The process of hiring a full-time, live-in domestic worker through an agency starts with the prospective employer choosing a housemaid from those listed on the company's books.
This can be done at the agency's offices, although in some cases it is possible to go through the file for each candidate on a website and reserve a maid simply by clicking a button.
The file for each woman includes a photo and usually details her name, place and date of birth, religion, passport details, languages spoken, level of education, marital status, number of children and other personal information.
There are many potential maids to choose from - one agency alone lists 150 women from Ethiopia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
Once the employer has chosen a woman, the agency gives him or her a copy of the maid's passport and photo and the employer applies for an entry permit at the residency department of the emirate. A maid may only be sponsored by the head of a family who earns at least Dh6,000 a month. Bachelors are not allowed to sponsor a maid.
The employer then takes the permit to the agency and hands over half the fee.
Within 40 days the maid should arrive in the UAE and, on payment of the balance of the fee, the agency will hand her over to the employer.
The sponsor must apply for a residence visa for the maid within 30 days of her arrival in the country.
* Colin Simpson