We have previously commented on the stricter approach being taken to immigration and visa violations in the UAE. Since this is a hot topic in the UAE, we are addressing it again. Particularly to highlight that in the event of a violation it may be the General Manager or the HR Manager that will be subject to penalties, which may include imprisonment. It is a legal requirement for an entity to be properly legally established in the UAE before it can enter into employment arrangements in the UAE. In many cases companies will have identified the ‘perfect’ candidate prior to having completed their incorporation in the UAE. To avoid the risk of losing the candidate, they will look to adopt ‘workarounds’ such as asking a ‘friendly’ company to employ the individual on their behalf so that the individual can obtain a visa and therefore live and work in the UAE.
This approach is not consistent with the immigration and visa regulations in the UAE. This has resulted in many companies being referred to the public prosecutor. The risks arise not just to the individual (who may face fines, imprisonment and/or deportation) but also to the General Manager and/or HR Manager.
Any company, therefore, not complying with the immigration and visa requirements should urgently review its position.
The UAE workforce is made up primarily of expat workers (i.e. individuals living and/or working in the UAE who are not UAE nationals). All expat workers are required to secure a residency visa and work permit through their employer in order to work and live in the UAE. Such permissions are granted at the discretion of the UAE authorities and are subject to the employee passing a government mandated medical screening. Any such visa that is granted is specific to that employee working for that company. The employee cannot work for another company nor can he/she represent any other company. The statements from the government have also been clear on this subject. The previous Minister of Labour Ali Abdullah Al Kaabi very clearly reiterated the legislative position on illegally working when he stated that:
"Any company that is caught employing illegal workers will face a AED 50,000 fine per worker on the first offence, and a AED 100,000 fine per worker on the second offence. And if the owner of the company is an expatriate, he will be deported and banned from entering the country for life while if the owner is a national, he will be jailed for a minimum of six months."
Therefore visa ‘workarounds’ are coming under greater scrutiny and expose the individual to considerable risk. The risk also extends to the General Manager and HR Manager of the applicable company as these roles are deemed to be ultimately responsible for the acts and omissions of a legal entity. The penalties that may be imposed upon these individuals includes fines (which can be indemnified by the company) as well as imprisonment and/or deportation.