Moving to the UAE for work requires obtaining a work visa, which involves several steps. Our step-by-step guide provides a detailed comparison of the various UAE work visas, lists the required documents for visa application, and outlines the application process.
With a large expat community (88% of the population), the UAE’s simple employment visa requirements make it an attractive destination. However, navigating the visa application process can be challenging, which is why we also explore the benefits of working with an immigration expert.
Moving to the UAE for work can be an exciting opportunity, but it’s important to understand the necessary steps for obtaining a work visa. The UAE requires expats and foreign nationals to go through a comprehensive application process that involves several important steps. This includes selecting the appropriate work visa, obtaining an entry visa, applying for an Emirates ID, and undergoing a medical checkup. By understanding these requirements and following the proper procedures, expats can successfully obtain a UAE work visa and embark on their new career journey.
Whether you’re an expat or a global company interested in hiring UAE talent, our guide provides essential information to help simplify the UAE work visa process.
Foreign nationals planning to work in the UAE must first obtain a UAE work visa. There are three types of UAE work visas available: standard work visa, Golden Visa, and Green Visa. Each type of visa has its own eligibility requirements and benefits, so it’s essential to choose the right one based on the individual’s circumstances.
The standard work visa is a widely used option for those seeking employment in the UAE. It is an employer-sponsored visa that enables expats to live and work in the UAE for a period of two to three years. At the end of this period, the visa must be renewed or canceled by the employer.
To obtain a standard work visa, a foreign national must first have an employment contract and get approval from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization (MoHRE). They must also obtain an entry permit before arriving in the UAE. Once in the country, they can begin the process of obtaining their work visa and residence visa.
The Green visa is a recent addition to the UAE’s work visa options, launched in October 2022 to attract and support foreign freelancers and self-employed individuals. The Green visa offers a longer residency period of five years, making it an appealing option for those seeking long-term stability in the UAE. Additionally, unlike the standard work visa, the Green visa does not require employer sponsorship, giving more flexibility to the holder. The Green visa also offers other benefits, such as a simplified application process and the ability to sponsor immediate relatives to relocate to the UAE. However, to apply for a Green visa, applicants must provide proof of education, a valid employment contract or self-employment permit from the MoHRE, and proof of sufficient income during their stay in the UAE, among other required documents.
If you’re a professional with exceptional qualifications, the UAE’s Golden visa is a great opportunity for you! It’s an extended residence permit that lets you live, work, and study in the UAE for 10 years without a local sponsor. To qualify for this visa, you can be a doctor, scientist, athlete, inventor, artist, healthcare staff, or someone with select qualifications.
Once you have the Golden visa, you’ll enjoy plenty of benefits. You’ll have access to exclusive health insurance packages and be able to sponsor unlimited immediate family members and support staff. You’ll also be able to spend unlimited time outside the UAE without affecting the validity of your visa.
It’s important to note that the list of supporting documents required for the Golden visa varies depending on your background. But don’t worry, you can take an eligibility quiz on the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs, and Port Security (ICP) website to find out if you qualify for this visa.
Great news! If you’re over 18 and meet the MoHRE’s standards, you can legally work as an expat in the UAE. Here’s what you need to know:
- The employer has a valid operating license
- The employer has no violations
- The employee’s work corresponds to the nature of the company’s operations
- The employee has at least a high school diploma
And the best part? There’s no maximum age limit for applicants! However, if you’re over 65 years old, your employer will need to pay an additional AED5,000 (US$1,360) fee every two years. So, if you meet these conditions, you’re well on your way to working in the UAE!
If you’re planning to apply for a UAE work visa, it’s important to know that the requirements may vary depending on the visa category. Here’s a general list of the supporting documents you’ll typically need to submit:
- Original passport and copy
- Passport-sized photos in line with UAE requirements
- Emirates ID card
- Entry permit from the Ministry of Labor (MoL)
- Medical certificate issued by a government-approved health center in the UAE
- Copies of the employee’s academic qualifications with authorization from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a UAE Embassy in the employee’s home country
- Documents from the employer, such as their commercial license and company card
We’re here to guide you through the UAE work visa application process, which can be broken down into three stages. First, you’ll need to obtain an employment entry visa, then you’ll need to apply for an Emirates ID, and finally, you’ll need to obtain a residence visa and work visa.
But don’t worry, we’ve outlined each stage and its steps below, so you can feel confident and prepared throughout the entire process.
If you’re living and working in one of the UAE’s 46 free zones, your employer must apply for a UAE free zone visa. This type of visa requires visa quota approval from the Ministry of Labor.
Keep in mind that free zone employers have a quota restriction on work visas, which can vary depending on the free zone. For instance, in Dubai, the quota is one visa per nine square meters of office space. If your employer reaches their quota, they can either move to a larger office or apply for a quota upgrade.
Once your employer receives quota approval, they’ll need to submit a signed work contract to the Ministry of Labor (MoL) for approval. The contract should be written in English, Arabic, and your native language (if it’s different from either language).
Your employer will need to submit their work visa application for approval, and at this stage, the Ministry of Labor (MoL) will confirm that your sponsor is a registered UAE corporate entity. The MoL will also check to see if any unemployed UAE citizens are qualified for the vacant position before approving the application.
It’s important to note that the MoL must approve the work visa application before issuing an entry visa, so make sure everything is in order to avoid any delays.
After the work visa application is approved, the MoL issues an employment entry visa, which is also known as a pink visa. The entry visa is valid for two months for standard and Green visa holders and six months with multiple entries for Golden visa holders. It allows the employee to legally enter the UAE to formalize their work visa and apply for a residence visa. Upon arrival, the employee receives the entry visa, or they may apply for a one-time extension if they cannot travel to the UAE within 60 days. Then, they need to collect supporting documents for their residence visa application, such as an Emirates ID and health certificate, while the employer submits additional documents to officiate the work visa.
To start working in the UAE, foreign nationals must get an Emirates ID, which is required for medical screening and serves as an everyday identification document. The ID is linked to the expat’s residence visa. To apply for an Emirates ID, the employee needs to visit an Emirates Identity Authority center with their passport and entry visa, and provide biometrics like fingerprints and a photograph.
Before applying for a UAE residence visa, all applicants must pass a medical screening at a government-approved clinic. The results of the checkup are mandatory for the application.
To complete the work visa process, the employer must upload the labor contract to the MoL website within 14 days of the employee’s medical screening.
All expat employees in the UAE must have health insurance. In Abu Dhabi and Dubai, employers must provide health insurance for employees and their families. If employees live in Sharjah or one of the northern Emirates, they must purchase their own health insurance plan. A valid health insurance card is mandatory to obtain or renew a work visa.
Once the above steps are completed, it takes approximately five days for the MoL to issue the official work visa. Once the work visa is received, employees can legally commence work in the UAE, and employers can begin paying salaries through the official UAE system.
After completing the necessary steps, the employee can apply for a residence visa by submitting the required documents. An application receipt is acceptable if the official Emirates ID hasn’t been received. The residence visa is valid for two years and can be renewed. Expats need a residence visa to live in the UAE, and it includes the work visa as part of it. A residence visa is also necessary for various formalities such as opening a bank account or registering a car.
If you’re planning to work in the UAE, there’s an important step you need to take, before you pack your bags and head to the airport: obtaining a work permit UAE. Don’t worry, though – your employer will handle this process on your behalf.
1/ They’ll need to print the application from the Tas’Heel website, the Ministry of Labour’s online system, and submit the required documents.
2/ The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) will review their application and let them know if any additional information is needed.
With a little patience and some paperwork, you’ll soon be ready to start your new job in the UAE.
The fees for UAE work permits are as follows:
- Requesting an initial approval of a new electronic work permit: AED 200 for all categories/levels.
- Approval of the new electronic work permit (the worker’s recruitment, hiring, and Labour Card):
- Category 1: AED 300
- Category 2:
- Level A: AED 600
- Level B: AED 1,500
- Level C: AED 2,000
- Category 3: AED 5,000
- For foreign workers over the age of 65: AED 5,000 on all categories
The second category is divided into levels, depending on the ratio of skilled and unskilled workers that the company has. In most cases, it is your employer who is in charge of covering the UAE work permit costs.
After all the required documents are submitted, the Ministry usually takes five working days to issue the work permit.
After receiving the work permit, you have 30 days to stay in the UAE, with the option to extend for another 30. During this time, you and your employer must arrange a Residence Visa, Emirates ID, and Labour Card. The Residence Visa and Labour Card allow for legal residence and work in the UAE, and can be issued for 1, 2, or 3 years, based on the purpose of travel and UAE authorities’ discretion.