Plus questions about settling visa issues before emigrating and appointing a legal guardian as part of a will, answered by The National's consumer advocate.
On Your Side: Employees must have visa after 60 days on the job
I have recently joined a new company and have asked when my residency visa will be issued because I want to buy a car. The company has told me that it will not give me one for three months because the job is mostly commission based and I have to prove myself before it will apply for a visa. Fortunately, I am staying with a friend, but I would have real problems if I needed to rent somewhere on my own. I understood that companies had to give you a visa and work permit from the outset, but I have been told that I have to wait. Can you clarify the legal situation, so I can take it up with them if they are acting illegally? DA, Dubai
It is the responsibility of the employer to provide the correct visas and work permits for an employee within the legal time frame. There is some leeway to provide for delays, but the appropriate paperwork must be sorted out within 60 days of someone taking up a position. If an employer does not comply, they are breaking the UAE Labour Law and are subject to a fine. The individual would also be considered to be working illegally after the first 60 days have passed and could also be heavily fined. I suggest you point out the legal situation to your employer, so they can arrange the relevant visa and work permit in a timely manner.
We left Abu Dhabi in March this year, unsure as to whether we would be returning in a few months or not. Now five months have passed and it is apparent that we will not be returning on a permanent basis. I believe I read an article indicating that one had to inform the immigration office before leaving to cancel residence visas. Is this the case, and/or is there a penalty for not doing so? We would like to return for a holiday at some point in the future and I want to ensure that the proper procedures have been cleared. Or is it permitted to allow the visas to expire and take no action? TB, UK
Standard practice is that an employer should cancel your visa upon departure from the UAE. The employer is the sponsor and the responsibility lies with them. In the case of employment via a free zone, the free zone itself is the sponsor. For Abu Dhabi visas, it is necessary to go to the Abu Dhabi Naturalisation & Residency Department (ADNRD) for a visa to be cancelled. An original passport is required to do this. A separate visit is required to the Ministry of Labour in respect of the labour card. I have been advised that the ADNRD requires the original passport to cancel a visa, even if the person is not present, if cancellation takes places within six months of departure. This means that you would need to find a way of sending your passports to the UAE for your former employer to arrange for a full cancellation. If the employer only partially cancels a visa, without it being finalised in a passport, this could present problems for someone trying to re-enter the UAE. After a person has been out of the UAE for six months, a residency visa can be cancelled by the employer without the employee, or their passport, being presented. However, a copy of the passport is required, together with the original labour card. If the matter is handled properly, there should not be a fine. It is important that this is properly settled to avoid being marked as an absconder, or you will have problems on any future visits to the UAE.
I am Sri Lankan and live in Dubai with my husband and baby. I have read your articles in which you have advised expats on the importance of preparing a will. My husband and I are considering appointing a legal guardian for our nine-month-old daughter. We will be going to Sri Lanka for a three-week holiday in October and we hope to get the legal document prepared while we are there. Could you explain how we can get the same legal document valid in the UAE? DJ, Dubai
The appointment of a legal guardian for a child, in the event that both parents die, usually forms part of a will. If both parents die before their children reach the age of maturity, which varies from 18 to 21 in most countries, it is important to have the formal documentation in place that will ensure their wishes are carried out. If not, a court will appoint a guardian who may not be the person the parents would have chosen. To appoint a legal guardian for your children, you must name them in your will. Before doing this, you will need to approach the people you would like to appoint as guardians to find out if they are willing to take on this responsibility. You may also wish to appoint alternative guardians who can take their place if your intended guardians pass away. If the guardians are not in the UAE, it is sensible to also appoint an interim guardian. For a will to be recognised in a UAE court, it must be formally translated into Arabic and attested, but this can be costly. For most people, it is not necessary to do this at the outset because the translation can take place after death. It is possible to also draw up a legal document that is not a will that makes provision for the appointment of a guardian in the event of disability or incapacity. Whichever route you choose, you should seek advice from a lawyer who understands the legal implications in both Sri Lanka and the UAE.
Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Write to her at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org with queries for this column or for advice on any other financial planning matter.