Tim Elliot: Welcome to Lawgical, the U.A.E.’s first, and only, legal podcast. My name’s Tim Elliot. Lawgical comes to you from the Dubai-based legal firm, HPL Yamalova & Plewka. As always, the Managing Partner, Ludmila Yamalova, is with me. Lovely to see you.
Ludmila Yamalova: Good to see you too, Tim. Thanks for being here.
Tim Elliot: This time, visas once again. This is all about the new, as it is colloquially known, a probation visa, but it’s really more commonly known as the business mission visa, Ludmila.
Ludmila Yamalova: Yes, indeed. This is once again under the new U.A.E. immigration law, which is the U.A.E. Cabinet Resolution 65 of 2022 or otherwise commonly known as the U.A.E. immigration law, and in particular, Article 18 now provides for a very specific type of visa. Remember, this is not a residence visa. It’s a visit visa to visit into the U.A.E. This particular visit visa is for probation or a temporary business visa. As you rightfully said, it is offered as a business mission visa and so it is a specialized dedicated type of visa that allows those who want to come into the U.A.E. and try out a particular employment or project and to come into the U.A.E. to work on a temporary basis. It could be either to try a specific company, for example, as a test for both parties, a probation, to see if the relationship might work out, or it could be for a temporary project.
Let’s say I’m in legal services, and I want to hire someone to come help me work for one month on some kind of a court case. This visa would apply to both of these scenarios.
Unlike the job seekers visa, this particular visa actually requires what is called a guarantor or a sponsor. Whereas the job seekers visa is a self-sponsored visa, if you were to come here just to look for a job, and logically it makes sense because if you are coming to look for a job you don’t have any entity here yet that can help vouch for you. Now in this particular business mission visa, you have by law and logically you would have a specific entity that is inviting you to come here and work for them on probation or on a temporary basis. In order for this guarantor to be able to apply for such a visa for you, they need to be a U.A.E. company. It cannot be, for example, Microsoft in the U.S. inviting somebody to work in the U.A.E. The entity that is making the invitation, or that is making the application, has to be a U.A.E. based company. Also, it’s important that this company is actually going to be the one that is actually going to be employing that particular applicant. This is important because often what used to happen before is that you would get an invitation, for example, from Company A and you would come and work for Company B, but that’s not really the purpose of this particular visa. Here it has to be an entity. Let’s say it is my firm. I want to try to hire someone that’s based in Bangladesh to try to see if they can work out for me. I can invite them here now specifically on this dedicated probation visa, but it would be me. I would be the sponsor, and I therefore would be responsible for them during that period of time here.
Tim Elliot: Okay. That’s one side of it. It also seems to me that it’s very much – I don’t know – an architectural firm has a three-month extension project to one of the towers or something, and they need specialized expertise to do that, and you would invite somebody, and this visa would apply in that kind of a situation as well?
Ludmila Yamalova: Exactly. In the past what was possible, let’s say the example you brought up of an architectural firm, if they could apply for somebody for a business visa to come and visit. First of all, it was a lot more of a cumbersome requirement. It would cost like 20,000 dirhams, so fairly pricy to apply for such a business visa, and there were a whole series of documents that needed to be submitted. In one way or another, there was often some kind of requirement of a connection between the company and whoever it is that they were bringing. For example, an architectural firm, and they have a branch elsewhere or an affiliate. These businesses, to an extent, existed, but they were quite rare because of the various nuances and requirements that were associated with that particular visa, so yes.
But under the new visa, at least in theory, the process is supposed to be a lot more streamlined, a lot simpler, and exactly for that, for an architectural firm who wants to bring some temporary talent to help them on a project. This is not a very expensive process, again because there is a requirement of financial security here as well, but the financial security is just a few thousand dirhams that a company has to pay, so it’s not as prohibitively expensive as the previous visas were. I think it will definitely help bridge a fairly broad divide that existed here between the needs of the business community here and all those applicants that wanted to come and work in the U.A.E. but yet they did not really want necessarily to commit to each other right away.
Tim Elliot: This is the thing, isn’t it? It kind of irons out the wrinkles because the gray areas are then gone. You apply for this visa for a specific reason and you now have the categories available.
Ludmila Yamalova: Exactly, because what used to happen before, as a company when you hire an employee, it is fairly expensive to sponsor an employee. All in all, you have to pay deposits, you have to pay medical, the emirates ID, fees, application fee, and so on and so forth. All in all, it would add up to about 7,000 to 10,000 dirhams per employee. For a company that is a significant amount of money and it is all perhaps part of the business expense. Once you have made that expense, then you could rely on this person, that they would stay with you for X number of years, so it will work that the expense would ultimately be justified.
Tim Elliot: But if you look at a cost per employee, that is $2,000 to $3,000 just to get somebody to work for you. If your company is 5, 10, 15, the multiples apply.
Ludmila Yamalova: Exactly right. Part of it as well is always a deposit into immigration. Let’s say even if that is a set of your company’s money that is sitting with the authorities, and it was obviously to protect and cover for any kind of eventualities in the event that the person, for example, runs away or does not have money later to leave, so at least the government would have some money on the account to be able to pay to send them home. There was some logic behind it, but for a business it was an expense. It is okay to make that kind of investment if you have a good level of confidence that this particular employee is with it. But how do you know that when you are a business based here and the employee is coming from abroad? Even for an interview or for a visit, you can only really know about that employee to the extent of those few hours of a visit and meetings, but you really won’t know how well that employee might or might not work out for you until they have boots on the ground and they are here in the office on a day-to-day basis and interacting with the rest of the colleagues and producing the work product before your eyes.
What would happen often is that companies got burned too often because employees would come, the company would spend all of this money, and then it just ended up being just not the right fit and either the employee would leave or the company would want to terminate them. In either example, the company would ultimately have to lose that money. The practice developed, first of all, for a company to try to pass on the visa expense to the employee. This was a very typical scenario, which once again, it is an ecosystem of issues that existed that were intertwined and interrelated. Because if a company hired an employee, and the employee did not work out, then the company says, okay, well, if you are leaving right now, or we are terminating you, while we just paid 10,000 dirhams for your visa, and additionally we had to pay for your salary and you have ultimately ended up not being the right fit for us, so we are not benefitting from you, but we are losing, so therefore compensate us for the fees that we have spent on your visa. A lot of these times, these kinds of provisions were included in the offers letters and in various kind of undertakings, even in the employment agreements between the employees and the employers, and then that would also be a fairly difficult predicament for the employee because a lot of the time these employees would come here for the first time to this new country hoping there was going to be a job for them, but if the job does not work out, fair enough, but that on top of they have not really made much money at all. Often for them to come here, they had actually had to borrow money from family and friends in their home countries, so they already have loans coming here, and now on top of that, they have to pay the company back 10,000 dirhams. Although this practice, legally speaking, was not proper, but it was common. What would often happen was employees would be disgruntled, run away, or they feel they were in indentured service, and there were a lot of people just absconding, running away, or working double jobs to try to cover it up, so a whole series of issues existed that would ultimately not benefit the country as a whole.
Another thing that would often happen because of this, the other alternative that the companies would do is say, you come here on a visit visa, work for me for three months. The visa, depending on which country you have come from, you could either have 30 days extendable or you would have 60 days or 90 days, also extendable. What often would happen is a company would make you an offer, come here and work for me, but work on a visit visa so I don’t have to pay 10,000 dirhams for the residence visa, and then we will see how that works out. Many, many cases like this existed and they were perfectly fine, except there was always illegal. Working on a visit visa was always available in the U.A.E. as it is still today. But this is what would happen in the past. The companies either tried to pass on the expense of these visas to their employees, which was against the law, or would require them, demand from them, or expect them to work on visit visas while they are on probation. Or sometimes even for those who were based here already, they would be on somebody else’s visa and still work for this company. One way or the other, it was not legally proper and ultimately it subjected all parties concerned to all sorts of liabilities.
In my practice, I have seen too many of these kinds of cases to count. That is why when this particular visa came into place, I was quite pleased because it now will do away with all of these shenanigans and machinations that existed between companies and employees to try to see if they were the right fit for each other. Now there is a specialized visa. It is rather affordable. It is easy to apply. There is no need anymore for any false pretense. You can be very open and transparent about why you are here and with the company as well, and most importantly, there are no risks of any liabilities, even if inspectors come during the period of time while you are working on probation, that you will get deported, which would have been the case in the past.
Tim Elliot: The other thing is once again it is part of so many changes in an effort to really strengthen, I suppose, around the labor law.
Ludmila Yamalova: You’re exactly right. That is why this particular law, I think, could lend itself to at least a good 20+ podcasts because there are so many new types of visas, residence permits, entry permits, for so many different categories. It is truly very groundbreaking and very, very positive for this country because now it just does away with all these attempts to try to represent something for what it was not, in exchange for being very transparent and very clear. It is a win-win all around. The government knows exactly why you are here. It benefits the economy. It benefits those people who have something to offer this country. It certainly benefits the companies because they don’t have to invest significant amounts until they have had some confidence these people are actually worth the investment.
Tim Elliot: That’s another Lawgical, this time the new probation visa here in the U.A.E. Our legal expert, Ludmila Yamalova, the Managing Partner here at Yamalova & Plewka. Thank you.
Ludmila Yamalova: Thank you, Tim.
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