UAE: Specifying nationalities for job posts could be a criminal offence

Dubai - In the UAE, the first preference of employment should be granted to UAE nationals.

By Ashish Mehta

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Published: Sun 25 Apr 2021, 11:33 AM

Last updated: Sun 25 Apr 2021, 1:44 PM

Question: I have been hunting for a job for the last few months. I have come across job posts for which I am perfectly qualified but, unfortunately, the posts mentioned they were open to certain nationalities only. Is this legal? Can I complain?

Answer: Pursuant to your queries, we assume that you are looking for employment opportunities with employers based in the mainland of UAE. Therefore, the provisions of Federal Law No. 8 of 1980 Regulating Employment Relations in the UAE (the ‘Employment Law’) are applicable.

Further, as your queries are related to discrimination in providing employment opportunities by the employers, the provisions of Federal Decree Law No. 2 of 2015 on Combating Discrimination and Hatred (the 'UAE Discrimination Law') may be applicable.


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It should be noted that in the UAE, the first preference of employment should be granted to UAE nationals. This is in accordance with Article 9 of the Employment Law, which states: “Work is a right of the United Arab Emirates Nationals. Others may not be employed in the United Arab Emirates except as provided for in this Law and its executive orders.”

If there is non-availability of UAE nationals for any employment opportunities, then the preference of employment may be given to Arab nationals and thereafter to any other nationalities.

This is in accordance with Article 10 of the Employment Law, which states, “In the event of non-availability of national workers, preference shall be given to:

1. Arab workers who are nationals of an Arab Country.

2. Workers of other nationalities.”

Further, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (the ‘MOHRE’) may not approve the work permit of non-UAE national employees until its records state that there are no unemployed UAE nationals who are registered with the MOHRE who are looking for employment opportunities.

This is accordance with Article 14 of the Employment Law, which states: “The MOHRE may not approve the employment of employees who are not UAE nationals unless its records show that none of the unemployed national employees who are registered with the MOHRE is qualified for the job.”


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Other than the aforesaid provisions of the Employment Law, the employers may not discriminate the employees based on their sex, race, religion, culture, language, or nationality.

Any sort of discrimination in the UAE may be considered as a criminal offence. This is in accordance with Article 6 of the UAE Discrimination Law, which states: “Any person, who commits any act of discrimination of any form by any means of expression or by any other means, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a period not less than five years, and by a fine not less than Dh5,000 and not exceeding Dh1 million, or either one of these two penalties.”

Further, it should be noted that the UAE is a signatory for Convention Concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation of 1958, which states that the countries which have ratified the convention should pursue a national policy designed to promote equality of opportunities in relation to employment and occupation with a view towards eradicating any sort of discrimination.

You may contact MOHRE to seek further clarification.

Ashish Mehta is the founder and Managing Partner of Ashish Mehta & Associates. He is qualified to practise law in Dubai, the United Kingdom and India. Full details of his firm on: Readers may e-mail their questions to: or send them to Legal View, Khaleej Times, PO Box 11243, Dubai.


Photo (for illustrative purpose): Reuters
Photo (for illustrative purpose): Reuters

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