x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Ministry has final say on UAE residency, court rules

The Supreme Court has upheld the Ministry of Interior's right to deny or terminate any expatriate's residency at any time without having to justify itself.

ABU DHABI // The Supreme Court has upheld the Ministry of Interior's right to deny or terminate any expatriate's residency at any time without having to justify itself.

Dr Abdulwahab Abdul, the President and Chief Justice of the Federal Supreme Court, overturned two lower court verdicts that ordered the ministry to change the residency status of a Pakistani man who had married an Emirati citizen.

The November 30 ruling was contained in court documents released yesterday.

After marrying, the unidentified man applied for a new passport from the Pakistani consulate in Dubai in his wife's family name.

He then asked the Immigration Department to formalise his new name, so he could obtain UAE residency under his wife's sponsorship.

When the department refused to make the change, the man resorted to the courts.

The first ruling in his favour came in November last year, when the Abu Dhabi Federal Court of First Instance ordered the ministry to update his status according to his new passport.

The ministry appealed, but the ruling was upheld in February by the federal Appeal Court.

The ministry then appealed to the Federal Supreme Court, claiming the lower courts had wrongly interpreted the law.

It argued that it had a legal right, beyond judicial scrutiny, to refuse to make the changes. The ministry also said it had the legal right to deny him residency, especially since he had changed his name and obtained a new passport.

Dr Abdul ruled that those arguments were legally sound and that the man, as an expatriate, did not have the right to object to the ministry's decision.

The ministry was not required to make any changes to an expatriate's residency status, he ruled.

"Residency is not an absolute right to expatriates, and it is one way of practising national sovereignty," he wrote.

"The Ministry of Interior is also not required to clarify the reason for refusing to make the changes, because granting residency to an expatriate who marries a [UAE] citizen is among [its] discretionary powers.

"The ministry … has the right to terminate the residency of an expatriate at any time for reasons pertaining to the public interest."

Dr Abdul ruled that the lower courts had therefore been in error.

The ruling confirms the Ministry of Interior's powers, especially over deporting expatriates.

For example, Dr Ahmed Abdulzaher, a legal consultant at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, said a judge could decide to send a drug addict to rehabilitation, for example, but the ministry had the ultimate authority to disregard that ruling and deport him.

hhassan@thenational.ae