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Changing from a ‘UAE employment visa’ to a ‘new business-based residence visa’

Aug 8, 2019 | Legal

Anyone wishing to run their own business in the UAE must have a valid trade license and residence visa if stationed in the UAE. Additionally, having a residence visa will enable you to open various types of bank accounts.

For those already employed in the UAE who are quitting their job to set up on their own business, this means going through a tedious process to cancel their existing visa and secure a new one through the new business.

The process involves some costs, and can be completed within 60 days although fast-track options are often available. Again, ensure you have your trade license for running your business in the UAE.Using the services of a business setup specialist will help to smooth out the process and take the time-consuming administrative work off your hands.

Step 1: Current employment visa cancellation

Whenever you terminate employment in the UAE, your employer must cancel your visa. Provided that the visa is still valid at the time of its cancellation, you will then be allowed to stay in the country for 29 days; this will give you ample time to secure your new visa or at least change your visa status.

What you need to do

You and your employer must process the visa cancellation through a registered typing center or through the free zone authority if your visa is issued from a free zone entity.

You will be required to hand in your passport and Emirates ID card while they cancel your visa. Unless, it is an online process which is often available in Dubai. Nevertheless, it’s best not to make any travel plans during this time. If you want to get this done as quickly as possible, avoid times when the immigration departments are likely to be running slowly, such as during Ramadan or a public holiday like Eid.

Furthermore, to avoid possible delays and issues on your visa cancellation process, please take note of the following:

  1. All UAE traffic/any other fines must be fully paid up to date.
  2. Expired vehicle registration under your name must either be renewed or canceled prior to your visa cancellation.
  3. The dependent’s visa under your sponsorship must be cancelled first. Otherwise, you can put the visa on hold. However, this is subject to approval and can only be done if you are moving visas within the same emirate.

Step 2: E-Channel registration

E-Channel was designed by the UAE government to streamline the visa process and it has made the process a lot easier. The online system has taken out most of the paperwork and made applications much faster and more transparent.

This is applicable if your company is incorporated outside Dubai.

What you need to do

Registration for the E-Channel is very simple. Go to one of the approved typing centres and instruct them to register your company for online services or approach the Free Zone authorities if the company is registered in a Free Zone.

You will be asked to pay the mandatory registration fee of approx. AED 2,500, plus a refundable security deposit of AED 5,000. You will receive a notification as soon as your registration is complete.


Step 3: Entry permit

Next you need to apply for a new entry permit. This is essentially a temporary employment visa and is valid for 60 calendar days.

What you need to do

Application for an entry permit can be made through the E-Channel or DNRD (for Dubai based companies). Your company setup advisor can help you if necessary. Travelling at this stage can cause discrepancies in your file which may lead to delays. Make sure that you coordinate all your travel dates to your company setup advisor. They will be able to advise you whether you can travel or not.

Your entry permit is an electronic document that will be emailed to you.

The issuance can take approximately between 5 to 15 working days, depending on the emirate & jurisdiction it has been applied in. For an additional fee, if available you may apply for the express service, which will significantly reduce the waiting period.

Step 4: Status change

The term ‘Status Adjustment’ or ‘Status Change’ refers to the “activation” of the Entry Permit. This is a mandatory stage of the visa process – overstay fines, if any, will only stop being incurred after this stage is successfully completed.

What you need to do

There are three different ways to complete a status change.

  1. In-Country Status Adjustment:  You can approach a registered typing center or the free zone authority with your original passport (if required) and entry permit to do this. The cost varies between AED 700+ to AED 1,000+ and can take approximately 1-5 working days to be completed.
  2. Out of Country Status Adjustment: If you are travelling, you can activate your entry permit at the airport. Aside from your passport, please make sure that you bring a print out of your entry permit and you go through the manual passport control counters. Sometimes you will require an “okay to board” stamp, you may check this with your airline.
  3. Border Run: This option is only applicable to those passport holders who are eligible for visit visas on arrival. You can activate your entry permit at the UAE border by exiting and re-entering the UAE border point with your printed entry permit and passport.

Once you have activated your entry permit, you will no longer be able to travel out of UAE until your visa stamping has been completed.

Step 5: Medical examination and Emirates ID registration

The Emirates ID card is the national ID card linked to your residence visa. This must be carried by UAE residents at all times and is required for various contractual transactions, such as opening bank accounts, taking out mobile phone contracts and completing tenancy agreements. The validity of your Emirates ID card and residence visa must coincide.  The cost varies between AED 171.50 to AED 371.50 depending on its validity.


What you need to do

To complete your Emirates ID registration, you can either apply online or through a registered typing center.

If you are applying for an Emirates ID card for the first time, you need to complete the biometric procedure (photo, eye scan and fingerprints) at any Emirates ID service center in the UAE.

To take your medical test, you need to go to any preventive medical centre and take your documents with you. The examination can be completed within a few hours and you will get the results after three working days or same day if you opt for the VIP service.

Step 6: Residence visa

The stamping of your residence visa is the final affirmation of your right to live and work in the UAE. Once you have completed the previous steps, it should be a formality. You will be given a UAE residence visa stamp or sticker in your passport.

What you need to do

You need to approach a registered typing center to apply for your visa stamping or the Free Zone authority. Then, you’ll need to submit your original passport along with all other required documents to the immigration (for mainland-based company) or to the Free Zone authority (for free zone-based company). The passport needs to be valid for at least seven months and have three empty pages for your visa stamping. This process can take approximately between 3 to 15 working days, depending on the Emirate & jurisdiction it has been applied in.

By following these steps, you can complete your visa application within two months. It is important to note that residence outside the UAE for more than 180 days will invalidate your visa and therefore, you should enter the UAE at least once every 6 months to maintain your residence.

A company setup specialist can advise you on such details, as well as guide you through these steps for a smooth conclusion to the process.

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