UAE: Relaxed Mobility Rules Among Policy Changes for 2016

New procedures that will impact the work permit application process for companies in the United Arab Emirates are expected to be implemented this month, according to a Ministry of Labour (MOL) announcement.

New Employment Contract and Offer Letter Requirements

The following procedures are expected to be implemented: 

A standardized offer letter in Arabic, English and, if required, in a third language that the candidate understands, would have to be prepared through the MOL’s electronic system at a Tas’heel Service Centre. The offer letter would be signed by the employee and electronically by the employer. The signed offer letter would then be submitted to the MOL with other documents for the work permit application.

Employees would have to obtain a new employment contract template at a Tas’heel Service Centre within 14 days of their arrival or from the date of their local immigration status change. The employment contract terms would have to match those stated in the offer letter.

The policy is expected to require employers and employees to update employment terms and sign employment contracts when the employee’s labour card is renewed.

Increased Labour Mobility

Lastly, the MOL policy change should result in greater mobility for employees changing employers, particularly for those who have worked with their previous employer for six months (instead of the current requirement of two years). Those who fall into category 1, 2 or 3 of the MOL’s skills classification system are still exempt from the above requirement, subject to meeting other requirements as outlined in the MOL’s latest decree.

What This Means for Employers and Foreign Nationals

Employers in mainland UAE should initially expect additional administrative requirements and longer processing times as the new procedures take effect. However, more transparency in the process for both employers and employees and easier labour mobility will likely benefit the UAE labour market in the long term.