United Arab Emirates: Exit procedures and documents required for resident foreigners who leave the country, including whether the residence permit is cancelled when the resident leaves the UAE; whether the holder of a valid residence permit can return to the UAE, particularly more than six months after departure; whether foreign workers can remain in the UAE after retirement; whether a sponsor can cancel a residence permit while the holder is abroad (2014-April 2016). [ARE105443.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Foreign Resident Permits

In an interview with the Research Directorate, a consular officer at the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Ottawa stated that foreigners require sponsors to obtain residence permits in the UAE (UAE 29 Feb. 2016). The same source explained that

[s]ponsors can be either a UAE national who wishes to sponsor a foreigner for various reasons (as a maid for example), or an employer who wishes to hire a foreigner (the most frequent case), or a foreign resident who sponsors a family member. … Residency permits for workers are valid for 2-3 years, depending on the type of job that the resident has in the UAE. (ibid.)

1.1 Temporary Exit

According to the consular officer at the UAE Embassy in Ottawa,

[o]nce a foreign national has a residence permit in the UAE, they can leave the country and come back whenever they want, provided that they don’t leave for more than six consecutive months. (UAE 29 Feb. 2016)

Similarly, in correspondence with the Research Directorate, a lawyer in Dubai who specializes in UAE employment matters stated that a resident foreigner can exit and re-enter the country on multiple occasions with a valid residence visa, unless they are outside the UAE for more than six months (Lawyer 17 Feb. 2016). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a legal consultant based in the UAE who works with foreign investors in Abu Dhabi specified that "[t]emporary departures do not require any action, provided the resident returns within 6 months" (Legal consultant 21 Feb. 2016).

1.2 Re-entry After More than Six Months

The consular officer indicated that,

[i]f a foreign resident is out of the UAE for more than six consecutive months, they will not be allowed to re-enter the country. The computerized system will not recognize their residency anymore, which will have become invalid. To re-enter the country, they would need a new residency permit. (UAE 29 Feb. 2016)

Similarly, the lawyer stated that foreign residence permit holders absent from the UAE for a term exceeding six months "have to obtain a new visa" to re-enter the country (Lawyer 17 Feb. 2016).

However, sources noted that the residency permit of a foreign resident who remains abroad for more than six consecutive months is not automatically cancelled by UAE authorities (ibid.; UAE 29 Feb. 2016).

The lawyer stated that,

[s]ometimes, the authorities [allow the resident to enter] if the overstay is only one or two weeks; however, [this] is entirely at the discretion of the Immigration Department official who processes the entering individual. (Lawyer 17 Feb. 2016)

According to the consular officer, a foreigner who exits the UAE for a period exceeding six months cannot obtain a new residence permit before "officially cancelling their former residency" (UAE 29 Feb. 2016). The same source explained that until the individual officially files for cancellation of their previous permit,

[i]t will … be very difficult for them to request documents like a certificate of good conduct for example. In most cases, their sponsor will also have to pay a penalty to the UAE authorities. (ibid.)

Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. The consular officer described the following procedure for cancelling a residence permit while the holder is abroad:

If a resident is outside the UAE and needs their residency status to be cancelled (because they have decided not to come back; or they have overpassed the six-month period outside the UAE and cannot come back; or they have left definitively but have not properly cancelled their residency status as required by the UAE authorities), they can try to reach an agreement with their sponsor in the UAE for the sponsor to clear their name (i.e. to make sure that there is no ban on their name for future residency application). If, for any reason, it is not possible to reach the sponsor or to find an agreement with the sponsor, the resident can use a Power of Attorney (a legal document that gives someone else the right to act on your behalf) to designate a trusted person in the UAE who will contact their sponsor on their behalf for the sponsor to proceed with the cancellation of their residency permit. The resident will have to send their passport to the trusted person. (ibid.)

1.3 Exceptions to the Six-Month Rule

The consular officer stated that

[t]here are some exceptions to the six-month rule based on the resident's reasons for being outside for more than six months (for example when the resident studies or receives a medical treatment abroad). The resident needs to send a document attesting their situation (such as a medical report) to their sponsor in the UAE [to be granted an extension]. The document must be legalized by the ministry of foreign affairs of the host country and by the UAE Embassy in the host country. Once [the sponsor] receive[s] the document, [they] must apply for an extension and, if the extension is granted, send a copy of the authorization to the resident, who will use this copy when [re]-entering the UAE. (ibid.)

2. Procedures for Permanent Exit

Sources state that the procedure to exit the UAE permanently requires the cancellation of the resident visa prior to departure (UN 22 Feb. 2013, para. 6; Legal consultant 21 Feb. 2016; UAE 29 Feb. 2016).

The consular officer described the regular exit procedure as follows:

Ideally, a resident does not leave the UAE before their residency has been cancelled. When leaving the country, a resident must have their passport with a cancellation stamp on their visa.

Official cancellation of the residency permit is taken care of by the sponsor, who must apply for cancellation at the Ministry of Interior of the UAE. In order to cancel their sponsored resident’s residency permit, the sponsor needs to send, together with the application, the resident’s passport (which contains the residency visa) as well as proof that the resident has paid all their bills (including credit card, rent and fines), received all due money from their employer, and, if applicable, that anything agreed upon between the employer and the employee before employment (when the sponsor is the employer) has been sorted out before cancellation [1].

If the individual’s residence visa has expired and fines have accumulated, however, then the fines must be settled (either by payment or by waiver) before the individual will be allowed to leave the country. (ibid.)

Similarly, the legal consultant stated that it is the foreign resident's sponsor who files the visa cancellation application with immigration authorities and also that before the final exit from the UAE, a "foreign resident in the U.A.E. must clear all utility bills, close all bank accounts and pay off all traffic fines" (Legal consultant 21 Feb. 2016). According to the same source, "[p]rovided everything is in order, cancellation usually comes through within 48 hours" (ibid.). Corroborating information on the processing time for the cancellation of a visa could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Article 59 of the Executive Regulations of the Federal Law N° (6) of 1973 on Entry and Residence of Foreigners states that

… upon [the residence permit's] expiry or earlier cancellation, the holder should leave the country within a maximum period of thirty days. (UAE 1997, Art.59)

Two oral sources also indicated that once the residence permit is cancelled, the holder has 30 days in which to leave the country (Legal consultant 21 Feb. 2016; Lawyer 17 Feb. 2016).

Articles 77 and 78 of the Executive Regulations of the Federal Law N° (6) of 1973 on Entry and Residence of Foreigners define the regulations regarding daily fines to be paid by foreign residents who overstay in the UAE (UAE 1997, Art. 77 and 78). Without providing details, the legal consultant confirmed that "[a] daily fine is payable for each day of overstay" (Legal consultant 21 Feb. 2016). A copy of Articles 77 and 78 of the regulations are attached to this Response

2.1 Documents Required upon Exit

The consular officer stated that, "[w]hen leaving the [UAE], a resident must have their passport with a cancellation stamp on their visa" (UAE 29 Feb. 2016).

According to the lawyer,

[f]or a foreigner who holds a U.A.E. residence visa, the procedures for exit from the U.A.E. are relatively simple. No special exit permit is required. Instead, the foreigner is required only to exit the U.A.E. from a recognized exit point (either a recognized airport, seaport or terrestrial border crossing). An exit stamp is stamped in the passport of the departing individual. No other formalities are required. (Lawyer 17 Feb. 2016)

3. Whether a Sponsor Can Cancel a Resident Permit While the Holder Is Abroad

According to the legal consultant, "[a] sponsor can only cancel the visa of the sponsored foreign resident if the foreign resident remains abroad for more than 6 months" (Legal consultant 21 Feb. 2016). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to the lawyer,

[t]he sponsor of the residence visa has the right to cancel the residence visa while the holder is outside of the U.A.E. The routine way to accomplish this would be for the residence visa holder to send the passport back to the sponsor, along with the signed cancellation forms, and for the sponsor then to attend to cancellation in the U.A.E

[i]f the residence visa holder is not cooperating with the sponsor or cannot be reached, then the sponsor will usually report the residence visa holder as having “absconded,” which means having broken contact with the sponsor without advance notice. This results in cancellation of the visa and reducing the sponsor’s employee headcount in the U.A.E. (Lawyer 17 Feb. 2016)

4. Consequences of Absconding

The lawyer stated that,

[t]echnically, absconding is an immigration offense, and if the offense is not removed from the employee’s records then the employee can be taken into custody by the law enforcement authorities and then fined and deported. It can also make it more difficult for the employee in question to obtain employment in the U.A.E. in the future. In some cases, the employer must post a bank guarantee with the Ministry of Labor covering the repatriation costs of the employee, in case the employee is taken into custody and is deported at the expense of the U.A.E. government. (ibid.)

According to a 2013 UN Report of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, foreign residents who are considered to be absconding are "subject to a 12 month-ban" (UN 22 Feb. 2013, para. 5). The same report specifies that "sponsors failing to report 'absconding' workers are subject to heavy fines" (ibid.). Further information on the consequences of absconding could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

5. Remaining in the UAE After Retirement

Sources stated that it is not permitted for a foreign resident to remain in the UAE after retirement (UAE 29 Feb. 2016; Legal consultant 21 Feb. 2016; Lawyer 17 Feb. 2016).

However, according to the lawyer, there are two exceptions to this rule, which he described as follows:

If a foreign residence visa holder is the proprietor, partner or shareholder of a U.A.E. business, then the individual might be eligible for a “proprietor” or a “partner” residence visa. This type of residence visa is issued without regard to whether the person can produce an employment contract or labor permit. The holder may reside in the U.A.E. for as long as the visa remains valid. Such a visa may be renewed for as long as the holder remains a shareholder or proprietor of the business in question.

A second option is available for owners of real estate. This kind of visa used to be more generally available, but now is available only to owners of real estate in certain high end districts of Dubai. Such an individual would hold a residence visa sponsored by the relevant real estate developer … which likewise may be renewed for as long as the holder remains the owner of the real estate in question. (ibid.)

Similarly, the consular officer stated that, if a foreign resident starts a business, "they could stay with an investor residency permit" after retiring (UAE 29 Feb. 2016). However, according to the same source,

[s]ome real estate developers promise their clients that, if they purchase real estate from them, they will also get residency. However, this needs to be discussed with the developer and is not guaranteed by the UAE. (ibid.)

The legal consultant gave the opinion that "[a]ny foreign resident who obtains permission to remain resident after retirement is a truly exceptional case" (Legal consultant 21 Feb. 2016). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Note

[1] The conuslar officer provided the following example:

[I]f the employer pays for the employee’s [education] on the condition that the employee works for them for a certain period of time, the employee who quits their job before the end of this period of time has to compensate the employer as agreed upon before employment. (UAE 29 Feb. 2016)

References

Lawyer, Dubai. 17 February 2016. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Legal consultant, Abu Dhabi. 21 February 2016. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

United Arab Emirates (UAE). 29 February 2016. Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Ottawa. Interview with a consular officer.

United Arab Emirates (UAE). 1997. Executive Regulations of the Federal Law N° (6) of 1973 on Entry and Residence of Foreigners. [Accessed 1 Apr. 2016]

United Nations (UN). 22 February 2013. Human Rights Council. Report of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo. Addendum. Mission to the United Arab Emirates. [Accessed 1 Apr. 2016]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Canadian Business Council Abu Dhabi; Canadian Business Council Dubai; Journalist at the National; Lawyers in the United Arab Emirates; United Arab Emirates – General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior; United Nations – International Labour Organization Regional Office for Arab States.

Internet sites, including: Canada – Global Affairs; Dubai Employment Tips; Factiva; Freedom House; Gulf Jobs Market; Gulf Stay; Human Rights Watch; The National; United Arab Emirates – Dubai Government, General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs; United Nations – International Labour Organization.

Attachment

United Arab Emirates. 1997. Executive Regulations of the Federal Law N° (6) of 1973 on Entry and Residence of Foreigners. Articles 77 and 78. [Accessed 1 Apr. 2016]