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Six-month ban lifted

Nada S. Mussallam
Filed on August 23, 2005

ABU DHABI — The Ministry of Interior yesterday withdrew the "six-month ban” system imposed by the Immigration and Residency authorities on various categories of workers upon the cancellation of expatriates' employment visa.

The decision, that will have a major impact and implications on the UAE labour market, has come into force with immediate effect. The Naturalisation and Residency Departments stopped stamping the ban on passports while processing cancellation of employment visas.

Ahmed Al Hamadi, in-charge of Passport Office at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, said: “We received a letter from the Immigration and Residency Department with instructions from Interior Minister Lt-Gen. Shaikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan not to stamp the ban on applications for cancelling visas. The decision was put into effect yesterday when we cancelled employment visas without imposing the ban.”

He said the office received hundreds of applications yesterday, which were processed without slapping the six-month ban.

For employers, it will now be easier to hire talents from within the country. For the millions of expats working in various capacities, barring maids, the news should come as manna from heaven, for there would now be free movement of workforce in the country. Employers can get the best talent available in the market without the hassle of seeking the “No Objection Certificate” from the current sponsor.

Ministry sources told Khaleej Times that under instructions from Lt.-Gen. Shaikh Saif, the ministry circulated the decree among all Immigration and Residency Departments in the country, and that the decision came into effect yesterday.

On the categories included in the decree, the official said only housemaids were excluded for the time being, and that a special committee would be set up to study their case. “Housemaids were not included in the decision. A special panel will be formed to study the possibilities of exempting this category also from the ban,” said the official.

He said the decision was in line with Cabinet Decree No. 18 of 2005 on sponsorship transfer of employees in the private sector, under which a fee of Dh1,500 for masters and doctorate holders, Dh3,000 for bachelors degree holders and Dh5,000 for certificates lower than bachelors degree would be levied.

A special panel comprising senior officials had been set up in February to look into various aspects of streamlining the residence and labour market laws.

Hitherto, only those who met the requisite conditions for sponsorship transfer, including consent of sponsor, completion of one-year in a company and a valid residence visa, among others, were eligible to change jobs within the country without getting their passports stamped with the six-month ban.

In practice, however, movement of labour force was virtually impossible with hardly any sponsor willing to write out a no objection certificate.

Meanwhile, most employees and employers who were processing their applications at the ministry yesterday, seemed overwhelmed by the decision and welcomed the measure which they said was bound to improve labour relations.

Ahmed Ibrahim, an investor, said: "the decision is excellent. It will spare employees the hassles they face with employers."

Abdul Jalil Rahma, owner of Noon Contracting and Construction Company, said : "The ban was never in favour of employees. Scrapping the ban will free employees of the threat posed by some employers, leading to relinquishment of their entitlements in favour of release."




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