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UAE Work Permits Versus Visas

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

In the UAE, the terms work permit and work visa are often used interchangeably, but they are not exactly the same thing.

A work visa is a type of visa that allows an individual to enter the UAE for the purpose of employment. It is issued by the UAE embassy or consulate in the applicant's home country or current country of residence.

Alternatively, you may enter the UAE on a tourist visit, and apply for a residence visa while you are in the country.

Once you are in the UAE and have a valid residence visa, you must obtain an additional work permit if you want to legally work in the country.

Even if you have a UAE residence visa, in case you want to work in the country, you also need a work permit.

There are a large number of UAE visas available, from standard employment visas to self-employment visas as we discuss in our article on UAE visas.

A holder of one of these visas may also sponsor dependent family members, as well as maids or drivers.

You can legally reside in the UAE on just your residence visa. However, if you want to work here, you need the aforementioned work permit.

Visas in the UAE are issued by the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA) of the Emirate you intend to reside in.

Work permits, however, are issued on a federal level by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE).

A work permit, also known as a labor card, is a document that grants an individual permission to work in the UAE. It is issued to individuals who have already entered the country on a work visa and have passed a medical examination and security check.

The work permit is tied to a specific employer and is valid for a specific period of time.

If you are terminated or quit your UAE employer, as work permit will be revoked as well as work permits are tied to the employer. Your employment visa, however, remains valid, and you may apply for jobs with other employers as long as you do so within the 1-2 month grace period.

If you are staying in the UAE on a self-sponsored visa, for example, a Golden Visa or property visa, you are responsible for applying for your own work permit.

If you are a company owner and are staying in the UAE on a company investor (partner) visa, depending on the free zone, you likely already have a work permit automatically issued by your free zone.

Work permits cost between AED 250 and AED 3,450. We can assist you in the work permit application process as part of our UAE company and visa strategy packages.

Without a valid work permit, an individual and/or an individual's employer can face fines, deportation, or other legal consequences.

We develop strategies that allow you to legally relocate your business and/or residence to the UAE. Check out our services below.


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