Can I work in the UAE at a tem­po­rary ex­hi­bi­tion on a visit visa?


QI re­cently re­turned to the UAE on a tourist visa and saw a va­cancy to work at an ex­hi­bi­tion for four days. I went for the in­ter­view and the or­gan­iser asked if I could work on a visit visa. Can I do this? The com­pany is based in the UK, so the em­ployer can­not ap­ply for a visa for me as he is also on a visit visa.

HY, Ethiopia

AThe law in the UAE is very clear: no one is per­mit­ted to work un­less they have firstly a res­i­dency visa and se­condly, a work per­mit. Even some­one set­ting up their own busi­ness must have a visa. Any­one caught work­ing il­le­gally when on a visit visa can be fined up to Dh50,000 and de­ported. Any com­pany who em­ploys some­one on a visit visa can also be heav­ily fined.

The per­son of­fer­ing this tem­po­rary role is tech­ni­cally not per­mit­ted to work in the UAE but there can be ex­emp­tions for those ex­hibit­ing at recog­nised shows.

To clar­ify, HY is not legally per­mit­ted to un­der­take any work in the UAE and the or­gan­iser can only em­ploy some­one with a res­i­dency visa.

I have been of­fered a job in Shar­jah. I am cur­rently on a visit visa and would like to know more about UAE Law num­ber 127 be­cause my com­pany has this in the con­tract. Will this af­fect me?

RS, Shar­jah

RS is re­fer­ring to Ar­ti­cle 127 of UAE Labour Law, which says: “Should the work en­trusted to the worker en­able him to meet the clients of the em­ployer or know the busi­ness se­crets thereof, the em­ployer may re­quire from the worker not to com­pete with him or par­tic­i­pate in any com­pet­ing pro­ject upon the ter­mi­na­tion of the con­tract. For the va­lid­ity of such agree­ment, the worker shall be 21 years old at least upon the con­clu­sion thereof, and the agree­ment shall be lim­ited, with re­gards to time, place and type of work, to the ex­tent nec­es­sary for the pro­tec­tion of the le­gal in­ter­ests of the em­ployer.”

An em­ployer can choose to in­clude this clause in a con­tract of em­ploy­ment, and it is com­mon, but there are lim­i­ta­tions. There is an ex­pec­ta­tion that such clauses are rel­e­vant to em­ploy­ees in se­nior po­si­tions, who are party to cor­po­rate in­for­ma­tion, not just ap­plied to any­one in a mis­guided ef­fort to stop staff leav­ing a job. In ad­di­tion, the clause has time lim­i­ta­tions and would not be ex­pected to be for longer than six months. Any claim for longer is un­likely to be up­held, dou­bly so for non-man­age­ment roles.

Such clauses must be spe­cific in re­la­tion to geo­graph­i­cal scope and the ac­tual role. The onus is also on the em­ployer to prove to a court they will suf­fer an ac­tual fi­nan­cial loss should the em­ployee work for an­other com­pany and an em­ployer has to go to court to en­force the clause for which there is a cost.

Too of­ten I see em­ploy­ers try­ing to mis­use this non com­pete clause as a way of re­tain­ing staff, even where it is re­ally not rel­e­vant.

I want ad­vice on a salary de­duc­tion my com­pany is plan­ning. My em­ployer said they are hav­ing some eco­nomic chal­lenges so they want to re­move my Dh1,000 trans­porta­tion al­lowance. Can they legally do this? What if I do not agree to this ad­just­ment? Can they ter­mi­nate my con­tract?

FO, Dubai

No em­ployer is al­lowed to ar­bi­trar­ily change terms of em­ploy­ment with­out the agree­ment of the em­ployee. How­ever, if a com­pany gen­uinely has fi­nan­cial prob­lems and needs to cut over­heads to sur­vive, there is the risk of re­dun­dancy. There are times when an em­ployee might be bet­ter off agreeing to a re­duc­tion in salary, at least for an agreed pe­riod of time, to re­tain a job. Al­ways get this in writ­ing.

In this sit­u­a­tion, if an em­ployee does not ac­cept such a re­duc­tion and is then ter­mi­nated, they would have grounds for ar­bi­trary dis­missal. This is cov­ered in Ar­ti­cle 122 of UAE Labour Law which states: “The ter­mi­na­tion of the em­ploy­ment of the worker by the em­ployer shall be deemed ar­bi­trary should the cause of ter­mi­na­tion not be re­lated to the work”. If it is agreed that FO was dis­missed ar­bi­trar­ily, she could re­ceive com­pen­sa­tion of up to three months’ salary.

Keren Bobker is an in­de­pen­dent fi­nan­cial ad­viser and se­nior part­ner with Hol­born As­sets in Dubai, with over 25 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence. Con­tact her at [email protected]­bor­nas­ Fol­low her on Twit­ter at @ Fi­nan­cialUAE. The ad­vice provided in our col­umns does not con­sti­tute le­gal ad­vice and is provided for in­for­ma­tion only

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