Thursday, October 28, 2010

Employment ban and ban lifting charges in UAE

The Ministry of Interior used to put an automatic six-month ban on expatriates if they cancelled their employment / residence visas or left their jobs. The decision to lift the immigration ban that came into effect on 21 st August 2005 has brought some relief to expatriate community. It would enable the people to return to UAE on a visit visa even if they got a labour ban. The main advantage of the new decision is that people can still come back and visit their friends and relatives. But expatriates who violated the country’s Immigration and Residence Laws would still face the entry ban.

Article 6 of the Cabinet Decree No. 18 of 2005 annulled Decree No. 30 of 2001 pertaining to the entry ban. The Cabinet also authorized the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to put together necessary regulations to implement the decision on the ban. Subsequently, iris scanning has also been stopped. Besides, the names of expatriates with cancelled visas will no longer be on the administrative lists nor will their passports be stamped with the ban. The ban to enter the UAE will only be applicable on expatriates who violate laws governing the entry and residence of foreigners. Such violators would face the entry ban administratively for a multitude of reasons and in line with existing laws and regulations.

Domestic help have been excluded ‘temporarily’ from the new decision and their case will undergo further scrutiny by the authorities. But, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs will not issue a new work permit to workers whose visas have been cancelled unless at least six months elapse after the cancellation date of the worker’s labour card. The decision came in Article No. 11 of a Ministerial Order Decision No. 826 issued on 11.9.2005 by the UAE Minister of Labour and Social Affairs. The six-month waiting period does not apply to government departments or free zones.
Applying for new work permit while banned
Khaleej Times reported 29 September 2010 that the Ministry of Labour (MOL) said that employers can start processing work permits for banned employees before the ban period is over to facilitate quicker issue of labour cards; it sounds a bit strange since our understanding was that the MOL automatically blocked any new applications until after the ban period had expired. Jassim Jamil, acting Director General, Work Relations Department at the MOL was quoted as saying "This system demonstrates the MoL’s commitment to grant the blacklisted worker the opportunity to search for another job. Likewise, the employer wishing to hire him can initiate a transaction for issuing a new work permit before the end of the ban duration to save time,”
1. Immigration Ban
An immigration ban means you cannot enter the UAE, whether as a visitor or for residency. 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. 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.
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 or permanent labor ban you might also be restricted from visiting the UAE - check with the immigration department first. A report in the Khaleej Times on 26 August 2010 offered some clarification, saying that those with a permanent work ban in the UAE could still enter on a visit visa - An expat worker who has a permanent ban from working in the country is eligible only for a visit visa, an official at the Ministry of Labour (MoL) said on weekly Open Day at the ministry in Abu Dhabi.
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. 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 year 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 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:

• Engineers

• 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.

Ban lifting fees in UAE

The UAE MOL website (as of September 2010) lists "Transfer of Sponsorship" fees information, with additional fees payable for workers who have not completed their contracts but wish to change jobs (of about AED 3,000-5,000). It's not clear if these fees are applicable only if the worker obtains a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from employer.

Fees are the same those that were implemented during 2006-2008 when workers were permitted to transfer to another employer. As usual in the UAE, nothing is clear. If you want to know about getting a ban, and whether or not you can pay a ban lifting fee, ask the UAE Ministry of Labour helpline. Then ask again the next day to see if you get the same answer.