What Should I Do If My Temporary Job Seeker Visa is About to Expire in UAE?
For many millions of migrant workers, the UAE is considered the land of opportunity. So important are migrant workers to the Emirates, it is fair to say that their rapid growth simply could not have been achieved without them. It is estimated that around 90% of Dubai's 3.6 million residents are from outside of the region, and many are migrant workers brought in to cover the vast number of roles in the construction and hospitality sectors. The boundless investment and economic growth in cities such as Dubai and the capital of Abu Dhabi gave the UAE the second-highest population growth of all cities in the world between 2005 and 2010. Of migrant workers in the UAE, around 90% of those are from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. In this article, we explain the purpose of the UAE Job Seeker Visa, and what to do if your visa is due to expire.
What is the UAE Job Seeker Visa?
The temporary UAE Job Seeker Visa was introduced in 2018 as a means to regularise the status of many migrant workers whose visa had expired. In doing so, holders of the new Job Seeker Visa had a further six month to arrange their departure from the UAE, or find a job and switch to a full work visa. While this was robust a concession to migrant workers without a legal status, the UAE Job Seeker cannot be renewed or extended. The initiative was introduced at the same time as a number of other key strategic decisions, including a new insurance scheme for workers’ guarantees costing only AED60 (compared to the current scheme which is AED3000 per employed person) – this was designed to reduce the cost burden on employers of migrant workers.
The 2018 Job Seeker Visa was formally announced by the UAE Cabinet, chaired by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The press release at the time described the thinking behind the new job seekers visa, “the Cabinet adopted a decision to grant people overstaying their visa a chance to leave the country voluntarily without a "no entry" passport stamp. A new six-month visa will be introduced for job seekers who overstayed their visa but wish to work in the country. The temporary visa enhances the UAE’s position as a land of opportunities and a destination for talents and professionals”.
As such, migrants who have overstayed their existing visa will have two options; to leave in the knowledge they will be able to return in the future (i.e. because they will not receive a “no entry” passport stamp), or find employment, in the knowledge if that is not achieved, they can leave before the visa expires.
The UAE Job Seeker Visa was originally intended for use by those who registered as part of the 2018 amnesty on overstayers, but this was widened to include any foreign national worker whose visa had expired, or was about to expire.
In addition, the Job Seeker Visa was not intended to allow holders to work, only to find work. Once the Job Seeker Visa holder finds suitable work, they need to apply for a full work visa in accordance with the normal UAE immigration rules for workers.
What if my UAE job seeker visa is about to expire?
While your job seeker visa is current, you can remain in the UAE legally, but if you have little time on your visa remaining, it is essential that you act quickly by leaving or applying for another visa. Indeed, having legal immigration status in the UAE will make the process of securing a work visa much more straightforward. If you do choose to leave, you can re-enter on a new visa type.
If your intention is to remain to find work, it is imperative that you make the most of the time you have to find suitable, safe, and well-paid employment. There is a risk that with little time to go on their job seeker visa, some migrants may be tempted to take any role, even with employers offering low standards of pay, opportunity, and employee safety. If this is the case, then you may be better to leave on a legal basis, and return, giving you more time to find suitable work. Whatever you choose to do, do not allow your visa to lapse, as this may lead to fines, imprisonment, and deportation with no ability to return. Fines can equate to AED100 for the first day of overstay in UAE, followed by AED25 for each consecutive day. The penalties are even higher for those who ‘shelter’ or employ a person whose visa has expired, with violations leading to the issuing of penalties and fines stipulated in UAE law, amounting to AED50,000.
The UAE’s Job Seeker Visa has come as something of a blessing for many migrants whose visa was due to expire and had not found work which was suitable or well paid enough for their needs. It is a reality that some employers do take advantage of prospective candidates who need a role quickly, and hence will take lower pay.
Those who have secured a Job Seeker Visa and have not found suitable employment need to act quickly before their visa expires. If you are unsure of your options for remaining in the UAE if your Job Seeker Visa expiry date is due soon, consider seeking the advice of an immigration lawyer who will be able to assist you. As with all aspects of immigration law, it pays to be well-informed, prudent, and cautious, and to make sure that you hold legal immigration status at all time.