Dubai/United Arab Emirates Visa Ban Information
Except for UAE national citizens (and GCC nationals for the most part), all residents need permission from the UAE government (the Ministry of Immigration or equivalent) to live in Dubai and the UAE or visit the UAE. Each emirate has their own immigration department so it is possible the rules vary slightly but for the most part they are consistent in each emirate. What is more likely is that the same rules are interpreted differently, and/or applied differently by different emirates and to different nationalities. Keep this in mind if encountering difficulties with visa and work permit processing.
As well as permission to visit or live in the UAE, all non-Emirati workers also need permission to work, and the UAE Ministry of Labour is in charge of issuing work permits (or labour cards) to working expats, except for maids who have their work permits processed at the Immigration Department. This is all covered in more detail in the pages about Dubai maid visas, working in the UAE, and UAE visas but the above summary is repeated here as an introduction.
Expats and visitors may be subject to an entry ban and/or a work ban depending on who they are and/or what they've done while they've been in the UAE. There are two types of bans.
1. Immigration Ban
An immigration ban means you cannot enter the UAE, whether as a visitor or for residency. Israeli citizens for example are banned (except for Israeli tennis players ... sometimes) due to their nationality, but just having a stamp from a visit to Israel shouldn't result in denied entry to the UAE (unless immigration is looking for an excuse to turn you away). Other bans can arise if you have been convicted of a criminal offence while in the UAE. Common offences that many expats get into trouble with are bad debts, bounced checks, drinking and driving, drunk in public, inappropriate relationships (having sex on the beach while drunk with someone you're not married to, for example). Of course, more severe offences such as theft, violence, rape, murder etc will also result in an immigration ban but not so many expats indulge in these activities, and those that do are not usually so surprised to receive a ban.
An immigration ban can also arise if you have broken the rules related to immigration for example entering the country illegally, working without a work permit, absconding (leaving your job without informing your sponsor / employer), overstaying (this last one is not so likely to be a problem, just expensive when you get your overstaying fine).
Criminal offences usually result in a permanent ban and this is monitored via eye-scanning equipment at airports, so losing your passport and getting a new one won't get you back in to the country.
In the past, there was a 6 month or 1 year temporary entry ban for expat residents (not visitors) after they had left the country but this is no longer in existence (which doesn't mean it can't change in the future). Now, if you get a 6-month employment ban, you can still re-enter the UAE for a visit (but if you use that as a way to come back and work, and get caught, expect a lifetime immigration ban as a result). If you get a 1 year employment ban, there are conflicting reports about whether you can visit the UAE or not. Assume no unless you can confirm otherwise with the UAE immigration department.
2. Employment Ban
An employment ban, labour ban, work permit ban are all different terms for the same thing i.e. you are not allowed to work in the UAE for a certain period of time. Note that this is an automatic ban on providing a work permit or labour card imposed by the Ministry of Labour (MOL). Nothing is stamped in your passport but when a new employer hands in an application to the MOL, it will automatically be rejected if a ban is on your computer file. A 6 month labour ban does not affect permission to visit the UAE - you can still enter on a visit visa or tourist visa. If you have a 1 year labor ban you might also be restricted from visiting the UAE - check with the immigration department first.
Ban lifting fee
There are some reports (in 2008-2009) that you may be able to pay a ban lifting fee of about 5000-6000 dhs. Other reports and comments indicate it is possible to lift a ban on payment of AED 500 per month of remaining contract duration if leaving before the end of a limited period contract. Official confirmation of a ban lifting fee not found so it could be variable depending on profession, nationality, company, mood of the official you're dealing with, wasta, which emirate you're in, what zone your DVD player is set to, and any other variables you can think of. Although the MOL website does still have a document from 2007 outlining the fees and categories of qualifications that are exempt from a ban or can get a ban lifted. It seems to be related to previous ban information but might still apply. Don't count on it but if you have no other choice, it's worth trying.
No ban on sponsor transfer
It may be possible to avoid a ban, or lift a ban by paying a fee, if you transfer from one sponsor to another. This is different from cancelling your residence visa and work permit, then applying for a new visa and labour card. A transfer of your sponsorship will at least need a No Objection Certificate (NOC), possibly payment of a ban lifting fee, and might be restricted to certain occupations. Check with the labour department in the emirate you are working in.
1 Yar Ban
A one year labour ban for Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and the rest of the UAE will usually be imposed under the following conditions
- expatriate workers leaving government jobs
- expatriate workers who break the terms of their labour contract and/or the labour law
- expats who lose a case with the UAE labour department against their employer, if they were on a temporary work permit because they had filed a complaint with the labour department (according to a Gulf News report 02 August 2009 and other follow-up media reports)
- possibly against workers who leave their job within one year of starting (at employer's request)?
6 Month Ban
A six month ban will be imposed on everyone automatically, unless they cop a one year ban, or fit into one of the exceptions below
No labour ban
No labour ban will be imposed on anyone in one of the following categories
- UAE citizens are not subject to any labour ban (or immigration ban for that matter)
- Expatriate workers moving to a government job will not receive a ban (don't confuse this with workers leaving a government job - they get a double whammy)
- Oil company employees
- Expat workers moving to another employer within the same free trade zone (not to a different free trade zone)
- Expats who have completed a fixed term contract and have given proper notice of not renewing it
- Expats who have completed 1 year of an unlimited contract AND get a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the current employer. It may be a requirement that the new job has the same job title as the old job.
- Expats who are sponsored by their spouse for a residence visa (unless they breach the labour law in some way that brings down a ban).
- Expats who have worked for a company for more than 3 years on an unlimited contract? Unconfirmed. A Gulf News report 01 March 2009 stated that "The ban does not apply if the person has been working in the company for more than three years." Another Gulf News report ("Ask The Law" 12 February 2010) had a reply from Advocate Mohammad Ebrahim Al Shaiba of Al Bahar Advocates and Legal Consultants who said "... if his contract is for an unlimited period, he shall work with the employer for three years, then he may transfer to a new sponsor without the need to obtain a No Objection Certificate from the existing sponsor. This is the current applicable law in the Ministry of Labour ..."
Where many expats get tripped up is when they work for more than a year but do not complete the full period of a fixed term contract. They can expect to get a ban even if the company provides them with an NOC.
Exceptions can be made but require a trip to the Ministry of Labour (MOL) to explain your situation and give them a good reason why the ban should not be imposed. A company going bankrupt, or the owner of the company doing a runner or dying are examples of what might prompt some leeway from the MOL. An employee getting into a fight with his or her boss, or not performing satisfactorily, is unlikely to be viewed with any sympathy, even if they claim their boss was being unfair.
If your boss really is being unfair or you have a legitimate complaint, your first step should be to file a complaint with the UAE Labour Department so that there is a documented record.
Other exemptions from employment ban
According to Article 63 of the "General Provision for the Entry Permits and Visas" legal document (as seen on DNRD website), "no new Entry Permit or Visa may be issued for employment except after the elapse of six months from the date of the last departure from the territories of the State", but the following categories of workers are exempted:
- Doctors, Pharmacists and Male Nurses
- Agricultural Guides
- Qualified Accountants and Auditors
- Administrative Employees holding university degrees
- Technicians operating on scientific, electronic instruments and laboratories
- Drivers licensed to drive heavy vehicles and buses, in case the transfer of sponsorship is to a similar party
- Workers in private oil companies when the transfer is between such companies
Unknown if this is current information (DNRD document is undated). Last checked 01 March 2009 but document appears to be more than a year old, so may have been superseded by changes to UAE visa rules in 2008.
Previous ban information
- June 2008 - present: automatic 6 month ban unless exceptions apply (Xpress report 04 June 2008 said "Labour ministry officials have confirmed that six-month and one-year labour bans have been reinstated.")
- July 2007? - June 2008: sponsorship transfer relatively straightforward without ban if NOC provided, minimum 1 year employment, possible fee payment
- March 2006 - July 2007?: transfer possible with payment of fees and minimum 1 year employment
For the curious, and the archives, this was older information about residence and labour bans (expired in 2005 / 2006 when an automatic 6 month labour ban was introduced?)
- Maids and other domestic workers had an automatic one year ban imposed on them but as of January 2006 this rule has been cancelled
- Some professions and/or those holding a Master's Degree or higher were exempt.
In March 2006 it was announced that under certain conditions and payment of fees (between 1500 and 9000 dhs), the labour ban could be waived for those wanting to change jobs. The conditions are (according to the Gulf News 08 March 2006):
- Labour permit and residence visa cancelled, without ban
- Worker has not signed a no-competition agreement
- Worker has been with company for at least one year
- New company applies for a new labour permit
- Transaction fees need to be paid according to the following categories of company which the employee is moving to (not from) and depending on the type of degree or qualification held:
PhD or MA
BA or equivalent
- If expatriate has not completed three years in the same company, an extra Dh3,000 is charged.
The first condition appeared to introduce a stumbling block right off the bat - to waive the ban, the permit has to be cancelled without a ban in the first place. Getting up to date details from a reliable source (even official government sources appear to contradict each other - website vs spokesperson vs press release for example) is not always easy.
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