In the run up to Dubai Expo 2020, the UAE is doing everything it can to attract skilled workers to the country. According to analysts at PWC, the UAE issued over 12 million visas in 2017, a substantial portion of which would be for long-term expat positions. This openness to immigration also translates into the country’s relatively straightforward visa application process. However, one area that many expats often struggle with is the Visa Designation in UAE section on the application form. There are literally thousands of different job titles to choose from – anything from ‘sandwich maker’ to ‘CEO’.
And for applicants who are seeking to start a business in the UAE mainland or one of the country’s many free zones, the designation question can be a particular cause of anxiety:
- If your business isn’t formed yet, what titles should you (and your partners) take?
- Can your designation affect your right to bring over dependants?
- What happens if you choose the wrong designation?
The visa designation you choose on your UAE visa can have an impact on how your application progresses, as well as what you can legally do in the country. And while in many cases a title really is little more than a title, it’s important to understand designations before you send off your application – a UAE company setup consultancy can guide you through this process.
What are designations in a UAE visa application?
In a UAE visa application, you are required to choose from a list of professions. There are a number of reasons for this, but most importantly the government enforces (as part of their ‘Emiratisation’ policy) quotas regarding the number of UAE nationals that must be employed by a company. Designations are a means of having some control over this.
Designations are a means of having some control over this.
If you are aiming to open a business in the UAE mainland or a free zone (rather than employing foreign workers from abroad), these Emiratisation quota issues probably won’t affect you. Nevertheless, there are other important reasons for getting your visa designation correct.
So let’s look at these now.
Why is it important to choose the correct designation for your UAE visa application?
If you are launching a business in the UAE, there are several key reasons for making sure your visa application contains the correct designation information:
1. Consistency in your applications: The emirate or free zone you wish to launch in will review your visa at the same time as viewing your application form. If there is a discrepancy between the job title on your visa and that on your application form, this will naturally raise questions.
2. Certain professions or titles demand you hold specific qualifications: The UAE has divided its job market into three different skill levels – those with basic, diploma or university degrees. If you wish to classify yourself as a ‘finance manager’ for instance, you must also hold a degree from a recognised university. This means that someone who doesn’t actually hold a degree but is, nonetheless, the company’s finance manager, would have to choose an alternative job title, such as general manager.
3. Sponsorship of dependants hinges on your job title: Another key reason to choose the correct designation on your UAE visa application is that your job title may affect your right to sponsor dependants. For instance, in Fujairah free zone, to sponsor dependants you must have a managerial visa title and be a male. If you do not have a managerial designation, you need to select the designation of ‘sales representative’ or ‘marketing representative’, even if you happen to be doing a different job.
4. Certain job titles are only permitted for specific individuals: Another key reason for getting job titles correct is that certain titles can only be given to a specific individual. For instance, there can only be one ‘person in charge’ working at a company. At the same time, people aged over 60 years old are normally required to be designated as a ‘person in charge’ or a shareholder.
5. Travel in GCC countries: Last but not least, choosing the correct designation may affect ease of travel in GCC countries. Individuals with a ‘managerial’ position or above are able to visit other GCC countries using their UAE visa without having to apply for a new visa each time.
Individuals with a ‘managerial’ position or above are able to visit other GCC countries using their UAE visa without having to apply for a new visa each time.
Differences between mainland businesses and free zone businesses
A final point to note about visa designations in the UAE is that the rules and processes are slightly different between mainland businesses and free zones. If you are a mainland business, you must submit your application to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation to obtain a work permit before applying for an employment visa from the Immigration Authority. In free zones, the rules may vary from one free zone to the next. It’s essential to discuss with your free zone’s authorities to understand how to set up in a Free Zone. For more clarification about what a Free Zone is, visit this article.