UAE work visas: Have 'demographic diversity' requirements been eased?

Some employees whose applications were stuck earlier confirmed they have been cleared


Sahim Salim


Nasreen Abdulla

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Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File
Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File

Published: Wed 24 Jan 2024, 8:08 PM

Last updated: Wed 24 Jan 2024, 11:32 PM

Some companies in the UAE are now able to procure work visas for new employees that were stuck earlier over a 'demographic diversity' requirement. Visa agents and business centre executives told the Khaleej Times they were able to clear a backlog of pending work permit and visa applications on Wednesday.

Some employees whose applications were stuck earlier also confirmed they have been cleared.

It’s not immediately clear if the requirement has been removed or if the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) is clearing them on a case-to-case basis.

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A MoHRE call centre agent confirmed that companies can apply for visas regardless of nationality. When asked if there was any possibility for it to change again, the agent said she was unable to confirm that.

For over a week, companies with an overwhelming number of employees from a particular nationality were unable to onboard new employees of the same nationality. A message from the authorities popped up, asking them to “achieve demographic diversity while hiring”. The requirement majorly affected companies employing a majority of Indian, Pakistani and other South Asian nationalities. When applying for new permits for employees of the same nationalities, they were asked to ensure that the first 20 per cent of available quotas is diversified.

Nerve-wracking period

For Indian expat Shadab, who has been a Dubai resident for over 13 years, it was a nerve-wracking two weeks. After receiving an offer from a reputed company, he resigned from his job. However, his new employer could not get his work permit and visa processed.

“My visa was rejected as the company did not have enough diversity,” he told the Khaleej Times. “It was a shocker for us. My wife works as a teacher and I have my child here in the UAE. They are all under my sponsorship and their visas have been on hold since.”

With the change in status of the demographic diversity requirement, he said he is relieved. “Today (Wednesday), I got a call from the new company and they said that they have begun processing my visa,” he said. “I am still waiting for the entire process to be over, but it is truly a relief.”

Change in status

Abdul Gafoor, general manager of Al Mas Businessmen Service, said he was able to process visas for six people on Wednesday. “All the visas that were stuck or rejected citing the demographic diversity issues were cleared,” he said. “There were a few that were needed on an urgent basis and it was such a relief for everyone involved.”

Libbie Burtinshaw, head of Operations at business setup and PRO support provider PRO Partner Group, said things are changing, with some permit applications opening on Wednesday and others remaining closed.

“Currently, there has been no concrete update to this demographic diversification (requirement). The application of the quotas in place has been varied. With regards to certain applications being successful in their processing, these may have been at the discretion of the ministry.”

The requirement explained

Service centres in Dubai had earlier reported being informed by the MoHRE that establishments must diversify nationalities when hiring. They must ensure that the “first 20 per cent of available quotas in the establishments are allocated to different nationalities. It is important to note that this procedure is linked to the demographic diversity of the establishments and is not associated with a specific nationality”.

Burtinshaw said PRO Partner Group had encountered temporary restrictions across all employment levels, from skilled to unskilled.

She explained that the new requirement aimed to ensure that companies are not becoming “overly populated with any particular nationality, in alignment with the UAE’s efforts to diversify its workforce across all levels”.

“This means that employers will need to re-evaluate hiring processes to incorporate the newly imposed restrictions, assessing the nationalities of their new prospective employees.”

Among the potential exemptions were companies with less than 20 employees and firms within freezones.


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