Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 February 2020

'Does a residency visa automatically cancel once it expires?'

The Dubai resident's visa expires in February and she is planning to leave the UAE in March

The reader's husband will stay in the UAE for work and she plans to visit a couple of times a year. Andrew Parsons / The National
The reader's husband will stay in the UAE for work and she plans to visit a couple of times a year. Andrew Parsons / The National

My residency visa expires next month and I will be leaving the UAE in March. My husband who sponsors me will stay here to work. Will my visa automatically cancel when it expires or do we have to do anything? I expect to visit a couple of times a year. Do I also have to surrender my Emirates ID card? SB, Dubai

While a residency visa can expire and become invalid, it is not automatically cancelled. All visas should be properly cancelled, even if someone is leaving the UAE, otherwise they can have problems when attempting to re-enter the country on a visit visa as a conflict will be shown in the immigration system.

It is not complicated for a sponsor to cancel a residency visa and they can do so in any of the main Immigration Department branches of the emirate in which the visa was issued. The sponsor needs their own passport as well as the passport belonging to the person they sponsor, although it can be done with a copy if the person has already left the UAE. The charges should amount to no more than Dh280 including typing fees. The Emirates ID card must be handed over when the visa is cancelled as part of the process as the identity card is linked to the visa. Once the visa is cancelled, the individual has a grace period of 30 days before they need to leave the UAE or obtain a new visa.

Can a bank charge fees on a dormant business account? Can it also charge non-maintenance fees and a fee for not submitting a copy of the renewed company trade licence? We have a company account with a local bank but have not made any transactions on this account for two years, so it has been marked as dormant. When we approached the bank to reactivate the account, we found charges of Dh13,000 for non-maintenance, for not submitting a copy of the company trade licence and for interest on the fees. Are these charges legal? MF, Dubai

If a bank account has no transactions for an extended period it is not uncommon for a bank to mark it as dormant and steps are required to reactivate it. Most business accounts have a monthly charge and these will be deducted from any balance, so, if there is no money in the account, it will have a negative balance with further fees and interest payable. These will be in the terms and conditions of the bank account, signed by both parties when it was set up, which are standard.

It is also a requirement for UAE banks to be provided with a copy of a trade licence upon renewal to ensure they are dealing with a properly licenced business under UAE law. Again, most banks apply penalties if this is not provided although I would expect them to issue reminders as they usually do for personal accounts. The fees sound a little on the high side but provided they are shown on the original account information, or listed on the bank’s website, they are legal. In some cases, banks will accept a lower sum with less interest if the amount owing is repaid in one go, so a polite offer to this effect may be worthwhile.

This demonstrates the importance of communicating with a bank, paying attention to fees and charges and closing inactive accounts to avoid unnecessary charges.

I've worked for a Dubai design company for two years and they are now refusing to pay me. They previously paid me in the form of a salary transfer and I have been on a visa provided by them for these two years. Can I claim unpaid salary based on my bank statement even if I worked as a freelancer? My freelancer agreement expired in 2018 but neither me nor the company management renewed it. AB, Abu Dhabi

If someone is working for a company and is sponsored by them, they are deemed an employee under UAE law. As AB has been provided with a residency/employment visa, he is technically an employee of the company and as such, protected under employment laws. As AB is employed by a mainland company, the visa comes under the remit of the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation. For a visa to have been issued, a contract of employment must be lodged with the Ministry, confirming the salary and whether a contract is limited or unlimited. Individuals can access this contract via the MOHRE website mohre.gov.ae using their passport number.

Although AB believes he was freelance and had an agreement to this effect, the visa and labour contract override this. I suggest he checks the contract and uses this, plus bank statements showing payments from the company, as the basis of a case against the sponsor. Whatever the circumstances, it is wrong for someone to not be paid for work undertaken.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with more than 25 years’ experience. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com. Follow her on Twitter at @FinancialUAE

The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only

Updated: February 1, 2020 02:13 PM

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