Some residents shared their stories with Khaleej Times.
"I came here 10 months ago on a visit visa and managed to secure a job after one month. They held my passport and told me they would process a two-year employment visa, but after two months of continuous working, nothing materialised," Indian expat T.A. said, sharing the accompanying paperwork.
Being paid cash-in-hand, T.A. was promised a monthly salary of Dh3,500 but received only Dh3,000.
"I kept asking to get my labour papers so that I at least knew they were processing it, but they never came. The labour courts would come in and do inspections, but just before their arrival, our company would tell those on visit visas to leave the building."
After constantly deferring her queries regarding an employment visa, T.A. said that on the third month - when her visit visa was due to expire - the company explained no visa was coming.
"People on a visit visa cannot approach the court or police to complain, so companies get away with exploiting people like me. This is a big trend," she said.
What the law says
Article 11 of the Federal Law No. 6 for 1973 concerning immigration and residence clearly states that "the alien who obtains a visit visa may not work anywhere in the country with or without pay or for his own".
Additionally, by virtue of Federal Decree Law No 7 for 2007, "a fine of Dh50,000 per worker has been prescribed, in the event the MoHRE finds any employer employing an individual on a visit visa". If the offence is repeated, the fine amount is doubled.
Expatriate employers violating the law will be deported and banned for life from entering the UAE. And for UAE nationals, a six-month prison term will be handed down. Despite this, all it takes is a scroll online to see numerous job listings that specifically put a call-out for applicants on visit visas.
'Technical Consultant (visiting visa preferred)'; 'Java Programmer (Visit Visa/ Immediate Availability)'; and 'Admin Assistant Filipino Male On Visit Visa' are just some of the posts Khaleej Times came across.
But the reasons for such postings may vary, Louise Vine, managing director of Inspire Selection, said.
Companies may ask for someone on a visit visa if the role is "super urgent" and some may also wish to place someone on a trial period before providing a company visa. However, when an agency is involved, this generally does not happen.
"When we do hear about this type of thing though, it is usually with lower-income earners such as maids, drivers, labourers," she said.
One such person was Nigerian expat F.O. Arriving in Dubai in February 2018, he worked for several months in two separate jobs in exchange for a small cash-in-hand salary.
"I was new to the country and handed my passport over to my employer on the promise my visa would be changed to a residency visa. I was washing dishes in a restaurant. After three months of being told my visa would come, I started panicking. When my visit visa expired, my manager told me they did not have the quota to take me on, so I had to leave."
After exiting the UAE to Oman, F.O. returned two months later and took up a labourer's position in Al Ain.
"That was such hard work. I did that for two months. I was told I'd get paid Dh800 a month, but they paid me just Dh600 and again, kept telling me my visa would come but it never did. I left out of anger because I was duped two times."
Given the legal implications of working on a visit visa status, T.A. and F.O. said that in their experience, companies are taking advantage of vulnerable jobseekers. Knowing they have no legal grounding if they are treated unfairly in the workplace, they are luring them in on the pretext of probationary work, before letting them go once their visit visa is up.
If a complaint is made against the employer by an employee who is a victim, Ashish Mehta, founder and managing partner of Ashish Mehta & Associates, said the employer may be penalised.
"However, similarly, an employee may also get into trouble for working illegally. A penalty or a ban may be imposed on the employer and the employee."
As such, residents and visitors are urged to seek employment through the right, legal channels.
Things to remember as you take up a job in the UAE
1-Offer letter: It's mandatory for companies to issue an offer letter to you, mentioning the terms and conditions of the job. This has to be signed and accepted by you.
2-Ministry approval: The signed offer letter should be submitted by the employer to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation for approval.
3-Work permit/residency visa: The employer will procure your work and residency permits
4-Health screening: Your medical tests will be conducted at government-approved health centres in the UAE. You will be tested for communicable diseases/conditions
5-Certificate attestation: If you hold a degree from outside the UAE, you must get it certified from the UAE embassy or consulate in your country and also from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of your home country
6-Keep your passport: Remember! One of your important rights is entitlement to the possession of your passport
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