x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Workers face fines and deportation without the right visa

On Your Side: Workers face fines and deportation without the right visa Plus questions about terminating a limited contract early and problems with switching packages with du, answered by our consumer advocate.

A reader has an issue with du's Blackberry service. Jaime Puebla / The National
A reader has an issue with du's Blackberry service. Jaime Puebla / The National

I have been offered a short-term (three to six months) job in Media City, Dubai. The small company that has offered me the job said there was no need to get a working visa because I won't be in the country for more than 60 days on any one visit and that the standard rules can be waived in free zones. Is it normal for people to work on a visit visa for six months as long as they leave the country to renew the visa every 60 days? Is this legal? I am currently in Dubai visiting friends. - ML Dubai

It is illegal for anyone to work on a visit visa in the UAE. This includes free zones and is regardless of the length of time a person is in the country. This is according to the UAE Labour Law, which applies to most non-governmental companies and employees. 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. This assumes that the employer has the intention of making an application and does so within a short time of someone taking up a position. It does not mean that the employer has to do nothing for 60 days and that someone can work for up to 60 days without an appropriate visa. If an employer does not comply, they are breaking the Labour Law and would be subject to a substantial 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 that you point out the legal situation to the company so it can arrange the relevant visa and work permit in a timely manner. I do not advise that anyone accepts a role with a company that has no intention of adhering to the law because the individual can be fined - and even deported - for working illegally.

I have been trying to sort out an issue with du, but it doesn't seem to be serious about resolving it. I upgraded my BlackBerry service from domestic to international at its kiosk in the Virgin store at Mercato Mall in Dubai on August 14. The next day, I went on an overseas trip. A few days later, I received an SMS and an email from du stating I had reached 90 per cent of the credit limit for my number. This was despite the fact that I had made a few calls while I was overseas. When I returned to Dubai on August 25, I called du's helpline to downgrade the service back to domestic. But they informed me that the increased billing was due to overseas data transfer rates that had been charged as my BlackBerry service was still on a domestic package. While they acknowledged that a request was made to upgrade the service on August 14, they were unable to do so due to technical issues. They subsequently lodged a complaint and informed me that it would be resolved soon. Yesterday, I called their helpline to get an update on the complaint and they informed me that they could only look into the issue once my bill for the August/September period was issued on September 17 and I would have to call them again to lodge a complaint. I would appreciate it if you could assist me in sorting this out as I don't see the connection between the issuance of my bill and a technical fault in upgrading my BlackBerry service. KM Dubai

I forwarded the issue to du and a few days later, a spokesperson said: "In response to KM's query, we have resolved the issue and closed the case. The customer has been informed that a credit note has been applied to his account, which will be reflected in the subsequent bill. We would like to express our sincere apologies for the inconvenience."

I am an Indian national and have been working for a company in Sharjah as a sales assistant since April 2010, but did not get my visa until a month later. My visa is for three years, but I read somewhere that the UAE Labour Law had changed and it is now easier to change jobs. Is it possible for me to go to another company or do I need to finish my three-year contract? Does my current employer just need to release me or are there any other papers I need to get? JP Sharjah

JP is on a three-year limited contract. Because he has agreed to the contract, he can be penalised by his employer if he breaks the terms of it early. The penalty will depend on the exact wording in the contract that JP signed, so he should check this. An employee can leave at the end of a limited contract without penalty provided they have given proper notice, usually one month. In this situation, an employee would not receive a ban. The UAE Labour Law has not changed significantly. Residency visas are now issued for a two-year period instead of three years, but that does not change any other factors.

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