Illegal UAE ‘freelance’ visas, salary discrepancies: Why Philippine govt is adding requirements for contract verification

Many OFWs, who expressed their frustration on social media, had not understood the move and were spreading false information


Nasreen Abdulla


Kirstin Bernabe

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Reuters file photo used for illustrative purposes
Reuters file photo used for illustrative purposes

Published: Sat 28 Jan 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sat 28 Jan 2023, 2:40 PM

A Filipino domestic worker whose visa says she is a ‘store manager’, and a ‘project manager’ who earns a meagre Dh1,000 a month. Employment irregularities like these have prompted the Philippine labour office in the UAE to impose new contract verification rules.

However, the new policy – which was supposed to take effect on February 1 — had to be put on hold as many Filipinos in the UAE slammed the additional requirements, thinking they were nothing but an inconvenience, another mountain of red tape.

What the expats didn’t know was that the rules were born out of the need to curb illegal employment and activities. In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, Labour Attaché John Rio A. Bautista — who heads the MWO mission in Dubai and the Northern Emirates (formerly Philippine Overseas Labour Office or Polo) — explained the cases that pushed them to intervene.

The MWO, previously known as Polo office, had observed several illegal activities in recent times, particularly when it comes to obtaining residence visas.

“Some people pay and purchase visas to work in several places,” he said. “Many of them call it ‘freelancing’. However, this is illegal in the UAE. People who want to freelance must take the legal visa for it.”

Domestic workers, like nannies and housekeepers, cannot apply for the UAE’s freelance visa. In fact, they will have to be hired through a licensed recruitment agency under the latest rules.


Despite this policy, the Philippine mission encountered the case of a housemaid who was on a visa of a store manager. “When we see something like this, we have to dig deeper and ask for additional documents,” Bautista said.

Dubai resident Maria Cristina, who is currently looking for a nanny, confirmed that she once had an applicant who claimed that she had her own ‘freelance visa’.

“I was surprised because I couldn’t understand then how she was able to get that kind of visa, when I know that you’ll need to be at a certain skill level to apply for one. You even have to show proof of income,” she said.

“Then I learnt that some ‘buy’ a visa from a company, which would then provide them with an employment contract and a residence visa. However, their work is essentially illegal.”

It is through contract verification — and more stringent measures — that the Philippine mission is eyeing to curb such practices.

Bautista also gave the example of an expat who had sent in a contract verification for the post of project manager but with a salary of Dh1,000. “Again, it is quite obvious that something is not right,” he said. “In this case, we ask for the bank balance or educational certification to make sure that everything is legitimate.”

The labour attache lamented how their office drew flak for doing what they had to do to protect Filipino workers’ welfare. Many critics, who expressed their frustration on social media, had not understood the move and were spreading false information, he said.

“There are messages on social media saying that several additional documents were needed to ensure contract verification,” he said. “However, we would ask for these documents only if there was a discrepancy or we suspected that something was amiss.”


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