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| Karin Luzolo

What to Consider When Employing Foreign Females in UAE

Foreign female residents living in the UAE who are sponsored for residence by either their father or husband, are not allowed to work based on their residence permits. Should they find employment...


Foreign female residents living in the UAE who are sponsored for residence by either their father or husband, are not allowed to work based on their residence permits. Should they find employment, their employer will be required to obtain an additional work authorisation on their behalf. The category of and process for obtaining the work authorisation varies depending on the jurisdiction of the employing entity.

In general, this will be the so-called ‘Non-sponsored ID card’ (Free zones) or a Relative- sponsored work permit (Mainland / Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation).

The essential point is that the female worker remains under her father’s or husband’s sponsorship as opposed to being sponsored by her employer. The General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) is the issuing authority for the residence permit, whereas the work permit gets issued by the Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratisation (MOHRE) for Mainland companies or the relevant Free zone (FZ) authority for Free zone companies. 

Amongst the key documentation requirements for the process is a valid residence permit (RP) with a minimum validity of six months. Another mandatory document is the No Objection Certificate (NOC) issued by the applicant’s sponsor (i.e., her father or husband). The work permit will be valid for one to two years, depending on the jurisdiction.

Challenges in Practice

Even though a valid RP is one of the key prerequisites to obtaining the non-sponsored work permit, surprisingly neither MOHRE nor any of the FZs track such a work permit’s validity period. MOHRE and FZ may have records of the expiry date of the RP in their portal; however, none of the authorities would call on the employer or employee to renew the residence permit and provide proof of the renewed permit during the validity period of the work permit. Moreover, if the RP is cancelled during the validity period of the work permit, neither MOHRE nor FZ will be notified.

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) makes it mandatory that the work permit validity date does not exceed the RP expiry date. However, even here early cancellation of an RP would not trigger a cancellation process of the work permit by the DIFC authority.

In other words, if the female worker’s RP expires prior to the expiration of the non-sponsored work permit, or if it gets cancelled by her sponsor (father or husband) at the GDRFA, the FZ authority or MOHRE will not be notified by GDRFA.

The authorities seem to have different opinions on whether the work permit automatically turns invalid after cancellation of the RP. While the work permit would appear to remain “valid” on its face, technically speaking the work permit’s validity forfeits if the RP is cancelled, since it was initially issued on the basis of a valid RP. Hence continuing work with a “valid” work permit but cancelled RP would be considered non-compliant.

Most FZs and also the MOHRE do not restrict the issuance of the work permit to RPs issued in the same Emirate as the work permit. However, there are some Free zones with this requirement, such as DIFC. The DIFC only issues work permits to applicants with an RP issued in Dubai. Hence companies operating in the DIFC will only be able to request a non-sponsored work permit for their female workers who have RPs issued in Dubai.

Best Practice

A company hiring foreign female workers whose residence is sponsored by their father or husband should implement internal measures to ensure that the company remains compliant with the relevant immigration requirements.

One of the measures would be creating an internal system to track the validity of employees’ residence permits.

It is also vital to educate your employees on the need to notify the company if their residence permit is cancelled. The employer should highlight during this discussion that the work permit validity is linked to the employee’s valid RP, hence she has the obligation to report any changes in the RP which could affect the work permit’s validity.

During the renewal of an RP due to upcoming expiry, you should request a copy of the application from the employee. The copy should be kept in your files until the RP renewal is completed so that in case of any inspections the company can prove that the RP is currently under renewal. After completion of the renewal, you should immediately request a copy of the renewed RP for your records for tracking purposes.

In case of cancellation of the RP, the employer should immediately cancel the work permit with MOHRE or the FZ authority.

For further advice on best practice measures please contact me at