Visas and Work Permits 8 min

Work permits and visas in the United Arab Emirates: an employer’s guide

Written by Sally Flaxman
Sally Flaxman

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Hiring remote employees in the United Arab Emirates is a good way to tap into local talent. However, employees must have the right work visa or permit when engaging in remote work in any country abroad, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

But if you don’t have a strong understanding of immigration laws and employment practices, it can be a legally risky move for your company. For instance, while some countries allow workers to engage in freelance work on a tourist (or visitor) visa, it isn't usually allowed in the UAE. 

Before you hire or relocate an employee to the UAE, you must understand the nuances of immigration law. If you want to avoid the hassles of international hiring, including sorting out work permits for employees, you can choose to work with an employer of record.

This guide will provide comprehensive information about the UAE work visa and permit requirements. It will also include key information for relocating an existing team member, employing a non-citizen of the UAE, or employing a digital nomad working remotely. 

Why is immigration compliance important in the UAE? 

Without work authorization and proper documentation, employers may face hefty fines and penalties, as well as potential legal disputes with labor authorities.

Government authorities are becoming increasingly strict when it comes to granting short-term visas. So, if you’re planning to hire an employee in the UAE, it’s essential to stay informed about changing immigration laws.

Whether you’re looking for a temporary visa for a team member or want to hire an employee for the long term, always consult a professional to understand your options. Working with a global HR partner like Remote who has global employment experience, cultural expertise, and local-level knowledge of Emirati regulations can make sure matters related to employment or relocation run smoothly.

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Learn how to simplify your planned relocation with this walkthrough guide. We outline the key steps for you and your employer to enable a compliant, efficient, and hassle-free move.

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Who needs a work authorization check in the UAE?

All foreigners (non-Emiratis) over the age of 18 can work in the UAE, as long as they meet the criteria set out by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE).

There are different types of visas available in the UAE, but only specific ones allow you to work. It’s illegal to work on a tourist or visitor visa in the UAE, and individuals may face fines, legal persecution, or deportation if found to work without the correct documents.

To make it easier for you to support employees through the UAE work permit process, you can partner with an employer of record like Remote. Our global employment services can help you perform work authorization checks and secure the correct work permit for employees in the UAE or around the world.

Our Relocation experts can make sure all documentation and processes are in line with local immigration laws, ensuring maximum compliance. 

Do non-citizens need a work visa or work permit in the UAE?

To work in the UAE, non-citizens are required to obtain a residency visa and work permit. The employer is responsible for securing these documents for the employee. If the employee or employer works without the correct documentation, it can lead to serious penalties for both the employer and the employee.

What are the eligibility requirements for a work visa in the UAE?

To get a valid UAE work visa, an employee must first have a confirmed job offer from a legally established business within Dubai. You (as the employer) can then apply for an entry permit and residence visa on the employee’s behalf at the MoHRE.

Before the employee visits the UAE, be sure they have a passport that is current and valid for no less than six months. They'll also need to take medical exams at certified health centers in the country, which will test them for communicable diseases/conditions such as HIV or TB. If either condition is detected during testing, authorities may order them to leave the UAE immediately — so you should get them checked in their native land before traveling if there's any chance of having these illnesses.

Furthermore, if the employee has an academic certification from outside the UAE, it must be verified by their Embassy or consulate in their homeland plus their state Ministry of Foreign Affairs initially.

Finally, anyone who has defamed the UAE or is found guilty of a crime in contravention of the UAE Constitution and laws will be deemed ineligible to obtain any form of work permit. 

Additionally, those with broken residency visas may also not be able to obtain a new visa/work permit without rectifying their status first.

What are the long-stay visa types in the UAE?

When employees first receive a work permit in the UAE, it's valid for 30 days and can be extended for an additional 30 days. This gives the employer time to organize the documents necessary to live and work in the country. This includes a Residence visa, an Emirates ID card, and a Labour Card. 

For longer stays, the following long-stay visas are available in the UAE:

5-year Green visa: The government of the UAE has implemented a new 5-year residence policy for those looking to join a range of job roles such as skilled professionals, freelancers, and investors. Benefits include:

  • not needing an employer or sponsor

  • visa sponsorship for family members, including spouses and children

  • extended grace period up to six months post visa expiry/cancellation when they can remain in the country

  • sons are legally allowed until their 25th birthday, while daughters might stay on until marriage — no age limit is applicable.

Golden visa: The UAE’s Golden visa is a long-term residence visa for foreign nationals who wish to live, work or study in the Emirates. With the Golden visa, holders can enjoy a range of privileges, including:

  • an entry permit that lasts six months with recurrent admissions to obtain residency

  • a renewable residence permit valid for either five or ten years without needing sponsors

  • having the capability to reside outside the country beyond six months and still retain resident tenure

  • permitting visa sponsorship for family members such as husband/wife and kids (regardless of age). Sponsorship allowance is also permitted for unlimited domestic helpers

  • even if the primary visa holder dies, his/her qualified dependents may stay in the UAE until the end of the permit duration.

How do you get a work visa for the UAE?

To obtain a work visa, applicants must submit the following: 

  • A passport, along with a copy of it and some passport photos 

  • An Emirates ID card plus an entry permit from the Ministry of Labor  

  • The results of their medical screening   

  • Proof from the employer in the form of a company card and the company’s commercial license   

You also have to include an employment agreement or job offer presented by a UAE business and a visa application form. 

Depending on the nature of the job, there are several types of work permits in the UAE. You can learn more about the process and eligibility requirements here.

What are the visa requirements for digital nomads in the UAE?

The digital nomad visa is available for those who want to live and remotely work in Dubai, specifically. It allows individuals to work for a foreign employer for a period of up to one year, but it can be renewed if they still meet the requirements. To apply for the Dubai Virtual Work Residency Visa, you’ll need to:

  • Be a remote employee working for a company outside the UAE

  • Have an income of over USD 5,000 per month

  • Submit a copy of an employment contract

How Remote manages compliant relocation on your behalf

We understand that the process of processing work visa applications, gathering and submitting documentation, and staying compliant with local regulations, can be stressful and time-consuming.

Remote's employee relocation service can help you relocate employees in the UAE (or any other country) swiftly and without much effort. Our specialists have streamlined the process — simply provide us with a passport number and some background information, and we'll get to work. Our support includes sponsorship and visa assistance, insurance updates, and a secure and comfortable transition and onboarding of team members.

Why use an employer of record to hire in the UAE?

Remember that if you want to hire or relocate a team member in the UAE, you’ll have to establish your own entity in the country.  This involves setting up a legal presence in the country and figuring out processes to pay and manage employees compliantly — a process that can be expensive, stressful, and time-consuming.

Work with an EOR and the process of international hiring and employee relocation becomes simple. An EOR can help you manage onboarding, payroll, taxes, benefits, the immigration process, and compliance while hiring abroad. 

Learn more about how an EOR like Remote can drive your global expansion plans by reading our insightful article below.

How to use an Employer of Record in the United Arab Emirates

Learn how to use an EOR in USE and find out how an employer of record platform like Remote can make it easy to hire globally with full compliance.

Navigating global payroll, benefits, immigration, and compliance can be tricky for businesses with global employees. When you’re hiring from the UAE, both employer and employee must remain compliant with local rules to avoid penalties.

The UAE has complex visa requirements, and it can be hard for even well-established businesses to remain compliant with immigration rules. Understanding visa requirements — and getting them right — for remote workers may not be easy, but with Remote, you can confidently hire or relocate employees in the UAE and beyond.

Remote’s team of Mobility experts can help you in every step of the relocation process. 

  • We provide expert guidance on work visa applications, immigration, and compliance while helping you handle payroll, taxes, and onboarding.

  • We perform work authorization checks, process relevant visas and work permits, and facilitate timely visa renewals and extensions, in compliance with regulations.

  • We empower employers to avoid permanent establishment risk and minimize legal risks when working across borders. 

  • We ensure your company complies with local immigration, tax, and labor laws without wasting precious business time and resources. 

For detailed information on how you can successfully relocate your team, download our comprehensive Relocation Guide. Or book a consultation with our mobility gurus to find out more and start relocating employees to the UAE right away!

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