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Global employment briefing: United Arab Emirates, October 2017

  • UAE
  • Employment law


New Abu Dhabi Dependency Sponsorship Requirements – Changes on the horizon

Holders of an Abu Dhabi visa will, it appears, need to provide evidence that they reside in Abu Dhabi when sponsoring their dependents. Although on the face of it the rule has the potential to significantly impact the immigration landscape in Abu Dhabi, how it will be applied in practice remains to be seen.

As of 1 July 2017, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (“Authority”) introduced a new rule under which expat employees in Abu Dhabi are required to show that they live in Abu Dhabi in order to obtain new (and to renew) dependent visas (i.e. for spouse, children and domestic staff). As it is a recent development, the position has yet to be published in a codified form, however, the rule appears to be an extension of the current Tawtheeq requirements and as a result, will impose a condition that the lease that is submitted, as part of an application to sponsor a dependent’s visa, is for an Abu Dhabi property.

The rule purportedly prescribes that a lease for a property in another Emirate will not suffice for the purpose of dependency sponsorship, consequently causing an application accompanied by evidence of a lease for a property other than in Abu Dhabi to be rejected by the Department of Naturalisation and Residency (Immigration). Naturally this rule will impact those individuals who have an Abu Dhabi visa but live in Dubai (or any other Emirate).

At present, as untested and unpublished, the rule should be treated with caution. The Authority has suggested that exemptions may be granted on a discretionary, case-by-case basis. Whilst the position remains unclear, the Authority has indicated that, where a company has a branch company in another Emirate, it may be possible for an application to be accompanied by a document certifying employment in the branch company and this may entitle the individual to be exempted from the requirement to produce a tenancy agreement from Abu Dhabi, subject to the approval of the Authority.

Until such time that the new rule is officially published and put into practice by the Authority, applicants should seek confirmation of the likely requirements based on their individual circumstances before submitting a dependency sponsorship application.