH

What is the change? The Immigration and Labor Ministries have begun making unscheduled on-site visits to companies in Dubai.

What does the change mean? Companies located in Dubai mainland and the free zones should prepare for unannounced visits by authorities and make documents available for inspection.

  • Implementation timeframe: Immediate and ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Work permits, labor cards, Emirates IDs, Free Zone IDs.
  • Who is affected: Companies operating in Dubai mainland and in the free zones.
  • Business impact: Employers should review internal procedures to make sure their documents are in order.
  • Next steps: Foreign employees and assignees should carry their Emirates ID and Free Zone ID or labor cards with them at all times.

Background: Companies that are visited by immigration or labor officers will be asked that their employees show their Emirates ID and Free Zone ID cards or labor cards, depending on whether they are operating in a free zone or the mainland.

Earlier this year, authorities signaled that they would conduct stronger monitoring, including on-site inspections. Dubai’s TECOM free zone began collecting data of all foreign employees in May, and UAE authorities, particularly in Dubai, increased audits in June.

BAL Analysis: The on-site visits are part of a move toward greater scrutiny and enforcement of labor and immigration regulations.

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.

Copyright © 2016 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries please contact copyright@bal.com.

IMPACT –MEDIUM

What is the change? Government offices will close for five days in early October in observance of Eid al-Adha.

What does the change mean? Processing of work permits and other services will be delayed.

  • Implementation timeframe: Approximately Oct. 5-9, dates to be confirmed.
  • Visas/permits affected: Allwork 
  • Who is affected: Foreign nationals applying for work permits, extensions and other services.
  • Impact on processing times: The holiday break will cause a one-week delay.
  • Business impact: Companies and applicants shouldfactor the holiday period into business schedules and timelines.
  • Next steps: Theprecise dates will be announced based on moon sightings on Sept. 24 or 25.

Background: Eid al-Adha, or “Feast of the Sacrifice,” is a Muslim holiday celebrating the end of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. The exact dates will not be confirmed until the lunar moon is observed on Sept. 24 or 25. The holiday, which falls on the 10th day of the lunar month, therefore is expected to start on Oct. 4 or 5.

The UAE observes a five-day national holiday, during which time government offices are closed. Private offices are also closed the first two days.

BAL Analysis: The dates are tentative, but companies should plan now to build an additional week into their timeframes and, where possible, submit filings before the holiday break.

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.

Copyright © 2016 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries please contact copyright@bal.com.

IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? The Ministry of Labour in Dubai is moving to paperless labor cards and employment contracts for purposes of work permit and residency visa applications.

What does the change mean? The change will significantly streamline processing and eliminate paper.

  • Implementation timeframe: The Ministry piloted the paperless process from July 1 to July 13 and officially launched paperless processing July 13.
  • Visas/permits affected: Work permits and residency visas.
  • Who is affected: Immigration applicants on Dubai mainland.
  • Impact on processing times: The e-cards and e-contracts will be issued within 48 hours of online application submissions.
  • Business impact: Faster processing and reduction of paper will save time and administrative hassles for employers.

Background: The Ministry of Labour announced paperless processing last year as part of its move toward “Smart Government,” an initiative to provide government services online throughout the UAE.

Starting July 13, the Ministry will replace plastic labor cards and paper employment contracts with electronically issued e-cards and e-contracts.

Foreign workers will be able to apply for initial work permit approval through the Ministry’s online portal, eNetwasal, and after arrival will apply online again for an e-card and e-contract that will be issued electronically and which workers can print out. The Ministry forwards electronic copies to the Emirates ID Authority and General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs. The e-card and e-contract are required to obtain a residency visa or Emirates ID smart card.

BAL Analysis: The paperless processing improves processing times and allows various government offices to seamlessly integrate documentation for each step of the process.

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.

Copyright © 2016 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries please contact copyright@bal.com.

IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? As part of a tougher approach on visa and immigration violations, the UAE has become more vigilant in looking for employment “workaround” arrangements.

What does the change mean? Companies who engage in the practice risk greater scrutiny by authorities and increased penalties.

  • Implementation timeframe: Immediate and ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Residency visas and work permits.
  • Who is affected:Companies not yet legally settled in the UAE that want to secure future employment of foreign nationals.
  • Business impact: The increased scrutiny is a reminder to employersto strictly follow immigration and labor regulations.

Background: Companies that have not yet become legally established in the UAE may wish to secure future employees by arranging to have them hired temporarily by another company so that they can secure residency visas and work permits. However, UAE regulations require that the visas granted to those workers must be specific to the hiring company and prohibit them from working for another company. Companies that hire workers illegally face fines of AED 50,000 per worker for the first offense and AED 100,000 for a second offense.

BAL Analysis: The UAE, and Dubai in particular, is becoming more streamlined and also stricter in enforcing immigration regulations. Employers should be aware that compliance audits are increasing. Companies that are found to be employing workers without proper authorizations or visas will face fines and draw closer scrutiny from the authorities moving forward.

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

Copyright © 2016 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries please contact copyright@bal.com.

IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? Dubai is moving to an online application system for Employment Entry and Residence Permits.

What does the change mean? Companies with more than five employees will be required to register with the government portal and file applications online for new and renewal Employment Entry and Residence Permits.

  • Implementation timeframe:Immediate and ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected:Employment Entry Permits and Residence Permits.
  • Who is affected:Companies with more than five employees doing business on Dubai mainland.
  • Impact on processing times:The transition may cause initial delays, but the new process will speed up and simplify the application process.
  • Business impact:There will be administrative requirements initially as companies are required to register.
  • Next steps:Companies should register on eDNRD and create an “electronic wallet” account at noqodi.com.

Background: Companies must now register to create an account within Dubai’s eDNRD online portal. Registration requires completion of an application form in English and Arabic, an authorization letter, a copy of the corporate agent’s passport information page and UAE ID card, and a copy of the company’s Trade License and Immigration Establishment Card. Dubai will also transition to online payment of processing fees, although an implementation date has not been set.

BAL Analysis: Companies should register to use the electronic application system as soon as possible to reduce delays. They should also plan to set up an e-wallet account to prepare for conversion to online payment in the future.

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.

Copyright © 2016 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries please contact copyright@bal.com.

IMPACT – Medium

What are the changes? Dubai has passed a new law mandating health coverage for all, including foreign workers.

What does the change mean? Employers must pay for their workers’ health insurance, and coverage is a prerequisite to obtaining a residence visa.

  • Implementation timeframe: Universal health care coverage will begin next year and expand in phases ending in 2016.
  • Visas/permits affected: All visas.
  • Who is affected: All foreign nationals in the Dubai mainland, including free zones.
  • Impact on processing times: Proof of medical insurance will be another step in the processing of securing a visa.
  • Business impact: Businesseswillhave to factor the cost of health coverage intoassignments in Dubai.

Background: The Health Insurance Law was approved by the ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is also vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates.

The law aims to cover all citizens, foreign residents and visitors, and will be implemented in phases beginning next year.

Under the law, employers must cover foreign employees under at least an “essential benefits package” without deducting those costs from employees’ salaries. Employers must maintain coverage throughout a worker’s employment, and if the insurance lapses, the employer must bear the full cost of a worker’s health services, including emergency care.

The essential benefits package is expected to cost about 600 dirham (163 U.S. dollars) per individual per year. The Dubai Health Authority plans to issue special permits to health insurers seeking to sell health insurance plans.

Employees who sponsor family members will be responsible for paying for their relatives’ health insurance.

BAL Analysis: The law will impose a new cost and visa prerequisite on employers with workers in Dubai. Employees on assignment in Dubai should also be aware of the mandatory requirement to cover domestic workers and dependent family members.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in Dubai. For additional information, please contact GlobalVisaGroup@bal.com.

Copyright © 2016 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries please contact copyright@bal.com.

IMPACT – Low

What is the change? Foreign workers in the United Arab Emirates who want to sponsor parents for residency must earn a minimum monthly salary of 20,000 dirhams.

What does the change mean? The sudden doubling of the minimum salary requirement will likely be prohibitive for some foreign workers who seek to sponsor their parents.

  • Implementation timeframe: Immediate.
  • Visas/permits affected: Residence visas for parents of foreign residents.
  • Who is affected: Foreign nationals sponsoring parents for long-term residency visas.

Background: Effective immediately, the Department of Immigration has raised the minimum salary requirement from 10,000 dirhams to 20,000 dirhams for expatriates applying for their parents to live in the United Arab Emirates. Alternatively, a worker can show that he or she earns 19,000 per month and lives in a two-bedroom apartment or larger.

The old rules required proof of a 10,000 dirham per month salary, or 9,000 dirhams per month plus a two-bedroom living space.

Residence visas for parents of foreign nationals are granted on a humanitarian basis and also on proof that the foreign resident is the sole provider for his or her parents. The sponsoring employee must present a salary letter or work contract showing that his or her salary meets the new minimum. The same rules apply for a foreign national seeking to sponsor his or her parents-in-law.

BAL analysis: Employers and foreign workers with dependent parents should be aware of the stricter salary requirements when planning assignments.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network partner in the United Arab Emirates. For additional information, please contact GlobalVisaGroup@bal.com.

Copyright © 2016 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries please contact copyright@bal.com.

IMPACT – Medium

What are the changes? The Ministry of Labour plans to revamp the visa system by getting rid of unnecessary paper documents and issuing electronic work permits and labor cards; this is expected to reduce processing times from 15 days to as few as two days.

What does the change mean? The overhaul would significantly improve processing times and reduce the paper trail required for visa and work permit processing.

  • Implementation timeframe: While the plan to move to e-cards is underway, the implementation date has not yet been announced.
  • Visas/permits affected: Work permits, labor cards.
  • Who is affected: All work permit applicants.
  • Impact on processing times: Significantly faster, reduced from 15 days to as little as two days.
  • Business impact: Reduced paper documentation and faster processing times should result in reduced costs and a smoother application process for expats and assignees.

Background: The Ministry of Labour announced a plan to overhaul the visa system in a move towards smart government and streamlined processing.

Specifically, work permit applicants will no longer need to produce paper documents such as a passport, visa and medical certificate, according to comments by Undersecretary for Labour Affairs Humaid bin Dimas.

“The Ministry will now only accept a labor contract signed between the worker and the employer as it includes all required data,” Dimas told Emirates 24/7. “The ministry will then approve it and issue an E-contract, which will then be sent to the Ministry of Interior through a computer link so it will issue visas to workers after they [have] produced [a] medical certificate and other documents.”

He predicted the new system would cut processing time from 15 days to less than 48 hours.

BAL analysis: The move toward electronic processing will benefit employers and employees applying for work permits by reducing redundant documentation and speeding up processing times.

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

Copyright © 2016 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries please contact copyright@bal.com.