Expats and domestic workers in the UAE should be aware that there is a passport retention policy being exercised in this country. If you are working here or you have a family member who is currently in the UAE because of work, inform them that there is a certain regulation they should always put in mind. As someone who works overseas, it is important that you know about your rights and the laws you should follow so that you can avoid any disputes with your employer. Your employer, on the other hand, is surely aware of this.
For you to avoid any setbacks when you are working in the UAE, the first thing you should learn is your rights as an expat or domestic worker. There are actually a lot included in the UAE Labor Law and you should know all of it.
If you are not fully informed, some employers might take advantage of it. Avoid ignorance as much as possible so you can have a smooth expat life here. And in case you are wondering, one of the most important rights of expats is the right to hold their own passports when employed.
What is the passport retention policy in the UAE?
A passport is basically someone’s identification document. It is something you use so you can transfer from one place to another. It is also a valid ID when you pay for your bills, when you remit money to your family, when you buy anything that requires identification, and so on. A passport is your gateway to almost everything in a place. In the UAE, this is an essential tool because without it, you cannot move around cities and you can even get fined and imprisoned for not having one. So, having your passport with you is necessary.
The passport retention policy here in the UAE states that it should only be in the custody of the holder or of someone who is authorized by the holder. In other words, no one should have your passport except you. This includes the government of the UAE and of course, your employer. They should not be the one to possess your identification unless there is a rule or a case stating that they should hold it.
What does the MoHRE say about holding the passport of an employee?
Well, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation says that it is definitely illegal to hold the passport of employees in the UAE? The main reason why? It’s because it is against the passport retention policy of the country!
The ministry has already advised that “retaining workers’ passport also amounts to forcible work in violation of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on the Abolition of Forced Labour, to which the UAE is a signatory.” This is just a couple of statements by the ministry but this should be enough for employees and employers to know what it means.
Furthermore, the UAE Ministry of Interior supported this policy saying that since the passport is a personal possession and the law states that it is the obligation of the owner to keep it and show it when necessary to the government, any other person is not permitted to detain the passport unless there is a judicial order. As a result of this, it is illegal to hold someone else’s passport in the UAE.
What should you do if your employer asks for your passport?
The answer is simple—say no! When your employer asks for your passport, tell him/her about the passport retention policy enclosed in the UAE Labor Law. Reiterate that it is illegal to hold the employee’s passport and they should abide by that law.
On the other hand, you can trust your employer to hold your passport for temporary purposes like getting your visa. If he/she tells you that this is needed for your papers related to employment, it’s okay to entrust your passport. Just make sure that it is returned to you after stamping. It is your right to keep it even after it is used for visa purposes. Whether it’s visa issuance, renewal, or cancellation, no employer can detain your passport.
What are the laws related to illegal passport holding?
A jail sentence and up to AED 20,000 fine. A passport confiscation fee of AED 10,000. Tell your employer about this in case he/she still insists to get hold of your passport. This is stated in the UAE Labor Law and you have the right to use it against him or her.
What should you do if your employer has your passport?
Ask your employer politely and if he/she refuses, file a case against them at the local labour office or a police case. It’s illegal and your employer should be aware of this. Remind them again that a case of passport confiscation can cause them to pay up to AED 10,000 fine. The law doesn’t tolerate this kind of action. If your passport is with your employer, do what is mentioned above properly then take action when your reminder doesn’t work.
Things you should do to avoid issues regarding passport holding
We have a couple of reminders for you so that you can avoid any issues with regards to passport holding. Here’s the list:
- You should be watchful on how your employer uses your passport or any identification cards. Again, you should only allow them to hold your passport temporarily if it’s connected to visa issuance, renewal, or cancellation. Even after canceling your visa, your employer doesn’t acquire the right to hold your passport.
- If your employer has your passport even after this process, ask politely. Don’t be shy and don’t wait for them to return it to you. Some employers use this opportunity to take the chance for granted. Be vigilant.
- Tell your employer that you are willing to take legal actions in case he/she didn’t respond to your request.
- Don’t make promises or threats to your employer.
- Talk to your embassy or local labor office in case your employer refuses to give your passport back.
- If your embassy didn’t respond, report the matter to the Ministry of Labour in the UAE. Your employer will be notified about this case and they may act in a bad manner. You can opt to find your legal advisor or lawyer before talking to the labor ministry.
- If you want to put your passport for safekeeping, you can do it with your embassy. Don’t forget to ask for receipts so you will have proof that it is legal.
- If you want to get your passport but you are shy to do it, try to book a vacation to a different country. In most cases, employers hand the passports to employees when they travel abroad.
- If you have plans to transfer to another employer, ask about the passport retention policy first before signing a new contract. In this way, you will know about the intentions of your new employer regarding holding your legal documents. Again, no matter who they are, they have no right to get hold of your passport while you are employed.
The labor law of the UAE doesn’t tolerate any illegal actions taken by employers and employees. As an expat, you should always be observant when talking about this matter. Regardless if your employer is a big company in the UAE, a family, or a sole employer, they have no right to get your passport from you. This is a solid and clear law and it favors employees like you. Use this chance to become aware of how your employer treats his/her employees. When looking for a new job, don’t forget about this policy so you would know if you are landing a good company or boss. Lastly, don’t forget to share this with your family and friends!