UAE work visas: Firms told to ensure 'demographic diversity' when hiring

Industry experts dismiss claims that UAE has temporarily halted issuing visas for Indians, Pakistanis


Sahim Salim


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Thu 18 Jan 2024, 11:02 AM

Last updated: Fri 19 Jan 2024, 7:59 AM

Some companies in the UAE have been unable to procure work visas for potential employees of certain South Asian nationalities. When companies with an overwhelming number of employees from a particular nationality apply for new visas for people of the same nationality, a message from the authorities pops up, asking them to “achieve demographic diversity while hiring”.

Visa experts and agents, however, categorically refuted viral claims that the UAE has stopped issuing visas to Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in the country.

When a business service centre in Dubai reached out to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE), it was told 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”.

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Companies were told to try hiring an employee of another nationality if they receive the message to achieve diversity.

Khaleej Times has reached out to the MoHRE for a statement. When KT contacted the ministry' call centre, a representative confirmed that the first 20 per cent of a company’s workforce must be diversified. “For example, if a company applies for a visa for a particular person and it is rejected on the basis of diversification, then they must recruit someone of a different nationality for the same role to fulfil diversity requirements,” she said. “It is not applicable to any particular nationality and is the same for everyone across the board.”

She also added that once the 20% diversity was achieved, companies were free to hire any nationality.

Dismissing claims on social media that the authorities have stopped issuing visas to Indians, Firosekhan, managing director of Dubai-based Profound Business Service, explained: “I got visa for an Indian applicant at a company that has a diverse workforce. However, when I tried to get one for an applicant at an establishment with an overwhelming majority of Indian employees, I got the ‘achieve diversity’ message.”

An executive of another business centre said the UAE wants to bring in diversity to the workplace.

“Many companies in the UAE have a majority of Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis as employees. So if a company already has a large number of employees from these three nationalities, they are not able to apply for new visas for people from the same countries,” said Abdul Gafoor, general manager of Al Mas Businessmen Service.

As of Thursday, this rule was not applicable to freezones. “None of the companies operating out of free zones have faced issues with getting work permits issued,” he said. “So far, it looks like something that is only applicable to mainland companies.”

In 2022, the MoHRE had announced a three-tier classification system. Achieving diversity while hiring was one of the criteria for companies to get a higher classification, making them eligible for discounts on work permits and transfer fees.

According to the MoHRE, the policy of diversity aims to make the social and cultural diversity of the UAE "an integral part of the core values of the companies in the private sector. This will be done by diversifying cultural backgrounds of their employees and offering equal employment opportunities while empowering UAE citizens as per the applicable percentages of Emiratisation".


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