Sunday, August 14, 2005

Expat workers seeking sponsor change before time 'must wait'

By Diaa Hadid, Staff Reporter
Published: 14/8/2005, 07:59 (UAE)

Dubai: People who want to change sponsors before completing the required time period set by the Ministry of Labour must wait until the Minister clarifies exemptions to the new sponsorship law, a senior source said. In late July, the Cabinet passed a new law conditionally allowing all people to transfer sponsorship.

In the new law, workers must stay with their current sponsor for at least one year, if they have a PhD or Masters degree, two years if the worker has a Bachelor's degree or equivalent, and three years for everybody else.

However, the new law allowed exemptions to that time period, provided that the new sponsor paid an extra Dh3,500 on top of all other official transaction fees.

Yesterday, a senior official, who declined to be named, said the Minister had still not clarified who would be eligible for exemption, and under what circumstances. "We are waiting for the Minister," he said.

This is important for many workers who want to change sponsors, but have found themselves under the new law obliged to continue working with their current sponsor until they complete the set time period.

The senior official said a part of that confusion was caused because the ministry wanted to apply all policies gradually.There are discussions within the ministry to allow desk clerks to approve the exemptions, rather than waiting for the labour undersecretary's signature.

"That's too centralised. Provided the current and future sponsor agree, and is willing to pay the extra fee, it shouldn't be a difficult operation to complete."Companies 'illegally bringing in employees'Companies are still illegally bringing in workers on visit visas for temporary tasks, instead of applying for temporary work visas through the Labour Ministry, a senior official said.

The senior official, who declined to be named, said the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs had authorised temporary work visas "about a month and a half ago", for oil companies in particular.

"These are companies who need specialised people for a specific task with a fixed time period," he said.The official said those companies had traditionally gone through the Department of Residency and Naturalisation to bring in workers on visit visas, even though the practice was technically illegal.

"This was meant to replace [that practice]," he said.But at least a month and a half on, the official said he did not know of any companies applying for workers through the new temporary work visa system.

The Labour Ministry and the UAE Cabinet recently increased fees for the temporary work visa, to Dh1,100 per person for 90 days. It can be extended to a maximum of 180 days for another Dh1,100. #

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