UAE work permits and visas

UAE work permits and visas
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A fast-growing economy like the UAE is a desirable destination for businesses. International expansion is vital for companies to maximize their long-term operations and profits. If you are considering moving a team of talent to the UAE, there are several visas for your employees. Alternatively, if you are planning to work in the UAE, you may be eligible for a work permit without a local sponsor.  

Which visa should you get for your employees? How often do you have to renew the visas? What are the costs and the application process? Are your employees eligible for a work visa? These questions can cause employers to stumble and make the process stressful.

Fortunately, here at Skuad, we take care of your visa needs. We help you obtain UAE work permits and visas for your business so you can focus on other operational needs. Take a look at the types of work permits and how Skuad can help you hire in the UAE.

Types of UAE work visa and permits

Standard work visa

A standard work visa allows a foreigner to commence normal employment in the UAE. The employer is either the government or a private company with a valid license in the country. A standard work visa is a form of residence permit.

The holder can renew the work visa repeatedly. Each visa usually lasts for two years, although one-year visas are also common depending on the business needs. A standard work visa must be applied for by the employer. Therefore, the visa holder will arrive in the UAE with a job secured.

Green visa

For self-employed freelancers and skilled workers, a green visa allows you to stay in the country for five years. With a green visa, there is no need for a sponsor or work contract. Applicants must meet the financial requirements and the first three levels of professional jobs set by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation.

A green visa typically ties educational background to the job. If an applicant has a professional degree in a certain field, the work undertaken in the UAE may have to relate to this expertise.

Golden visa

A golden visa is for investors, outstanding talents, entrepreneurs, inventors, athletes, specialists, and other exceptional people in their respective fields. The visa lasts for five to 10 years.

The holder enjoys exclusive benefits in the UAE, including a requirement of fewer days spent in the country each year, sponsorships for family members, unlimited sponsorships allowed for domestic helpers, and the right for family members to stay if the visa holder passes away.

Domestic worker’s visa

UAE immigration officially recognizes 19 occupations as domestic workers. Employers must provide accommodation to domestic workers and must not require compensation for bringing workers into the country.

It is the employer’s responsibility to pay for the visa and sponsor the employee’s journey into the country. Educational requirements are less strict with the domestic worker’s visa.

Remote work visa

Remote work visas are a relatively new concept that became prevalent during COVID-19. A lot of countries have since introduced remote work visas to attract talent. This type of work visa is also known as the digital nomad visa. The UAE has a virtual working program for digital nomads, remote workers, or entrepreneurs.

Visa holders have to meet certain financial and professional UAE visa requirements. Once they get the visa, they can enter the UAE and work from anywhere they want in the country. Given the ultra-luxurious lifestyle and many glorious beaches, the UAE is a popular choice for travel enthusiasts.

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Requirements for UAE work visa and permits

Standard work visa

  • The visa applicant must be at least 18 years old
  • The sponsoring company must have a clean record with a valid license in the UAE
  • The application must be submitted by the hiring company
  • The visa applicant must hold professional qualifications that correspond to their work
  • A health check certificate must be supplied

A standard work visa is the most common way to obtain a work permit in the UAE. Companies must pay for the application fees and apply on behalf of the applicant. The employee’s expertise must also align with the nature of the company.

If the employee does not meet UAE work visa requirements or their academic/professional background does not match the new role, the employer should explain why the employee is a vital asset to the operation or the application will likely be declined.

Green visa

For freelancers/self-employed workers:

  • Must show proof of income of at least AED 360,000 in the last two years
  • Must hold a degree/diploma/education certificate in the applicant’s specialized field

For skilled workers:

Green visa applicants work in high-paying jobs. Applicants can apply for the visas themselves, skipping the need for a sponsor. The renewal process is the same as a standard work visa. Visa holders can renew their visas upon expiry.

Freelancers and self-employed workers can land in the UAE without a job offer. The visa gives them time to search for professional work in their field upon arrival. Once in the UAE, the green visa holder must only work in jobs that relate to their qualifications and professional backgrounds.

Golden visa

Elites from all professional fields are eligible for the golden visa. The specific requirements vary depending on the applicant’s specialized talents. For example, investors of investment funds can be asked for proof of a deposit of AED 2,000,000.

Entrepreneurs must obtain letters from the UAE authorities proving the nature of their businesses and credibility. Inventors must demonstrate how their patents can add value to the country. The same goes for all other professionals. Applicants must showcase excellent achievements in their professional fields.

Humanitarian workers or frontline medical staff for COVID-19 with proven exceptional work can also apply for the golden visa. It is open to high-achievers from all walks of life. Income is not necessarily a criterion.

In addition to working talents, outstanding students are also eligible for the golden visa. High school and university students meeting the requirements will also be able to get visas. The golden visa attracts talents to enrich the diversifying economy in the UAE.

Domestic worker’s visa

  • Applicant must be at least 18 years old
  • Mutual consent with the worker fully understanding the work terms
  • The employee is entitled to a round-trip ticket home every two years covered by the employer, eight hours of consecutive rest per day, and 30 days of paid annual leave

In the UAE, 19 occupations fall under the domestic worker visa category. Proven educational background is not necessary. The UAE strictly forbids employers from seeking any monetary or non-monetary compensation from employees for bringing them into the country. The employer is not allowed to extend the probation period for more than six months to ensure workers get access to their entitled benefits.

Virtual working program

  • Proof from the employer that the applicant works remotely/is an entrepreneur
  • Bank statements of sufficient funds
  • Minimum USD 5,000 monthly salary

The virtual work residence visa is a self-sponsored work permit. Although applicants need to show proof of employment from their employer, they do not need the company to sponsor them or be involved in the process at all.

The visa lasts for one year with the possibility of renewal. There is a zero-income tax policy in place for remote workers. They only need to do taxes in their home country and the country they are employed in.

How to apply for UAE work visa and permit

Visa quota approval

Before offering job contracts to employees, companies in the private sector must get approval from the Ministry of Labour to ensure they are able to recruit international talent. Without the approval, the sponsor and the employee will not be able to continue with the process.

Get a work contract in place

Depending on the type of work visa, you may or may not need to secure a work contract beforehand. If the work visa requires it, you must first sign with a valid company within the UAE. The contract must comply with labor law and state your salary, work terms, and job duties. Failure to provide a signed contract with the necessary details will stall the application.

Gather relevant documents

You and your sponsor are responsible for submitting all required documents and making sure you meet the requirements. Relevant documents may include financial statements, letters from UAE authorities, degree certificates, and more.

Submit the application with complete documents

The UAE work permit application is either submitted by you or your sponsor. You do not need to submit two applications separately. After you have submitted the documents, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation will make a decision on the application. Any missing or incomplete documents can lead to a delay or dismissal.

In all cases, the applicant does not have to travel to the UAE to submit the application. They should stay in their home country while a decision is being made.

Enter the UAE with the pink visa

Once the conditions are met, an employment entry visa, also known as a pink visa, will be granted to the applicant. The applicant can enter the UAE with a pink visa. Upon arrival, the employee has to obtain a formal work visa and a residence permit within 60 days, which is the period for which the pink visa is valid.


Work permits in the UAE can be renewed locally before they expire. To renew the visa, a visa holder or their sponsor must submit the application before the current residence permit expires. Visa holders can legally stay in the country while a decision is being made.

UAE residents are also entitled to a grace period of up to six months after their current residence permit expires. Typically, residents only need to renew a work permit around 30 days before it expires. However, if they have to apply earlier due to travel or other reasons, they should first obtain approval from the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Port Security (ICP).

Application processing time

Once the application fees have been paid and all necessary documents are in place, a decision should be made within five days to three weeks. Applicants can track their application status on the ICP portal with their unique request numbers.

Approval time can change due to workload and other circumstances. Staying updated through the ICP portal is the best way to ensure your application is being reviewed.

Planning to hire or work in UAE? Here’s how Skuad can help

Dealing with lengthy and complicated visa applications can set back your international expansion. You need to dedicate thousands of man-hours or form a team of experts to guide you through the process.

Here at Skuad, we aim to take the pressure off businesses and entrepreneurs so they can focus on other vital international expansion strategies. We help you manage the practicalities of sending your selected talents to the UAE.

Outsource the burden of getting work permits in the UAE and understanding the legal terms to Skuad. Enjoy a hassle-free expansion to the second-biggest economy in the Middle East.

Hire whoever you want, wherever you want, we’ll manage localized onboarding, cross-border payroll, local compliance, and more so you can build globally distributed teams easily. Book a demo today!

Frequently asked questions

How much does a work permit cost in the UAE?

Application fees vary for different categories.

The fee is either paid by you or your sponsor with a very strict requirement in each category. You can refer to the official ICP service page for visa charges. It is the official channel that updates the charges as they change. You will find visa fees for individuals and organizations.

Overstaying fines

Work visa holders are subject to overstaying fines if they stay beyond the grace period after visa expiration. The UAE has set a standardized fine of AED 50 per day for all permit holders.

Is a UAE work visa easy to get?

There are strict requirements governing who can get a UAE work visa. These include whether you have a job offer in place, possess certain skills, or fit other eligibility guidelines. If you are eligible for one of the UAE work visas, the application process is fairly straightforward and swift.

For how long is a UAE work permit valid?

Different UAE work permits are valid for different time periods. A standard UAE work visa typically lasts for two years, the self-employed green visa lasts up to five years, and the exceptional skill golden visa lasts from five to 10 years. Remote work visas are usually valid for a year.

How can I get a work permit in Dubai?

Depending on the type of visa in question, companies and applicants must comply with various criteria. These can include companies getting approval to hire outside the country, applicants having a work contract in place, gathering necessary documents, and filing an application. We discuss the specific steps for each visa type in this article.

How long does it take to get a UAE work permit?

Once you have gathered all the necessary documentation, complied with all criteria, and submitted your application, it typically takes between five days and three weeks to receive your work permit.

Building a remote team?

Employ exceptional talent, anywhere, anytime!

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