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An existing business entity or a newly established entity can request for an employment residence permit through the free zone authority for its employees. The issuance of the visa would depend on the business entity as well as the foreign national meeting the eligibility requirement set by both the respective free zone authority and the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA).


While the duration of the visa issued by the free zones is generally 3 years, some of the free zone may also offer a 1-year residence visa as a flexible option for the companies. The residence visa is renewable prior to its expiry and currently there is no restriction on the number of renewals the company can request for an employee. The business can sponsor a foreign national aged 18 and above.


Step by step overview of the employment visa process in a free zone:


1. Legalization of documents: 

One of the time-consuming exercises in the procurement of employment residence visa process is the attestation of the university certificate through the UAE embassy in the country of issuance. Depending on the country the timeline could vary between 2-6 weeks.  



2. Entry Permit: 

Once the entry permit application is lodged with the authorities, the employment entry permit is issued within 6-9 working days. Some applications may be selected for additional review and screening which may increase the processing timeline. Though applications are managed through the free zone, incomplete documentation may lead to the rejection of applications.


Read Blog: UAE Employment Residence Visa Eligibility



3. Entry into the UAE or Change Status: 

Once the employment entry permit is approved, the foreign national is eligible to enter UAE legally. As the validity of entry permit is only 60 days from the issuance date, the entry should be registered through any of its entry points within this timeframe. If the entry permit is issued as an e-permit, the individual is eligible for entry on the printed copy. 


On entry the employees are expected to be present in the UAE during the entire time of processing of their medical, Emirates ID application, and residence permit endorsement.


In the individual is already in country on a cancelled residence visa or visit visa, an application is filed with the authorities to convert the current status into an employment. 


4. Signing of Contract: 

In addition to signing the employment contract with the sponsoring company, the foreign national would need to sign an employment contract issued by the free zone authorities. While some of the free zones accept the company’s internally signed contract, other free zones may mandate submission of free zone generated employment contract as well. 


5. Medical examination: 

All foreign nationals aged 18 and above are required to undergo medical checks as a mandatory part of the UAE immigration process. The medical examination includes blood tests for HIV / AIDS, as well as a chest X-ray for Tuberculosis screening. The medical report processing time is approximately 1-4 working days. 


6. Emirates ID registration and biometrics:

Emirates ID card registration can be processed simultaneously with the medical documents. Anyone above age 15 will be required to attend a biometric appointment, which involves fingerprinting, a digital signature and a photograph at an approved government centre. 


7. Health insurance enrolment:

Enrolling the individual into the corporate health insurance policy is a mandatory requirement in order to get residence visa approved by the immigration. A copy of the Emirates ID registration form may need to be included with the request for enrolment. 


8. Stamping of residence visa on the passport: 

Once a clean medical report has been obtained, the residence permit application will be lodged at Immigration and the residence visa will be stamped on the passport. Government processing time is approximately 5-7 working days.


9. Receiving Emirates ID card:

The Emirates Id would be processed after the visa has been approved by the authorities. Generally, the card is printed in 5-7 working days and received through company’s registered post box.




Please note that the residence permit application for the dependents can only be begun once the employee has entered UAE and completed the residence visa stamping.


Read Blog: Sponsoring family Residence Visa in the UAE


How can BM Strategies assist?


Given the dynamic nature of the immigration environment, we at BM Strategies guide our clients on the best and most efficient options in developing, implementing, and managing compliant UAE immigration programs. Please reach out to us for more information and speak to one of our team members on


Disclaimer: The information provided here are only for the purpose of providing an overview regarding the UAE immigration processes. The immigration regulations are subject to change from time to time from one jurisdiction to another. Hence the information provided hereby should not be considered an opinion or advice from BM Strategies but only a practical guide for general information.



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Posted on 02-Mar-2020.

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