x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

On Your Side: Tips on passport validity rules, freelance work and more

The National's consumer advocate on passport requirements for visiting and working in the UAE, plus securing your finances during a job transition, freelance work and your rights when made redundant.

My sister is due to visit me shortly, but she has just realised that she has only five months' validity on her passport. Can she still visit the UAE? I thought you had to have six months left before coming here, but she isn't going to have time to get a new passport and she also cannot change her ticket. I have tried to find out, but I am getting different responses from people. AA, Dubai

AA's sister has a ticket with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, so I checked with the airline and Dubai Immigration, both of which have confirmed that a British passport holder must have at least three months' validity on their passport to enter the UAE on a visit visa. I understand, however, that six months is required for entry on a work visa and would advise people to check in each case because these rules seem to change from time to time.

 

I am a resident in Dubai and employed by a company that sponsors me and provides my residency visa. I have been approached by an old friend who has a small company and would like me to do some freelance work for him, but I am unsure about the legality of the situation. I don't think my employer would mind, but I don't want to do anything that could get me into trouble. Could you clarify? SD, Dubai

You may only work for someone else, in addition to your employer, provided you have your employer's express permission to do so. They must provide you with an NOC (No Objection Certificate) and the other company must be made fully aware of your situation. The company for whom you provide freelance services is not obliged to provide you with any benefits such as end-of-service gratuity or holidays.

 

I have a new job starting in May and my current residency visa will be cancelled by my existing employer. My current job ends in three weeks and I am going for a break in Germany before starting with my new company. I have been hearing rumours that my bank account will be inactive or even frozen as soon as my gratuity goes into it. I have loan payments coming out of my bank account, so can't afford to have it not working. I will also need to withdraw money for my holiday. Can you shed any light on this? Does it vary from bank to bank? HM, Abu Dhabi

It is standard practice for most banks to freeze an account when they receive a payment from an employer marked as "final payment". Unless you have outstanding debts or loans, it should be immediately unfrozen once you contact your bank to explain the situation. Banks do this to ensure that the money in your current account is directed to your debts with them and not withdrawn. If you have a new employment contract, then you may need to show this to the bank as a form of "security" because many are very wary of people potentially absconding without settling their debts. Because this may take a few days to settle, you should ensure that you have enough cash for your short-term requirements. The bank's helpfulness may vary depending on who you bank with and speak to.

 

I have been employed by a major Dubai-based company for four years, but it is now making me redundant. I have been given three months' notice as per my contract of employment, but the company has told me that it no longer wants me to work in the office. It has said that if I want, I can stay on its sponsorship to the end of the three-month period. But it will be cancelling my health insurance and not paying any of the other benefits I have had during my time with them, such as petrol and utility bills. I believe my salary will be paid as usual. I have been asked to go to the HR department next week to sign a letter agreeing to this, but I need to know my rights and where I stand because this doesn't sound right to me. It has also been verbally suggested to me that it might look better on my CV if I resign, rather than be made redundant. I am very uncomfortable about all of this and would appreciate your guidance. AM, Dubai

If an employee is made redundant, they are entitled to receive all their usual benefits for the full length of their notice period. It is not unusual for a company to no longer want someone in their office, but they should be put on what is commonly known as "gardening leave" and paid as usual, with the standard benefits, until the end of their notice period. If there are benefits such as medical insurance, as shown in the contract of employment, then they must be provided until the end of the notice period. If not, an employer would be in breach of contract by cancelling this earlier. Article 118 of the UAE's Labour Law states that the contract is valid for the duration of any notice period, which means that all usual benefits must be provided. The end-of-service gratuity must also be calculated based on the full term of employment, including the notice period. The other issue to be aware of is that if you resign after working for less than five years, your end-of-service gratuity would be reduced, in this case by one third. I do not believe that there is a stigma in redundancy these days, especially in this part of the world. My advice is that no one should sign any documents from an employer without checking whether they would be disadvantaged by doing so.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com or onyourside@thenational.ae.

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