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Advice

How to get a UAE work visa: required documents and an obtaining procedure

Getting employed or relocating to the UAE as a remote worker entails many benefits like paying zero taxes on your professional income, participating in international projects and gaining access to banking services and quality healthcare.

To start or develop a successful career in the Emirates, one needs a work permit and a residence visa. The good news is that it’s the employer’s task to apply for all necessary permits. The bad news is that you still have to collect all the required documents and pass a medical examination in the UAE.

Getting a work visa usually takes about two months and AED 3,300, or $900. Learn more about the process details and benefits for expats.

UAE work visa: requirements for applicants, necessary documents, and a step-by-step obtaining procedure

When does one need a UAE employment visa?

A person cannot get employed or perform economic activities in the UAE without a work permit. Article 6 of the Federal Decree Law No. 33 of 2021 sets the rule. Besides, a foreigner cannot legally live in the UAE for a long time without a residence visa.

If a person receives a job offer while being outside the UAE, e.g. in the country of residence, they get a special visa to enter the country first. A tourist visa cannot be used to come to the UAE for further employment.

If a person has received a job offer while being in the UAE on a tourist visa, they have two options:

  1. A person leaves the country to get a visa to re-enter the UAE.
  2. An employer applies to the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs to change the specialist’s status. In this case, the person doesn’t have to leave the UAE and gets a residence visa and a work permit on the spot.

If a person has already been employed in the UAE, has a residence visa, e.g. a Golden Visa, and wants to change a job, they must get a new work permit with the new employer.

Qualifying criteria for UAE work visa applicants

Age, good conduct, and health. The main applicant is a specialist over 18 without criminal records and dangerous illnesses like HIV or tuberculosis. 

Employment in the UAE. They also provide a job offer or an employment contract with a UAE company to get a work visa.

The qualification is confirmed with documents depending on the applicant’s skill level:

  1. Specialists with a bachelor’s or a higher degree provide their university diplomas.
  2. Workers who have graduated from a vocational school or college also need to provide their diplomas or certificates.
  3. Applicants submit their high school diplomas if they only have a complete secondary education.

UAE work permit obtaining process

The whole procedure takes about half a month to complete. During this time, the employer gets a work permit quota, provides the required information about the company and the new employee, and pays government fees.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) curates the process. Thus, all applications must be submitted via the Ministry’s online portal. It is also responsible for assigning quotas and approving work permit applications.
PT2M
Timing Время
Stage Этап
Details Детали
Up to 10 days
1. Getting a quota for an employee
1. Getting a quota for an employee

The process takes place online on the MOHRE website.

The employer logs in with their username and password or via UAE PASS. After that, they apply for a service of issuing new work permits:

  • fill in the information about the company;
  • indicate how many work permits the company needs by stating job positions, gender and number of future employees;
  • certify the application with an electronic signature.
5 days
2. Applying for a work permit for an employee
2. Applying for a work permit for an employee

After getting quotas, the employer fills in an individual application for each employee. It’s also done online via the MOHRE website.

The employer provides information about the company and future employees in the application. Besides, they prescribe employment contract conditions, including wages and allowances.

Scans of the required documents are attached to the online application. The original signed employment contract is sent to the MOHRE separately.

1—2 days
3. Paying fees and making a deposit
3. Paying fees and making a deposit

After the application is approved, the employer pays the work permit fee. Its amount depends on the company and work permit type.

In addition, the employer deposits some money for the employee. The amount also depends on the company type; it can be flat or equal to a monthly wage and the cost of a plane ticket to the UAE. For example, the flat deposit for an employee in the free zone of Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) is AED 3,000, or about $822.

Documents required for obtaining a UAE work permit

A list of the required documents is similar at each stage, i.e. applying for a work permit and a residence visa. In both cases, the employer is responsible for submitting the documents; thus, a specialist must provide the company with all necessary records.

To complete the application for a work permit, the company also provides information about the legal entity and its managers.

Lists of documents provided to get a work visa in the UAE

Who provides the documentsRequired documents
EmployeeCopy of the valid international passport with an expiry date of not less than six months

ID card — for citizens of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran
Unified Identification Number, which is automatically assigned when entering the UAE and stamped on the entry permit
Proof of qualification — a university, vocational college or high school diploma certified by the Attestation Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the UAE

Practising certificate — for specialists in the medical, educational, sports, or legal field
Photo: clear and taken on a white background
Optional: a driving licence, a good conduct certificate and an Emirates ID if an employee already has it
EmployerValid trade licence
Establishment Card
E-Signature Card
Copies of passports and valid visas of the company owners
Job offer or an employment contract

UAE work permit fees

Work permit costs range between AED 50 and AED 3,450 ($13.5 to $935). The fee depends on the following:

  • a company’s category;
  • a work permit type;
  • whether the new employee already has a residence visa or not.
AED 50 to 3,450
Cost of a work permit in the UAE

Since May 2022, Emirati companies have been divided into three categories, depending on their compliance with the country’s Labour Law, MOHRE directives, and the Wages Protection System. The observance of employees’ rights and promoting diversity are also taken into account.

Thus, 100% compliance, training programs and various activities may lead to the first category, while breaching the law puts the company in the third one.

MOHRE issues 12 types of work permits. The type is defined according to whether the applicant is a juvenile or adult, a residence visa holder or not. The nature of the job is also essential, whether part-time, full-time, freelance, or mission work on one project only.

If the future employee is outside the UAE, the employer pays two fees: for the application for a work permit and its issuance.

UAE working visa fees
Fees according to the Cabinet Resolution No. 37 of 2022

Obtaining a UAE residence visa

The residence visa allows its holder to live in the UAE throughout the visa validity period. Depending on the type, it can be valid for 1 to 10 years. However, the residence visa is usually issued for the same time as the validity of the employment contract.

The employer is responsible for applying, getting, and paying for a residence visa for the new employee. If the employee is in another country, the employer obtains for them an entry permit first.

The whole process of getting a residence permit usually takes up to 1.5 months.

Step-by-step procedure for getting a UAE employment residence visa

1
Up to 10 days
Receiving an entry permit
If the employee is outside the UAE
2
Up to 2 days
Medical examination in the UAE
3
1 day
Submitting biometrics
4
1 day
Applying for a residence visa
5
5 to 30 days
Application processing
6
1 day
Receiving a residence visa

1. Receiving an entry permit for a foreign employee is done online through the website of: 

  • the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) — the eChannel portal;
  • the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) of the chosen emirate.

The fee for the entry permit depends on the country from where the employee will come to the UAE. The entry is issued within 10 days after application.

The entry permit is valid for 60 days, during which the employee must come to the UAE, pass a medical examination and apply for a residence visa. 

2. A medical examination takes place at an authorised clinic. The employee undergoes fluorography and takes blood tests for dangerous transmissible diseases. The test results are known within 2 hours to 2 days; the applicant receives a health certificate required for residence visa application.

If the company is registered in Dubai, it must provide health insurance for an employee. Annual insurance for one person costs at least AED 500, or about $135.

3. To submit biometrics, the employee books an appointment with a service centre of the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Ports Security (ICP). The applicant provides their fingerprints and takes a photo.

4. Applications for residence visas are accepted at a GDRFA office in the chosen emirate. 

The fee for a residence visa depends on its type and the place of the company’s registration. For example, the two-year employment residence visa for an employee of a company registered in the DMCC free zone is AED 2,462, or about $666

The UAE employment residence visa is usually valid for two years. However, since October 3rd, 2022, qualified specialists can get 10-year or 5-year visas.

The Golden Visa for ten years is issued to specialists who can prove their qualifications and earn at least AED 30,000 monthly, which is about $8,120 a month.

The Green Visa for five years is available to specialists with an employment contract with an Emirati company. To qualify, applicants must also have at least a bachelor’s degree and a monthly salary of at least AED 15,000, which equals about $4,060.

5. The application processing usually lasts for five to seven days. But if the officials have questions or request additional documents, the processing time may increase to 30 days.

6. The ready residence visa is pasted into the applicant’s international passport. The document can be collected in person or received by courier.

Receiving a Labour Card and an Emirates ID 

The Labour Card is issued by an authorised body: MOHRE or a free zone administration. An application for a Labour Card must be submitted via the Tasheel system within 60 days of entering the UAE.

The Labour Card contains the following information about its holder:

  • the holder’s name;
  • a unique number assigned to the employee;
  • the work permit number;
  • a profession;
  • nationality;
  • the employer’s name;
  • an expiry date.

You might need a Labour Card number or other details to use services related to employment, for example, to file a salary complaint. The information is also needed for proving your employment in the UAE, for example, when obtaining a residence visa.

The Labour Card used to be issued in plastic, but nowadays, it only has an electronic version. 

You can find the information about your Labour Card and get a printable version via the MOHRE mobile app available in the App Store for iOS and Google Play for Android. However, the app won’t be useful for employees and domestic workers in free zones. They can address the nearest Tasheel service centre.

The Emirates ID is mandatory to have for all UAE residents and citizens. Residents can use this identity card to get government services and use a fast-track route at UAE airports. Citizens need their Emirates IDs to vote and travel within the Gulf Cooperation Council countries — to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman.

Applications for the Emirates ID are accepted at accredited typing centres, customer happiness centres, and online on the ICP website

The applicant only provides a valid passport and a residence visa. If you simultaneously apply for an Emirates ID and a residence visa, you must provide approval for issuing a residence visa. Besides, you will need a 4.5 x 3.5 cm photo taken on a white background.

Fees for the Emirates ID, on average, amount to AED 170, or about $46. If you apply at a customer happiness centre, you can benefit from an urgent service, which costs AED 150, or about $40.6.

The Emirates ID is issued within 2—3 weeks. It is usually valid for the same time as your residence visa.

Emirates ID
The Emirates ID card has the holder’s 15-digit identification number and an electronic chip with personal data, including fingerprints

UAE residence visas for family members of a work visa holder

Family members can move to the UAE, too. But they get residence visas after the main applicant, and the main applicant acts as a sponsor for their relatives.

The sponsor must apply for residence visas for their family members within 60 days of entering the UAE. 

Requirements for sponsors differ depending on their gender. The rules apply to family members who will be able to get residence visas under the sponsorship and the sponsor’s monthly salary and profession.

Sponsorship terms for obtaining residence visas for family members

RequirementMale sponsorFemale sponsor
Qualifying family members• Wife
• Sons of up to 21
• Daughters of any age
• Parents
• Husband
• Sons of up to 21
• Daughters of any age
Minimum monthly salaryAED 4,000 ($1,090)
or AED 3,000 ($818) + accommodation

AED 20,000 ($5,450) — to sponsor parents; the threshold is valid for Dubai and may differ for other emirates
In Abu Dhabi: only if the woman works in specified fields: AED 10,000 ($2,725)
Or AED 8,000 ($2,180) + accommodation

In Dubai: AED 10,000
ProfessionNo requirementsIn Abu Dhabi: to get residence visas for family members, female employers must be:
• engineers;
• teachers;
• doctors, nurses or other professionals working in the medical sector

In Dubai: the profession doesn’t matter, but DNRD’s permission is required

Requirements for family members apply to their health and dependency on the sponsor. 

All relatives over 18 must undergo medical examinations at accredited health centres. If a family member has a dangerous transmittable disease like HIV or tuberculosis, they won’t get a UAE residence visa. However, dormant or inactive pulmonary tuberculosis doesn’t count as medical unfitness subject to treatments and follow-ups in the UAE.

Children can get residence visas via sponsorship under the following conditions:

  1. Daughters must be unmarried.
  2. Sons might be sponsored if they are under 18. If aged between 18 and 21, they must study at a university in the UAE or another country. 
  3. Stepchildren are subject to making a deposit per child and providing permission from their biological parents.

Parents are secured with a bank deposit. The sponsor cannot include only one parent in the application; both must get residence visas. If one of the parents has deceased or they have got divorced, the reason for including only one parent must be supported with related documents.

The sponsor also proves that they are the sole supporter of their parents and that nobody can take care of them in the country of residence. Another requirement is getting medical insurance with full coverage for each parent.

Documents for visa application are the following:

  • application filled out online or in a typing centre;
  • copies of relatives’ passports;
  • a marriage certificate;
  • birth certificates if getting visas for children and parents;
  • a certificate from a university proving the sponsor’s son is a student there;
  • the sponsor’s employment contract;
  • a certificate from the employer with proof of monthly salary;
  • medical clearance certificates for relatives over 18;
  • photos taken on a white background;
  • a registered tenancy contract and the latest utility bill to prove the address of residence in the UAE.

The validity period of a relative’s residence visa is one or two years, depending on the relative and the sponsor’s visa duration. Thus, parents, stepchildren and student sons get visas valid for one year, while other relatives qualify for two-year visas.

Residence visas of family members are subject to renewal. However, if the sponsor’s visa is cancelled, the visas of their family members get cancelled, too. 

Family members have 30 days of expiration or cancellation of their residence visas to get new ones.

How to renew or cancel your UAE work permit and residence visa

To renew a work permit, the employer applies to the MOHRE via a typing centre or the official website

The employee must meet all the requirements under which they got a work permit in the first place and provide the same documents. 

The employer pays a fee for the work permit renewal, depending on the company’s category and the specific situation for renewal.

Fees for work permit renewal

ServiceFee
Company type 1Company type 2Company type 3
Renewal of a work permit for another two yearsAED 250AED 1,200AED 3,450
Permit for transferring and employment of workers from one establishment to anotherAED 250AED 1,200AED 3,450
Modification of employment contractAED 50AED 50AED 50
Permit for transferring from one establishment to another AED 50AED 50AED 50

After renewing the work permit, the employer also renews the employee’s residence visa. The procedure is the same as for obtaining the first one. However, the time is limited: one must apply for a visa renewal within 30 days of expiration.

The Emirates ID and the Labour Card are renewed as well.

In the case of work permit cancellation, the employer must apply for it at a typing centre or on the MOHRE website.

The application must include information about the company and the employee, including the employee’s passport copy and residence visa data. Besides, the company indicates that it has granted all the entitlements to the employee, which is confirmed by the employee’s signature on the permit cancellation form.

Other types of work visas in the United Arab Emirates for job seekers, freelancers, digital nomads and business owners 

The job seeker visa became a part of the new migration system introduced in the UAE in October 2022. It will allow the holder to come to the UAE to explore employment, business and investment opportunities on the spot.

To get a job seeker visa, one doesn’t need a sponsor but must be ready to provide a passport copy, proof of qualification, a rental agreement or a hotel reservation, health insurance for the period of stay in the UAE, and a return ticket.

The cost of the visa depends on its validity period: 

  1. 60-day visa — AED 1,495 ($407).
  2. 90-day visa — AED 1,655 ($450).
  3. 120-day visa — AED 1,815 ($495).

Freelancers can get residence visas valid for three or five years.

3 years
The standard UAE visa validity for freelancers

A 3-year visa is available to those with a freelancer’s licence in a free zone of the corresponding activity. The licence is valid for one year, subject to renewal. Its cost depends on the free zone. For example, the average fee in Dubai is AED 7,500, or about $2,042.

Besides the licence, a freelancer must get an Establishment Card; the fee is AED 2,000 (about $545). A residence visa will cost another AED 5,000 (about $1,360).

A 5-year Green Visa appeared in 2022. To get it, a freelancer must provide a diploma with at least a bachelor’s degree and certificates proving an income of at least AED 360,000 (about $98,000) earned within the last two years. However, the visa is new, and the UAE hasn’t started accepting applications and issuing 5-year visas yet.

Digital nomads can participate in Dubai’s Virtual Working Program. To qualify, they must have an employment contract valid for at least a year and medical insurance. The minimum monthly salary for applicants is $5,000. 

The visa will be valid for a year, but it can be renewed an unlimited amount of times. The fee for getting a visa is AED 2,451, or about $668.

Business owners can get residence visas with or without a sponsor.

A sponsor is your own company after registering and getting an Establishment Card in the UAE. Such a visa for the company’s owner will be valid for three years.

The Green and Golden Visas are self-sponsored. According to the official government website, both of them will be granted for five years. However, the requirements for applicants differ.

The Green Visas are designed for investors and shareholders. They must provide approval for investing in a business and proof of transferred money.

To qualify for a Golden Visa, the applicant must own an economic or technical innovative startup. In this case, it’s necessary to provide the following:

  • an auditor’s statement that the project is worth at least AED 500,000 ($136,000);
  • confirmation from the chosen emirate that your project meets the requirements;
  • approval from a certified business incubator to perform the chosen activity in the country.

Executive directors get Golden Visas by providing a university degree, a letter confirming their 5-year experience in the same position and a valid work agreement with a salary of at least AED 50,000 ($13,600).

Dubai work visa
The UAE ranks 16th in the Doing Business 2020 report by the World Bank Group. It means that registering a company in the country is a fast and accessible procedure, and businesses can benefit from government support, bank loans and a favourable taxation regime

Benefits of working and living in the UAE

Favourable taxation. Individuals like employees of Emirati companies don’t pay any income tax. The UAE also doesn’t tax capital gains, wealth, inheritance, and gifts.

Freelancers don’t pay income taxes if they earn less than AED 375,000 ($102,100) a year. A 5% VAT applies to those who make more.

Companies don’t pay taxes on profits, either. However, a 9% corporate tax will apply to businesses that earn more than AED 375,000 ($102,100) a year in June 2023.

International projects and diverse environment. About 3,500 international companies operate in the UAE, most of which are in Dubai. Besides, 80% of the country’s population are expats. These facts offer a variety of projects for developing your hard and soft skills.

Guarantees and extra benefits for employees. Local companies follow the law regarding working hours and paid leaves. Thus, the number of working hours per week is 48, and the number of days on paid vacation is 32 per year.

Additional benefits may include housing allowance, flexible working hours, extra days for vacation, free workshops and training, family health insurance, gym membership, free meals, and more.

Access to banking services. Clients of Emirati banks freely get payments from Europe, aren’t charged for account maintenance, earn interest higher than inflation, and aren’t limited to transferring money across the border.

High quality of life. According to the latest Mercer study, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are among the 100 world’s best cities in terms of quality of living. In general, the UAE offers its residents a variety of high-end entertainment like resorts, golf courses, marinas, shopping malls, and fine cuisine restaurants.

Emirati residents and citizens also benefit from quality education according to British, European and American standards and advanced healthcare.

Frequently asked questions

How to get a Dubai work visa?

One must get employed by a local company or get a licence as a freelancer. In the first case, the employer will apply for a work permit and entry and residence visas. In the latter case, you must obtain an Establishment Card and a residence visa as a freelancer.

How much does a UAE working visa cost?

Expenses on obtaining a UAE working visa usually amount to about AED 3,300, or $900. This sum includes the company’s payment for a work permit, entry visa, health insurance, and residence visa fees.

How long does the UAE working visa process take?

Getting a work permit and a residence visa usually takes about two months in total.

How to check the UAE working visa status?

You can check your visa validity and status on the ICP website if your visa is issued for Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, or Fujairah. For Dubai, this service is available on the GDRFA website.

Is the UAE work permit and Labour Card the same thing?

In some sense, it is. However, a work permit is requested by the employer. The Labour Card is assigned to an employee and includes a work permit number, profession and personal information.

You might need a Labour Card number or other details to use services related to employment, for example, to file a salary complaint. The information is also needed for proving your employment in the UAE, for example, when obtaining a residence visa.

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How to get a UAE work visa: required documents and an obtaining procedure