Several questions have come forward with regards to the UAE labour law and the passport standard procedure in the UAE for foreign trained workers. It is imperative to note that it is illegal and against UAE labour law for schools to hold any worker’s passport after the work visa has been assigned. A passport belongs to the individual to which it is assigned and thus should not be in the school’s hands.
Nevertheless, it is necessary for schools to take the passport for a maximum of 4 working days at the start of your contract in order to process the working visa. The passport should be returned immediately to the teacher after it has been processed and the school should not hold it under any circumstances. The school might offer the teacher to hold the passport for security purposes or for safeguarding. However, because a passport is a personal identification document, we do not recommend entrusting it to anyone. If the school terminates the teacher or the teacher resigns, it is recommended that the teacher go to the Ministry of Labour and Immigration office with a designated school representative (usually school HR personnel) to cancel the work visa. We recommend the teacher go with the representative as the passport should be with the teacher at all times. The school may just ask the teacher for the passport but it is recommended that the teacher keep his/her own passport at all times. If the teacher does hand in the passport to have it cancelled with the full expectation to have it returned promptly, the teacher must ask the school exactly what day he/she will have it returned. For example, if the passport is given on a Monday the teacher must confirm if by Thursday he/she will have it back. The school must provide an exact date of return not exceeding 4 days.
In the case that the teacher has provided the school with his/her passport for cancellation purposes and the school “refuses” to return the passport to the teacher stating that the teacher will “receive” the passport “at the airport” , the teacher must first:
1) Request politely to the school to return the passport stating firmly that it is illegal and against UAE labour law to keep the passport. The school might state that it is “Standard procedure” to keep the passport until the teacher departs at the airport- however, this is not the case, as once the working visa is cancelled, the teacher is not the responsibility of the school and the teacher is allowed to stay in the UAE for a maximum period of 30 days after their working visa has been cancelled.
2) The teacher can inform the school that he/she will contact the labour office and immigration office and file a complaint if the passport is not returned immediately after it is cancelled.
3) If the school still does not comply and does not return the passport the following steps must be followed:
4) Call the Ministry of Labour hotline- Always keep a scanned copy of your passport and make a conscious effort to memorize your passport number as you will need this number when you call the ministry so that they can pull up your file. The number is 800 665
5) Once you have filed a complaint over the phone – the ministry will tell you to come down to the courts and file a complaint to have a court order issued for the school to return your passport.
6) Before you head to the Dubai courts you must have “Typing” done. Typing is a service that is mandatory before you proceed with your court complaint. Typing is done in Arabic but the typist usually speaks English and you can explain your complaint or situation in English and he or she will type it in Arabic for the judge. This service is usually around 60 aed and offered by Leader express located in Deira Port Saeed- EPPCO +97142666202
7) Once the typing is done you must go to Dubai Courts (Location beside Maktoum Bridge)
8) You must proceed to counter 7 or 8 and must present a copy of your labour contract (if you do not have it they can find your file and print it out for you) a copy of your passport (hence why we recommended you to keep a scanned copy in your email) and the typing
9) Once you present all this you must pay 110AED and the administrator will ask you to come back in 2 working days to obtain the court order from the judge
10) You must return to the court in 2 working days and you will be directed to the lower level floor in where the court order will be printed to have your passport returned to you. This court order will be in Arabic but you must make sure to make a copy of it and ask someone who is bilingual Arabic and English to confirm what the court order states.
11) Do not give the school the original court order. Keep this safe for your records.
12) Once you have a court order you can provide a copy of this to the school and they must return your passport or face being fined 10,000aed. If they still refuse to return your passport, take the court order to the nearest police station and the police will come with you to the school and the school must then give up your passport.
As undesirable as this situation may seem, unfortunately it does happen that some schools do insist on keeping the passport. It is important that teachers inform themselves of the labour law of any country they plan on seeking employment in. You may also seek the advice and help of your embassy or consulate in the case that you have other difficulties with your employer and passport.
However, Dubai’s labour law hotline is fully bilingual in Arabic and English and Dubai strives to protect the rights of foreign working western teachers.