Work and the Expatriate Wife

Wives often follow their husbands to the UAE following employment contracts. But what are the rules concerning expat wives and work themselves?

Silhouettes of Business People Looking at the Flag of UAE

In 2012, it became legal for expatriate spouses to sponsor each other in terms of a residence visa in the UAE but this isn’t the same as a work permit or employment visa according to “Guide 2 ” spouses need a separate work permit from an employer to legally work in the UAE.

Just recently, however, the Labour Ministry has made it a bit easier for spouses to work under the sponsorship of their husband or wife. A 2011 law says that a husband or wife can work if they get written permission from their spouse.

Before this, a husband could live here if sponsored by his wife but would need a work permit in order to gain employment. Husbands of wives working in the engineering, medical or teaching professions were exempt from this stipulation. An expatriate wife must still gain a labour card every year after being residentially sponsored by her husband. Muslim expatriates can only sponsor one wife for residency.

Your husband can give you a work permit if he is a business owner and you work for him. If you’d like to work for the company he works for or anyone else, you must get a separate work permit from the actual employer.

While many expat wives may work part-time, both they and their employer may be fined for this and an expat woman can be deported.

In order to legally work, your husband must provide a “letter of no objection” or an NOC. He will give this letter to your employer and it must include your husband’s full name, what country they’re from, their passport number and your passport number and country and full name. Your husband must say that he has no objection to you working.

You cannot work as an expatriate maid unless you have residency sponsored by your employer and a work permit from them.

If your employer isn’t able or willing to sort out your visa and work permit requirements, you’ll have to contact the Department of Naturalization and Residency Dubai (DNRD) and

1) get either a salary certificate or a labor contract;
2) get a copy of your passports;
3) provide a copy of your marriage certificate that is approved or attested to by both the UAE embassy of the country in which your marriage took place and by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs. You’ll also need
4) to pick up a sponsorship application form from the typing centers outside the DNRD;
5) take all this filled-out paperwork back to the DNRD to gain an entry permit for your spouse and send a copy to your spouse and leave the original at the Dubai airport. Upon their arrival, your spouse will have to
6) present the permit copy and gain ownership of the original entry permit at the airport and get it stamped by an Immigration Officer. Your spouse will have 60 days to
7) get medical tests done clearing them of HIV and tuberculosis; and then
8) collect the medical report and submit it along with the stamped entry permit, a passport and two passport photographs back to the DNRD to gain a three-year residence permit.

What if you want to change jobs after you’ve gained a work permit? According to “Move One,” expatriates can only change jobs if they have completed two years of employment with their original sponsor. If not, they have to wait six months to work or wait for their employer to hire a foreigner of higher rank.

If you’re an expat wife, you can cancel your husband’s sponsorship and gain that of your new employer to get a new job.

“Expat” offers advice for the expatriate wife concerning adjustment to the culture of Dubai. They report that Dubai is a melting pot of nationalities, that natives make up just 17 percent of the population and over 80 percent are made up of many different expatriates. Westerners make up about 10 percent of the expatriate population in Dubai.

Arabic is the official language of the city but English is spoken everywhere. You may also hear Bengali, Farsi, Hindi, Malayam and Urdu according to “Expat”
While religious tolerance does exist in the UAE, Dubai does operate according to Muslim traditions so it would bode well for you to familiarize yourself with the customs and practices of Islam in order to not offend.

Expatriates may find it hard to be patient with the bureaucracy that surrounds their new lives in Dubai and by the lack of urgency they may experience on the part of official agencies.

Other sources of culture shock may come from not being able to live together unless you are husband and wife, the rules surrounding alcohol use, and various Islamic practices.

You can buy and drink alcohol in Dubai reports “Expat” but only through restaurants connected to a hotel and other entertainment businesses connected to hotels. You can buy alcohol from a liquor store if you have a liquor license obtained by submitting a copy of your passport, your residence permit and a letter from your employer. Expat wives must also provide a letter of permission from their husbands to gain a liquor license.

During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown and refrain from chewing gum, eating, drinking or smoking. As an expatriate, you should be aware that non-Muslims may be held accountable to these rules and may be arrested for public displays of drinking, smoking, dressing immodestly or engaging in public affection. Your workplace may have strict rules concerning Ramadan or they may provide designated areas for non-Muslims to engage in drinking, eating or smoking.

Other things to consider? Don’t take pictures of government buildings or agents and expatriate men shouldn’t stare at Emirati women. Public drunkenness is not tolerated and laws will most often favor the local versus the expatriate.

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