UAE: Expat Recruitment Accelerates as Good Conduct Certificate Not Required

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By Matthew Kalman

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has suspended a requirement introduced Feb. 4 that all foreign workers obtain good con-duct certificates.

“The UAE has postponed the requirement for a good conduct certificate for employment visas until further notice,” the ministry announced on Twitter, saying the decision was prompted by a “periodic review of the decisions to ensure their effectivity in reaching the desired goals and within the framework of facilitating the procedure.”

Good-conduct certificates were to be issued from the applicant's home country or the country where the applicant resided for the previous five years and certified by UAE missions or the attestation center of the customer happiness centers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. The effort to attract more skilled workers while excluding possible criminals is consistent with the government's Vision 2021 strategic plan, under which the UAE will transition to a knowledge-based economy while ensuring public safety, practitioners said.

The procedure was “delaying applications,” a ministry official told The National April 2, calling it “a temporary suspension.” The ministry has begun consultations with foreign governments including India and Pakistan that supply the largest proportion of the expatriate workers in the emirates.

‘Tall Order'

“Employers have welcomed the suspension,” said Sara Khoja, a partner at Clyda and Co. law firm in Dubai. “It will cut down on recruitment timeframes.”

“It was always going to be a tall order to seamlessly incorporate a good conduct requirement into an already complicated and lengthy UAE work authorization process,” complicating relocation logistics and lead times, said Amir Mayo, senior manager, international tax at Deloitte in Dubai. “Good conduct certificates can take anywhere between a couple of days and a couple of months to obtain, depending on the location, and as the requirement pertained to every country an employee has lived in the last 5 years, for some it became unworkable and impractical very quickly.”

“The UAE is a young and extremely mobile workforce and to ask for a certificate from every work location from the previous five years has proven to be very challenging. One initial revision could be to cut this period from five years to either one or two years or even simply the employee's current place of work and residence,” Mayo said by email April 10. He expects to see a revised requirement introduced later in the year.

“The UAE has a vast foreign national population,” drawn from more than 200 countries, said Murtaza Khan, a Dubai-based partner at Fragomen, a global immigration consulting firm. “Over 80 percent of the population consists of foreign nationals. In the private sector, the number of foreign nationals is even higher than that.”

‘Teething' Problems

While the requirement for police or similar certificates is common for expatriates in many jurisdictions, its introduction in the UAE proved to be more challenging than expected.

“There were certain high-volume recruiting countries such as India where there was an initial ambiguity about what type of certificate would be accepted and recognized by the UAE government,” Khan said by phone April 10. “There was some level of inherent teething difficulties in the wider market.”

The authorities are now working “with key sending countries in terms of the labor force here to align procedures and processes and define what type of certificate, how long it would take, and the corresponding legalization side of it as well,” he said. “Companies have to look at the procedures in each of the countries they are hiring from and map out the timing and processes and support they would need to provide for all those locations.”

Meanwhile, applications that were delayed pending the certificate are being processed much more quickly.

“This allows them to go ahead and immediately submit those applications,” Khan said, “but I wouldn't go so far as to say that people would hire more because of the suspension. There's a lot more that goes into the hiring decisions of companies.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Kalman in Jerusalem at matthewkalman@gmail.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at rvollmar@bna.com

For More Information

For more information on UAE HR law and regulation, see the UAE primer.

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