On Your Side: Strictly speaking, a UAE driving licence is only valid provided the holder has a UAE residency visa, plus other queries answered by The National's consumer advocate, Keren Bobker.
Validity of driving licence a gray area for returning expats
I work in the human resources department of a company in Abu Dhabi. We are taking care of expatriates coming to the UAE to work on specific projects. Our employees come to the UAE for two to three years and then repatriate. Because we have started another project, we have a few expatriates who have been here before and are now about to mobilise again for another two to three years. Some of them still have valid UAE driving licences and as we provide our staff with company cars, we are wondering what driving licence is needed for the period when they arrive with the employment visa at the airport and receive a full residency visa. Can they use the car with the driving licence from the UAE or should they bring their driving licence from their home country, together with an International Driving Permit (IDP)? - PR, Abu Dhabi
Strictly speaking, a UAE driving licence is only valid provided the holder has a UAE residency visa, regardless of the validity date on the licence itself. Technically speaking, an employment visa issued on arrival is not the same as a residency visa, but it is something of a grey area, so in this instance you need to speak to the company insuring the vehicles. The issue is as much about if the insurance company will accept the insurance risk for this period as it is about legality. Provided the insurance company will accept drivers with a full home country licence and IDP for an interim period, then there will not be a problem.
On May 31 last year, I booked a return ticket from Manchester in the UK to Brisbane, Australia, with Etihad for my daughter to travel on June 15, 2010, and paid £883 (Dh5,248). Once she was in Australia, she decided to extend her stay and we changed her return date to June 11 this year. Due to the death of a close friend in Australia, my daughter decided to return to the UK earlier than anticipated. I rang Etihad on March 1, which offered me a choice of flights. We booked a flight returning on April 14 this year. I was told that there would be a charge for this. I confirmed the booking and was told that the payment department would contact me within the next two hours to take a payment. The next day, I rang Etihad to explain that I had not had a call back to take a payment and was again advised that the payment department would ring me within the next 24 hours. I did not receive a call, but rang them later in the week and was told not to worry because somebody would be in touch during the next few days. No one contacted me for payment. I also e-mailed, but again got no reply. Five days before my daughter's flight was due to depart from Brisbane, I phoned Etihad to enquire about the e-ticket. A member of staff informed me that because of non-payment, the reservation and ticket had expired and had been cancelled. I explained the situation to him and he said that he would refer this to his supervisor by e-mail and they would ring me back to discuss the matter. In the meantime, I was told that the only way to get my daughter on the same flight was to book a new single ticket costing £867. I had no choice but to book and pay for the ticket online. When my daughter arrived at Brisbane airport, she went to check in at the Etihad desk and was told that there were two bookings in her name, both with different reference numbers: the original ticket, which I had been told had expired, and the new ticket. Despite all my calls, requests and e-mails, no one from Etihad has contacted me. JB, Cheshire, UK
This matter was referred to Etihad and Hareb Al Muhairi, the UAE vice president of sales, said: "Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. We acknowledge this was a frustrating experience for JB and her daughter, and have been in touch to apologise for what was clearly a series of errors on our part and to offer a full refund. At Etihad, we place great importance on making sure our guests experience the highest levels of service and professionalism throughout their experience with us - from booking to arrival at their destination. We appreciate receiving feedback such as JB's, which we will use to improve the way we handle such situations in future."
I work for a big company in the UAE and it employs some people at a senior level who don't get any housing provided or housing allowance. Is this legal, even though they were recruited locally? If so, what steps can these people take to ensure some redress? JD, Dubai
There is no legal requirement for companies to pay a housing allowance to their staff, or to provide accommodation. It is still standard practice for this to be offered as part of many packages, but it is not a requirement.
Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. On Your Side appears every week in Personal Finance. Write to her at email@example.com with queries for this column or for advice on any other financial planning matter.