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By Matthew Kalman
Beginning Feb. 4, foreigners applying for a new work visa to the United Arab Emirates or renewing an existing visa will have to obtain a Good Conduct and Behavior Certificate. This follows a December announcement from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation that it will reduce fees for work permits and waive some required bank guarantees for foreign employees with higher skills.
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 say.
“We should reasonably expect further changes to be implemented in the future with the goal of securing the future stability and security of the UAE,” said Amir Mayo, senior manager, international tax at Deloitte in Dubai.
The procedure is “part of the UAE government's efforts to create a more secure community” and “make the country one of the most peaceful in the world,” according to a Jan. 8 foreign ministry statement.
Good-conduct certificates must 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 “through the attestation center of the customer happiness centers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation,” the statement said. For those applicants already resident in the emirates, certificates must be obtained from the local police.
“Employers within the UAE must be mindful that the steps and timeframes required for securing such certification will vary greatly from country to country, and they should educate themselves on the process involved from the main countries they hire from,” Mayo said by email on Jan. 15.
Reducing the requirements for skilled workers to qualify for work permits “highlights the sectors and industries where the UAE has identified either a dearth in current talent or an important potential for growth,” Mayo said. “These visa-related concessions are designed to promote growth and to incentivize expansion into the relevant markets.”
“The encouragement of employers to hire skilled employees is consistent with the agenda outlined for Vision 2021 whereby the UAE is to transition to a knowledge-based economy which promotes innovation and research and development,” Mayo said. “This transition can only be effective if the brightest and best talent is attracted to the region and these measures are a modest yet significant step towards achieving this goal.”
The two measures “strike a balance between creating opportunities for UAE nationals and continuing to attract foreign talent so that the UAE develops as an international center for businesses in the Middle East and Africa,” said Sara Khoja, a partner at Clyde and Co. law firm in Dubai. “The UAE is positioning itself as a gateway between Africa and Asia and a hub for the Middle East. This means being able to attract talented people to work here but also to set up businesses here. The certificate of good conduct is designed to achieve this and also assist in attracting employees and business people with clear backgrounds.”
The good-conduct requirement will have minimal effect on recruitment for major employers, said Prasanth Manghat, chief executive officer and executive director of NMC Healthcare, the largest medical provider in the country with 4.3 million patients attended by 11,000 employees from 81 countries.
“I believe there shouldn't be any impact because of this as the job seekers and recruiters would gear up to accommodate for this additional mandatory requirement,” Manghat said by email on Jan. 15. “The residents of the country enjoy the highest sense of security in the UAE and they would value such steps to further ensure and enhance the same.”
“The UAE Government is taking efforts to create a more secure community and to achieve the highest level of security for those residing in the country,” Manghat said.
The changes to the emiratisation scale will help to create “a fair system,” Manghathe said. “The government wants to promote pluralism and tolerance and at the same time wants to encourage a highly skilled workforce, from all across the globe, to come over and contribute to its economy.”
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For more information on UAE HR law and regulation, see the UAE primer.
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