Recruiting in the UAE can bring potential tripwires for companies taking steps to build their international profile. The UAE population of around 10 million comprises 90% foreigners, creating an eclectic mix of international companies recruiting to expand into the country. The huge acceleration in the construction of hotels, offices and skyscrapers – particularly in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi – fueled the population growth alongside the development of tourism, hospitality and the financial and banking sectors.

The Indian sub-continent provides the most significant percentage of immigrant workers, close to 50%. The United Kingdom has the largest contingent among western nations, followed by France, the United States and The Netherlands. These are all considerations for foreign companies looking to recruit locally-based employees in one of the UAE’s seven Emirates, including Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah and Umm Al Quwain. Building on the firm foundation of oil and gas reserves, the UAE has developed from a labour-intensive economy towards diversity in tourism, renewable energy, aluminium production, aviation, telecommunications and advanced technologies. Close to 50 Free Trade Zones open up more foreign expansion and recruitment avenues.

Nevertheless, finding and recruiting top talent in an overseas territory that is maybe thousands of miles away is a major challenge for companies setting their sights on global expansion – and it is a venture that faces obstacles. So, where to begin? Bradford Jacobs’ global experience is vital for taking the smartest recruitment route into the UAE. Our benchmark platforms as a Professional Employer Organisation (PEO) have worldwide reach and include a total understanding of the complexities of the UAE’s employment market. You need staff to be ‘up and running’ quickly.

Recruiting in the UAE

Foreign companies recruiting in the UAE must factor in proposals to impose a minimum percentage of Emiratis on their payroll. The UAE government expects private sector companies to have 10% of locals in their workforce by 2026 and will invest AED 24 billion (EUR 6.27 billion, USD 6.5 billion) to create 75,000 jobs for skilled labour. Similarly, the Labour Law allows UAE citizens to be given preference in the job market, followed by nationals of other Arab nations. In the private sector, foreigners can be employed only if no unemployed locals are qualified for the role and if they have all the necessary approvals and documentation.

UAE-based multinationals who cannot fill positions from within turn to employment agencies. As they carry recruitment expenses, they will prefer to recruit in the UAE rather than from abroad. Individuals looking for work are not shy of taking their CVs from office to office and using the internet, newspaper and social media to find contact numbers to submit their details electronically. There are also legal requirements that must be followed in the recruitment process for incoming foreigners. In the private sector, this involves receiving a formal job offer, signing the employment contract and receiving a work permit.

Recruitment is the first stage of making your company operational and competitive in the UAE. However, complications surround moving staff into the country and obtaining visas. Knowing where to locate the finest candidates for your company’s expansion plans is vital to avoid these issues. Once recruited and onboarded, employers must comply with various procedures to ensure employees can legally work in the UAE. Responsibilities include the following:

  • Provide the employee with the standard Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) job offer letter, followed by both employer and employee signing the MOHRE’s official Federal Labour Contract, which should be concluded in Arabic and English.
  • Registering new employees with the Ministry of Labour and relevant local authorities once the contract is signed (which is during the visa application process in the case of non-Emiratis).
  • Ensure the employee possesses a UAE ID card issued by the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Port Security (ICP), and mandatory for all citizens and residents.
  • UAE nationals and citizens of the other Gulf Cooperation Council nations (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia) must be registered with the General Pension and Social Security Authority (GPSSA) within one month of starting work. There is no social security requirement for expatriates.

In the case of registering non-Emiratis workers, employers must follow other procedures, including the following:

  • In addition to MOHRE and the ICP, employers must also deal with the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in their Emirate of operation.
  • Before applying for the employee’s Visa, employers must register the job offer letter with MOHRE.
  • Before applying for a work permit, the employer must apply to MOHRE for their company’s ‘eSignature’ card. Pre-approval of the application requires the eSignature card, business license, employee’s photograph and passport with a minimum of six months validity. The UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation must authenticate the academic qualifications from outside educational establishments.
  • Employers must sponsor the prospective employee, satisfying criteria such as educational and professional qualifications; lawful entry into the UAE, that the relevant employment sector does not have suitable Emirati candidates.
  • Quotas apply to the number of non-Emiratis employed, according to limits set by MOHRE and depending on the company’s legal structure, type of operation, and location.
  • MOHRE requires a bank guarantee of AED 3,000 (EUR 784, USD 816) for each sponsored employee.
  • Employers face fines of up to AED 20,000 (EUR 5,200, USD 5,445) for false or incomplete data.

Employees' Legal Checks in the UAE

The federal Labour Law generally applies to restrictions on background checks, which the employer or a third party can carry out. Employees’ background checks can include the following:

Medical checks: There are no restrictions on employers requiring pre-hire medical checks, and they can refuse employment to individuals who do not comply. Nearly 90% of the UAE population are foreign, and medical checks are a requirement for obtaining a residence Visa.

Drug and alcohol checks: There are no restrictions on checks, particularly as drug control is strictly enforced and failing a test can indicate criminal activity.

References: The new employer can request references from the previous employer, although the latter is under no statutory requirement to provide them.

Education:  Where candidates are from outside the UAE or Gulf Cooperation Council nations, employees must have educational qualifications authenticated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation as part of the work permit process. Employers are entitled to request verification of academic qualifications from locals.

Required:  Foreign employees must have prior approval from the MOHRE or the appropriate Free Trade Zone Authority and immigration services to be hired on a local contract.

Basic Facts when Recruiting in the UAE

In the UAE, employment legislation is generally governed at the federal level by the Labour Law (Federal Law No.8 Organisation of Labour Relations, 1980). Some areas were amended by the Federal Decree-Law No. 33, which came into force in February 2022, referred to as “the New Labour Law”.

  • Under the New Labour Law, as of February 2022, all new contracts must be fixed-term for a maximum of three years, and renewals are included in the total term of service.
  • Existing open-ended contracts must be transferred to fixed-term by February 2023.
  • A minimum of 30 days’ notice remains from the previous Labour Law, with a new maximum of 90 days.
  • Employees on previous open-ended contracts have the following notice periods: 30 days up to five years of service; 60 days between five and 10; 90 days for more than 10 years.
  • Employees must be issued the standard MOHRE job offer letter detailing the terms and conditions of the employment.
  • Once the contract is signed, employees must be registered with MOHRE and the appropriate local authorities.
  • Employers need MOHRE’s permission to change the terms of a contract unless operating in a Free Trade Zone.
  • UAE nationals and citizens of the other Gulf Cooperation Council nations (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia) must be registered with the General Pension and Social Security Authority (GPSSA) within one month of starting work.


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