Connecticut, US

Oct 15 2020

Dubai Launches Virtual Working Program for Foreign Professionals

United Arab Emirates

At a Glance

  • The government of Dubai is launching a Virtual Working Program for foreign nationals seeking to work remotely while remaining employed in their home country. This is the first remote work visa in the Middle East region.
  • In order to qualify for the program, applicants must earn a minimum salary of USD 5,000 per month, among other requirements.
  • The program will allow foreign nationals to benefit from working in Dubai without a local employment contract.

The situation

The government of Dubai is launching a Virtual Working Program for foreign professionals and entrepreneurs seeking to work remotely while remaining employed in their home country. It is not yet clear if the program has already opened for applications.

A closer look

  • Eligible foreign nationals. The program will allow foreign professionals, entrepreneurs, business owners and their family members to work remotely for up to one year.
  • Minimum salary requirements. Eligible foreign nationals must earn a minimum salary of USD 5,000 per month to qualify for the program.
  • Document requirements. Applicants must provide a certificate of employment from their current employer with a minimum contract validity of one year, their most recent pay slips covering a period of one month, an official bank statement from the last three months, proof of health insurance valid for the United Arab Emirates and an application fee of USD 287 per person. Business owners must provide proof of company ownership for a minimum of one year, instead of an employment contract.
  • Application process. It is not clear at this time how long the application process will take or which immigration documentation will be issued to successful candidates. Further details of the program are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
  • Local work not allowed. Virtual Program document holders and their dependents cannot perform work for a local employer in Dubai or provide any services to any person or entity carrying out business in Dubai.

 

Impact for foreign nationals

Foreign nationals will be able to work from Dubai without a local employment contract and benefit from the emirate’s digital infrastructure and location as a travel hub in the Middle East.

Background

  • Global trend to support local economy. The government has seen the remote work program as a way to support Dubai’s economy when many industries are in a recession due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other countries have implemented similar remote programs recently, including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bermuda, Estonia and Georgia. This is the first remote work visa in the Middle East region.
  • Remote work visa warning. In countries where remote work is unregulated, workers and employers may unknowingly put themselves at risk of noncompliance with many aspects of the law, exposing them to possible fines or other penalties, depending on the country. Importantly, repeated noncompliance with regulations may result in employers losing their rights to hire foreign labor, including in the United Arab Emirates.

 

Looking ahead

It is expected that as the non-traditional workforce grows and countries focus on post-COVID-19 economic remobilization, more governments will begin to implement remote work programs and to adapt their existing laws to citizens and residents working abroad under these programs. However, there are currently no plans for creating similar programs in other emirates.

Generally, as with all remote work visa programs, until clear national policies are established that respond to the numerous open legal questions, employers should be cautious of these programs as opposed to other, more well-established work authorization schemes. Employers should work with a trusted immigration partner to analyze strategies and assess risks associated with remote work visa programs.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to [email protected].