Immigration and the UAE

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The visa requirements for companies providing goods and services to the United Arab Emirates are outlined for MEI readers by ASG Immigration's Cameron Stone.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is an economically powerful nation composed of seven 'emirates'. Of these emirates, the capital and political centre is Abu Dhabi. Dubai is the commercial centre and is well known as a place of opportunity, and as such attracts a large number of foreign workers. Regular events include the Dubai World Cup (billed as the world's richest horse race) and the Formula One Grand Prix, to be held in Abu Dhabi later this year. Dubai and Abu Dhabi also host major golf tournaments which are part of the European PGA tour. Far and away the UAE's biggest annual event relates to a different kind of sport–shopping. The Dubai Shopping Festival is the biggest event of its kind; it runs for a month and attracts millions of visitors and vendors from all over the world. Consumer spending at the festival is said to make a significant contribution to Dubai's annual GDP. General visa requirements for large–scale eventsEntry requirements for people providing goods and services at major events can vary significantly for different countries. Work permission is generally required if a person is working in a foreign country, however in certain circumstances short periods of work can sometimes be allowed on visit (non–work) visas. It is also the case that special arrangements are sometimes made for large–scale events. UAE visa requirements Like many other countries, the UAE has what could be described as a 'visa–national' system in place for visitors, with nationals of certain countries requiring visas before entry, and other nationalities able to obtain a visa upon arrival. 'Non–visa nationals', such as American, Australian and British nationals, can obtain a visa upon arrival to the UAE. The period of entry permitted for nationals of countries that do not require visas prior to arrival in the UAE is 30 days. If an entry period of more than 30 days is required by these nationals, the most expedient way to make the application is via a sponsor in the UAE. In this case a maximum of 90 days stay is permitted. For 'visa nationals'–visitors from countries required to apply for entry in advance–applications via a UAE sponsor are also the most expedient. Entry for 30 days is usually permitted for visa nationals but a maximum 90 days can be allowed. These visit visas are generally for a single entry and allow standard business visit activities such as attending meetings. For visa nationals there are other single entry visit visas available if a UAE–based company or establishment sponsors the visitor. For government officials and private sector companies planning to attend an exhibition, conference or a festival such as the Dubai Shopping Festival, a visa allowing entry for 30 days is available. For business people and highly qualified professionals a 'Mission' visa allows entry for a period of 16 days as a business visitor. Although this visa only allows a short period of entry, it does have reduced documentary requirements in comparison to the other visit visas. For business visitors from all countries planning multiple entries there is also a visa which allows multiple entries over a six month period for 14 days at a time. This visa also requires a UAE–based sponsoring entity, and the applicant must apply from within the UAE after having arrived on a visit visa. It is important to note that visit visas do not allow work. While the UAE's visa system for visitors is generally similar to many other countries, the similarities can end here in terms of obtaining work permission, depending on where the sponsoring company is based within the UAE. Broadly speaking, obtaining work permission for most countries involves application procedures that are generally consistent across the country, regardless of the specific location of the sponsoring company in that country. The UAE is an exception to this general rule. This is because certain areas within the UAE are designated 'free zones'. Most of these free zones are in Dubai. The free zones generally mean reduced bureaucracy for foreign companies setting up and undertaking operations within the zone. Companies in free zones do not require permission from the labour authorities to sponsor foreign workers, and deal instead with the free zone authority, which makes the process significantly easier and faster. For sponsoring companies not located in free zones there are options for both short and long term permits for foreign workers. Short term 'Mission permits' (different to 'Mission visas') allow work for 90 days (generally extendable for another 90 days once the foreign worker is in the UAE) and permission from the labour authorities is required. If the sponsoring company is in a free zone, regardless of the period of work planned, an application for a full work permit can be made through the streamlined process discussed above. In terms of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), the UAE, like most other WTO members and signatories to the GATS, is bound by the basic commitments regarding business visitor entry and intra–company transfers. However unlike certain other countries the UAE's GATS provisions do not commit specifically to allowing service contracts to be undertaken by business visitors. The UAE is also a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), along with Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The GCC has a common market policy to facilitate the movement of labour between member nations. As a result GCC member nationals enjoy streamlined entry processes for the UAE. The UAE's visa requirements for suppliers for large–scale events Providing goods or services at an event in the UAE such as the Dubai Shopping Festival requires work permission as well as a trade licence. Generally speaking things are much easier if a supplier has a sponsor in the UAE to facilitate arrangements. The option of suppliers who are non–visa nationals (e. g. British nationals) entering the UAE first as visitors and then finalising appropriate arrangements may also be worth exploring. As mentioned previously, requirements can also vary depending on the proposed location for the supply of goods or services. A company wishing to supply a service or goods at a major event in any country is advised to commence planning their immigration arrangements well in advance. The UAE is definitely no exception. Cameron Stone works for ASG Immigration Limited in London as their International Specialist. He is a qualified Australian immigration adviser (MARN 0853023) and can be contacted on +44 (0) 20 7299 3330 or via e–mail at cameron@asgvisa. com. This article is not intended to be a complete statement of the law relating to the subject matter. Advice should always be taken on specific matters and no responsibility can be accepted by ASG Immigration Limited for action taken based on the content of this article.

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