Firms still breaking thelaw onvisa fees
Workers paying thousands for permits
Hundreds of workers desperate to land jobs in the UAE are being forced by employers to pay for their own visas, running up debts of thousands of dirhams in the process.
That’s despite the practice being illegal in the emirates.
According to a report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), hundreds of Pakistani workers are paying an average of $2,358 (Dhs8,660) to migrate to the UAE, with three quarters (77 per cent) of that figure going on the cost of a visa alone.
The ILO surveyed nearly 1,000 Pakistani workers in Saudi Arabia and the UAE and found 620 were forced by their employers to pay for their visas.
7DAYS spoke to several workers who said they were made to pay for their own visas, borrowing money off “excited” friends and family to fund the fee and their cost to travel to the UAE.
What they didn’t know is that what their employers are doing is illegal.
The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation told 7DAYS that firms who do this risk fines of Dhs20,000 and a ban from issuing work permits.
“Recruitment agencies and offices cannot ask employees for any recruitment fees,” the ministry said in a statement.
“Therefore the employer should cover all the fees and recruitment expenses.
“In addition, the employer is responsible for the airline tickets [to repatriate the person] once the employee’s contract comes to an end.”
One worker told 7DAYS that he was unaware that the practice was illegal, but that he paid the fee because he was so keen to get the job.
“I wish I had known we are not required to pay it but I think if I hadn’t paid it the company would’ve hired someone else instead of me,” Arshad, 34, said.
“We were all very excited when I got the job in Dubai.”
Arshad had dreams of moving to Dubai in the hope of earning more money so he could support his family in Pakistan.
Last year, he paid more than Dhs5,000 for his UAE visa to come to work for a construction firm in the emirate.
The 34-year-old Pakistani borrowed the money from his relatives and friends, which he is still paying back.
What Arshad didn’t know is that, legally, his employer is required to cover the costs of his visa and can be fined up to Dhs20,000 for making him pay, as well as the possibility of being banned from issuing new work permits.
Arshad is one of many Pakistani workers in the UAE who are unaware that their employers are required to pay for their visas.
A report by the International Labour Organisation, which surveyed nearly 1,000 labourers, said that 620 Pakistani workers are paying an average of $2,358 (Dhs8,660) to migrate to the UAE, 77 per cent of that cost is for visas.
Arshad, who supports his wife and three children, plus his parents, back in Pakistan, said: “My company pays me only Dhs1,200 per month and I’ve been sending what I can back to the people I owe money to.
“They think I earn a lot just because I am working in a city like Dubai, so they expect me to return all of it as soon as possible. But they don’t know the reality.”
Another Pakistani worker, Ali, also moved to Dubai last year and paid the same amount as Arshad to come to work in the emirate. Ali, 27, said he did not know that the employer is required to cover the visa cost.
“I’m still paying back my friends that I borrowed money from. They keep going over to my family’s house in Pakistan and harassing them for the money,” Ali said.
The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation said the fines for such violations are Dhs20,000 and employers could be banned from issuing new work permits.
The statement said: “The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation stresses in this regard that the UAE legislature was clear and explicit that employers must meet expenses or fees.”
The Ministry called on anyone forced to pay for their own visa to contact them.